SB 323 expands the scope of the Indiana Civil War flag fund to include restoration and preservation of any Indiana battle flag and not just civil war flags. (Battle flag preservation is currently also one of the permitted uses of funds in the souvenir fund.) The money from both funds is administered by the Indiana War Memorials Commission which consists of nine members, one from each of Indiana’s Congressional districts, appointed by the Governor.
Eric Bradner on Rockport Gasification Legislation
Eric Bradner, writing for the Evansville Courier Press has an outstanding article describing the current state of legislation concerning the Rockport Gasification plant.
Rockport is a project that will convert coal into synthetic gas. The plant is an expensive, $2.8 billion project. Its financer, Leucadia, is trying to hedge its bets and get help from Indiana to make sure the financing is secure.
After Indiana Gasification’s negotiations with state utilities fell through, former Gov. Mitch Daniels directed his administration’s Indiana Finance Authority to negotiate a deal to help the company secure financing – a controversial move itself, since the company’s Indiana project manager is Mark Lubbers, a former aide and close friend of Daniels.
The 30-year contract would have Indiana serve as the guaranteed buyer of 80 percent of the Rockport plant’s product, at a pre-negotiated price.
The state would buy that synthetic natural gas and then resell it on the open market. If those market rates are lower than the price the state negotiated, Hoosier gas customers would pay for the difference – and opponents, including Vectren Corp., estimate that those costs could be sky-high in the deal’s early years.
The contract has been tied up in legal battles for months. Late last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals voided state regulators’ approval of the deal, ruling that a 37-word provision needed to be removed. Both sides have asked the Indiana Supreme Court to take up the case.
Opponents of the deal want legislation that beefs up ratepayer protections. Proponents of the deal have been working to weaken such legislation and preserve financial incentives for the project.
Bradner’s piece outlines potential conflicts of interests for legislators who are trying to preserve the Rockport deal. Featuring prominently is Rep. Matt Ubehlor, a legislator from Bloomfield who is a coal mine manager for Peabody Energy “which owns five of Southwestern Indiana’s biggest mining complexes – including Bear Run, the largest surface mine east of the Mississippi River.” Also featured is Senator Jim Merritt who is “the vice president of corporate affairs for the Indiana Rail Road Co., which spent $17 million to build a spur to Peabody’s Bear Run mine and negotiated an exclusive deal to haul its coal.”
HB 1102 – Executive Sessions
HB 1102 tweaks the open meetings law. Current law allows a governing body to hold executive sessions (outside the view of the public) to discuss strategy about pending, threatened, or initiating litigation. HB 1102 specifies that “litigation” means “any judicial action or administrative law proceeding under federal or state law.”
It also exempts from the definition of “meeting” “collective bargaining discussions that the governing body of a school corporation engages in directly with bargaining adversaries.”
HB 1098 – Study Committee on Uninsured Drivers
HB 1098 has been signed into law and requires the interim study committee on insurance to study the economic impact of uninsured drivers in Indiana, and possible solutions, including insurance verification processes; coverage restrictions; and fines.
It’s been awhile since I had to deal with uninsured motorists with any regularity. State Farm’s subrogation unit was once a client until the corporation restructured. When a State Farm insured would get hit by an uninsured motorist, State Farm would pay for the damage under the insured’s UI coverage. They would then become “subrogated” to their insured; basically step into the shoes of their insured and acquire rights against the tortfeasor. They would then try to collect from the uninsured motorist and, if unsuccessful, farm it out to guys like me to go sue. One good lever we had to collect was the ability to suspend driver’s licenses when they failed to pay a judgment for an uninsured loss for a period of (I think) 90 days after the judgment was entered. The suspension was good for up to 7 years unless they paid up or filed bankruptcy.
SB 226 – Suspension of state and local officeholders
SB 226 – Suspension of state and local officeholders has passed the House as a study committee bill as opposed to the more substantive version that passed the Senate. It’s now in conference committee to see if the chambers can work out a compromise.
In its current form, it urges the legislative council to assign to a study committee the issue of the suspension from office of state elected officials and local elected officials who are charged with the commission of a felony. (Judges and Prosecutors are specifically exempted from the bill – on the theory that the Supreme Court can take action in those cases.) The Senate version had put forth a process for suspension.
The problem, I imagine, comes from the tension between a presumption of innocence on one hand, and a desire not to have known felons at the controls of government while the prosecution of the felony grinds along; potentially for a substantial portion of the officeholder’s term.
SB 24 – County Extradition & Sheriff’s Assistance Fund
SB 24 concerning the county extradition and sheriff’s assistance fund has passed both houses and is ready for the Governor’s signature. It changes the name of the county extradition fund to the extradition and sheriff’s assistance fund and expands the uses to which the money may be put.
Money in the fund, both currently and under the terms of the bill, comes from late surrender fees imposed when bail agents and surety’s don’t produce a criminal defendant out on bail when ordered by a court. What the bill changes is that, currently, money in the fund can be used only to offset the costs of extraditing criminal defendants. The bill adds to that permission to use the money to train and equip law enforcement officers in the county and offset the costs of providing law enforcement services.
HB 1093 – Restitution After Killing a Law Enforcement Animal
HB 1093 would add a penalty to the sentence of someone convicted of interfering with or mistreating a law enforcement animal. It would require the person to pay the cost of replacing the animal if the animal is disabled or killed. It also allows the law enforcement agency to apply to the violent crime victims compensation unit for reimbursement of expenses associated with an animal that is killed or disabled.
SB 238 – Higher Interest Rates for Consumer Loans
SB 238 passed the Senate by a vote of 66 – 29. I haven’t read it in full; but generally it allows higher interest rates and charges for consumer loans and credit sales. If you have money, that’s probably good. If you don’t, not so much.
SB 204 – Requirement to connect to a sewer
SB 204 alters the conditions under which a not for profit sewage company or regional sewer district may require a property owner to connect to its sewage disposal system. Currently, the company or district may require connection to its sewer system of property producing sewage or similar waste and require the discontinuance of use of a sewage disposal system if there is an available sanitary sewer within three hundred (300) feet of the property line. Under SB 204, which passed the House on a 76 – 16 vote, the 300 foot radius from the property line would be apply where the property is located in Indianapolis, located adjacent to a body of water (including a lake, river, or reservoir), or located in a subdivision or other planned development. For all other properties, the 300 feet would be from the point of discharge.
HB 1082 – Vehicle Registrants No Longer Need Sign Registration in Ink
HB 1082 was signed into law by the Governor. It removes the provision that requires the person whose name appears on a vehicle registration to sign the person’s copy of the registration in ink.
Signatures are interesting. In the legal business, we give them more weight than is probably reasonable. They are a symbol of acknowledgment by the signer. We’re probably getting to where written signatures will be an anachronism. Ideally, to accomplish their purpose, signatures should be unique to the individual “signing” and obtainable only through affirmative (preferably voluntary) action of the signer.
In any event, they’re no longer requires on your copy of the registration.
Also, on the topic of signatures, HB 1394 addresses signatures filed by business entities with the Secretary of State; declaring them sufficient if “the person transmitting and filing the document:(1) has the intent to file the document as evidenced by a symbol executed or adopted by a party with present intention to authenticate the filing; and (2) enters the filing party’s name on the electronic form in a signature box or other place indicated by the secretary of state.”
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