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In the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller proposes, recommends or supports legislation that protects the public and consumers. The Attorney General’s legislative team attends select committee hearings and floor votes of the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate involving bills supported by or that would impact the office or based on legislators’ requests. The team testifies at hearings and works to inform legislators about the impact on Hoosiers that bills would have if they become law. Deputy Attorney General David Miller and Chief Deputy Attorney General Matt Light lead the legislative team. The following are bills proposed, recommended or supported by the Attorney General:
The Attorney General’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division investigates frauds, scams and deceptive sales practices. Based on some of the most common types of consumer complaints, the Attorney General and CPD have proposed bills to fill legislative gaps. Harassing phone calls from debt collectors – often when there isn’t a legitimate debt – are a frequent cause of consumer complaints. The bill would supplement federal law by requiring debt collectors to disclose the details of the debt upon initial communication with a consumer. To reduce confusion in the debt collection process, debt collectors would be required when contacting the consumer to immediately identify themselves as a debt collector and immediately disclose who the debt collector purchased the debt from or is collecting on behalf of in order to seek collection. More information: http://bit.ly/1yKJTd7
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Civil Law Committee, approved as amended 8-0 on Jan. 26, moved to full Senate; passed 47-1 on third reading on Feb. 5. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Judiciary Committee.
This bill would extend the protections of the 2013 Senior Consumer Protection Act to provide similar protections to veterans, spouses of deceased veterans and the disabled. More information: http://bit.ly/1yKJTd7
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Commerce & Technology Committee, approved 10-0 in committee on Jan. 15 and advanced to full Senate; approved 50-0 by full Senate on Jan. 26. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Judiciary Committee.
Military service members and their families are often targeted by and can fall victim to scammers taking advantage of deployments and frequent relocations. This bill, the Indiana Service Member’s Civil Relief Act, would provide state remedies for violations of the federal version of the Service Member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which allows current serving National Guardsmen and Reservists to suspend or postpone certain obligations, such as debt collections, foreclosures, evictions, judicial and administrative proceedings, and certain lease or service terminations. Supplementing the federal law, this state version of the legislation would also include protection from additional state-specific obligations, and also would guard against companies attempting to scam military members. More information: http://bit.ly/1CtdeKC
Bill Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee, approved 10-0 in committee on Jan. 26 and advanced to full Indiana House; approved 94-0 on third reading Feb. 2. Advanced to Indiana Senate, assigned to Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Military; approved 8-0 by committee on March 17; advanced to full Senate.
Created by Attorney General Zoeller, the Public Integrity Coalition is a group of officials from state, city, county and township governments and schools that seeks to educate and train elected officials and government employees on the best practices for managing and handling taxpayers’ money. Through training, deterrence and earlier detection, the Coalition’s ultimate goal is to reduce the instances of misappropriation of public funds that the State then must try to recover. More information about the Coalition’s recommendations: http://bit.ly/1Dth9Hy. The legislation includes:
-SENATE BILL 394: WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS. To encourage public servants within government to contact authorities and confidentially report suspected misappropriation others commit, the bill would protect whistleblowers against job retaliation. If terminated, demoted or discriminated against, the whistleblower who exposed misappropriation could obtain civil relief, including reinstatement, double back pay and attorneys’ fees.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee; passed committee 9-0 on Feb. 11; approved 50-0 on third reading in the full Senate on Feb. 17. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform.
-SENATE BILL 393: PUBLIC OFFICIAL SURETY BONDS.
-Bonds and Insurance Coverage. Elected officials already must obtain $30,000 surety bonds, which serve as a type of insurance policy against employee theft. If an audit discovers misappropriation, bonds can be redeemed to reimburse the public treasury for the loss. Under the coalition proposal, any employee in a public office or school corporation who handles public money, including clerical personnel, would also have to be covered either by a bond or a crime insurance policy. Like an insurance premium, the cost of a bond is usually a fraction of the face value of the bond.
-Searchable bonds. Officials’ bonds now are filed at local county recorder’s offices, but to improve transparency, the bill would require that copies of bonds also be filed with State Board of Accounts. The public then could more easily search bond records to see if an official is indeed bonded as required and thus determine if the elected office has coverage for lost funds.
-Better chance of full recovery, earlier. So that full reimbursement of misappropriated amounts is possible, the bill would clarify the annual and per-term bond coverage that public officials need to have in place: $30,000 a year for each year the official is in office.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Local Government Committee, approved 8-0 in committee, Jan. 21, moved to full Senate, approved 49-1 by Senate on Jan. 27. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Local Government. Approved in committee 9-0 on March 12, advanced to full Indiana House.
-SENATE BILL 514: CLERK-TREASURER VACANCIES. In case of a vacancy in the office of town clerk-treasurer – the elected official who handles public money in town governments -- it might be difficult for a small municipality to find a local resident qualified and willing to be appointed to serve out the term. The bill would solve that by allowing the town to sign an interlocal agreement with another town to utilize the services of their clerk-treasurer temporarily, until the next election, or to contract with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to fill the vacancy on an interim basis until a new clerk-treasurer is elected.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Local Government Committee, approved 6-0 in committee Jan. 28; moved to full Senate, approved 41-7 on third reading in full Senate on Feb. 5. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Local Government.
The Attorney General’s Office operates the Identity Theft Unit that investigates data breaches of consumers’ personal information from retailers and medical providers. The Attorney General recommends a bill to tighten Indiana’s laws that govern data collection and guard against identity theft:
-Safe data storage. Online operators would be required to store consumers personal or financial data securely; delete or not retain data beyond what is necessary for business purposes; share or sell data only when authorized by law or consumers are informed in advance.
-Data breach harm reduction. Indiana’s Disclosure of Security Breach Act would be enhanced to require prompt and more informative notification of affected consumers so they can take action to protect themselves in case of a data breach. The Act would be expanded to cover breaches of paper and handwritten records rather than electronic records only.
Bill Status: assigned to Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee; passed committee 10-0 as amended Feb. 10; amended on second reading in the full Senate on Feb. 23; passed 50-0 on third reading on Feb. 24. Advanced to the Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications.
Because of concern about the increase in use by young people of nicotine-delivery devices called e-cigarettes that deliver inhalable nicotine in a vaporized liquid form, the Attorney General’s Office and smoking cessation groups are advocating a bill that would regulate e-cigarettes much the same as tobacco cigarettes. The bill’s proposals include:
-Requiring licensing of “vape shops” that sell e-cigarettes, which would give the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission more authority to cite for violations of law, including selling the products to minors.
-Requiring child-resistant packaging of e-cigarette liquid containers to discourage accidental, potentially fatal poisoning through children consuming the liquid.
Among other things, the bill also allows the Department of Revenue, the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and the Attorney General's Office to provide certain information to courts, arbitrators and data clearninghouses for the purpose of making calculations under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. More information: http://bit.ly/1rYIuNG.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Commerce & Technology Committee; approved 8-2 as amended Feb. 12, moved to full Indiana Senate, passed 42-7 on third reading Feb. 23. Advanced to the Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Public Policy.
The 2-1-1 service is a comprehensive telephone information and referral service that connects more than 400,000 people a year to needed help. 2-1-1 provides referrals for seniors, veterans, victims of domestic violence and natural disasters, and others needing referrals to social services and agencies, and it also takes call pressure off emergency 911 police dispatchers. The Attorney General joined a bipartisan group of legislators along with the United Way of Central Indiana and the Glick Foundation as part of a coalition seeking the Legislature’s support for partial state funding of the 2-1-1 program to supplement its existing private funding.
Bill Status: Assigned to House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, passed 13-0 on Jan. 28, recommitted to House Ways and Means Committee, approved as amended 20-0 in committee on Feb. 10; moved to full Indiana House, passed 95-5 on third reading Feb. 17. Advanced to the Indiana Senate; assigned to Senate Committee on Utilities.
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, has studied the epidemic problem of abuse of addictive opioid painkillers, especially when medicines originally prescribed to one person are stolen and sold to another person. Information about the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force's efforts to raise awareness are at this link: www.BitterPill.In.gov. In recent years the Task Force had made recommendations to legislators on proposed new laws that would help courts and medical providers address opioid addiction problems that often occur in communities. Senate Bill 464 addresses one aspect of that. Defendants who are criminally charged in drug cases often will, during their sentences, be required to complete an addiction-treatment program, sometimes in conjunction with probation and/or intensive supervision by a Drug Court judge. Certain medication such as Vivitrol can be effective in treating addiction to opioids or alcohol and are themselves non-addictive for long-term use. Among other things, Senate Bill 464 encourages (but does not require) the prescribing of such medications for those patients in court-ordered addiction-treatment programs and similar programs to help these patients break the cycle of addiction.
Bill Status: Assigned to Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services; approved 11-0 as amended Feb. 4 in committee; recommitted to Senate Appropriations Committee, approved 13-0 as amended Feb. 19 in committee; moved to full Indiana Senate; amended on second reading; passed 50-0 on third reading in the full Senate on Feb. 24. Advanced to Indiana House; assigned to House Committee on Public Health.