INDIANAPOLIS – State Senator John Broden (D-South Bend) proposed a number of bills during the legislative session that were approved by the General Assembly and are expected to be signed into law by the governor. Most new laws become effective July 1, 2015. Sen. Broden’s legislation focused on expanding child care voucher eligibility for working families, increasing penalties for child molestation, enhancing consumer protections and improving the local judicial system in St. Joseph County.
Taxation of Internet access
Sen. Broden authored Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 80 which will prohibit the state or any political subdivision from imposing, assessing, collecting or attempting to collect a tax on Internet access. The federal Internet Tax Freedom Act prohibits states from taxing Internet access and is due to expire on October 1, 2015. If the federal moratorium expires, SEA 80 will prohibit taxing Internet access in state law.
Sen. Broden authored a proposal that would enhance the felony level for child molesting if a child molester was aware they had a serious transmittable disease. The original proposal passed the Senate, but the House of Representatives added the language to House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1304. The act, among other provisions, increases the penalty for child molestation that results in the victim contracting a dangerous sexually transmitted disease. Also known as “Cameron’s Law”, the new penalty is increased to a Level 1 Felony if the perpetrator is aware of being infected with a dangerous sexually transmitted disease such as HIV, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis. The proposal stems from a tragic case in the South Bend area where a child name Cameron was a victim of child molestation and contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Magistrates and courts
Another act supported by Sen. Broden, HEA 1110, will permit the judge of the St. Joseph Circuit Court to appoint an additional full-time magistrate. This full-time magistrate will be the first in the entire state to specialize in protective order and domestic violence cases for the county. The law also allows the judges of the St. Joseph County Superior Court to appoint two additional full-time magistrates for a total of four. These magistrates will oversee traffic and misdemeanor cases for the county. The push for additional magistrates is aimed at alleviating the long backlog of misdemeanor cases awaiting trial so that victims and defendants will have their cases heard in a timely manner.
Confidential Victim Services Request
Sen. Broden co-authored an act permitting, for purposes of the Public Records Law, a law enforcement agency to share certain information concerning cases of domestic violence with a victim’s advocate while keeping the information confidential to outside requests for information. SEA 289 was brought by several sheriffs and prosecutors who testified that it would help domestic violence victims receive proper help without risk of being re-victimized.
Sen. Broden co-authored SEA 307 to strengthen the scope of the state’s Consumer Protection Act by including veterans and disabled Hoosiers as protected groups. The act helps to provide additional protections from telephone solicitors, home improvement scams and fraud. It also strengthens Indiana’s “Do Not Call” law by prohibiting an individual from assisting a telephone solicitor who knowingly subverts the “Do Not Call” list.
Significant bills that did not gain final approval:
Child care eligibility
Sen. Broden introduced one of the Senate Democrat’s key legislative priorities to remove a barrier to economic mobility for many Hoosier families. Known as the child care benefit “cliff”, hundreds of families are being forced off a federal child care voucher program after receiving a promotion or raise at work. The proposals, SB 129 and HB 1616, would have raised the income ceiling for working families already participating in the program to allow them to keep receiving child care assistance while they work their way to self-sufficiency and into the middle class. However, that language was removed in final negotiations at the close of session. This legislation will likely be offered again next year.
Sen. Broden represents Senate District 10, which includes the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, and portions of Portage, Penn, Centre and Clay townships in St. Joseph County. For more information on Sen. Broden, visit www.IN.gov/s10.