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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - Medicaid expansion ...

Updating this ILB entry from Feb. 21st, Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press has a long Sunday column headed "Pence, some lawmakers at odds on Medicaid expansion." A few quotes:

Meanwhile, a group of moderate legislative Republicans — especially those who represent communities in which hospitals are key economic drivers — were swayed by the 30,000 jobs and the $10 billion economic injection that an expansion would offer, according to a study commissioned by the Indiana Hospital Association.

Many of those Republicans didn’t support President Barack Obama’s health care law in the first place, but now that it’s in effect, they have little interest in continuing to debate a federal issue. Foremost among them is Ed Clere, R-New Albany, who is trying to persuade fellow members to see it his way.

“Frankly, I think there’s some feeling among some legislators that this debate is about the Affordable Care Act, and it’s not. This debate is about the issue of Medicaid expansion in Indiana, and what that would mean for the state,” he said. * * *

The governor called Clere and three other Republican lawmakers into his office for a meeting to send the message that he doesn’t like House Bill 1591. * * *

The House has scheduled Clere’s bill for a vote on Monday — a key day, because it’s the deadline for the chamber to send bills over to the Senate for consideration. * * *

“The legislative session is finite, so we can’t sit around waiting. We’re going to come to a point in the very near future when we will have to act on this issue, regardless of what has or hasn’t come out of Washington,” Clere said.

“It’s a complex issue, there’s no question. But just because it’s complex doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to address it fully.”

HB 1591 is on the House third reading calendar for Monday.

Also today, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's lead editorial is headed "Time to join Medicaid expansion." It begins:

Gov. Mike Pence made it crystal clear this month he will not permit the state to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. But Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the same thing – until he reversed position last week.

If Scott, a former health care executive, has concluded that he can’t in good conscience deny his constituents access to care that expansion would bring, it’s time for Pence and the GOP-controlled Indiana legislature to follow suit. Across the nation, the roll of Republican officials who have reversed course to support Medicaid expansion grows, and for good reason.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Law - Criminal code rewrite up for final passage in 1st house tomorrow

The currently 434-page (not counting committee reports) version of HB 1006 has passed 2nd reading in the House and is eligible for final House passage tomorrow, Feb. 23rd.

Maureen Hayden of CNHI reports this weekend in a story headed "Criminal code rewrite unfunded locally." Some quotes from the story:

The Indiana House is moving forward on legislation that rewrites the state criminal code to make punishment better fit the crime, but a key ingredient is still missing: Money to implement it on the local level.

House Bill 1006 is designed to reserve state prisons for the worst offenders while sending more low-level offenders into county jails, community-based corrections and probation rolls.

The goal is to get those low-level offenders – many of whom are drug abusers – into programs that offer treatment and intensive supervision that reduce the odds they’ll commit another crime.

“We’re adding a ‘smart on crime’ element to our already ‘tough on crime’ elements we have in the code,” said state Rep. Matt Pierce, a Bloomington Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.

But the bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday, on 20-0 vote, doesn’t include a funding mechanism for much of the extra costs that local communities would have to absorb.

A proposed $1.9 million “probation improvement fund” in the original bill has been removed from the legislation. There’s no money in the bill to expand the kind of community-based substance treatment programs that the bill’s supporters say is critical. And no extra dollars to help counties that have no community corrections program – an alternative to jail – create or staff one.

The legislation would bring sweeping changes to Indiana’s criminal code. Among other things, it reduces Indiana’s tough drug penalties. No longer would someone caught with cocaine near a school face a tougher sentence than a rapist. And no longer would someone caught with marijuana automatically lose their driver’s license or face a felony charge if found with more than one ounce of pot.

It would also divert thousands of low-level offenders, most charged with drug and theft crimes, out of the state prisons and back into local communities for treatment, supervision or incarceration.

Both the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and the Indiana Public Defender Council were involved in crafting the bill and both support its goal of making penalties more proportional to the crime.

But both say that more funding for local treatment programs designed to reduce recidivism is critical. * * *

The rewrite of the criminal code contained in House Bill 1006 was spurred by a failed attempt at sentencing reform in 2010. That earlier effort came after a study showed that Indiana’s prison count had grown by 41 percent between 2000 and 2009 — an increase three times that of neighboring states.

The study also found that the increase had been caused not by violent criminals but by drug addicts and by low-level, nonviolent criminals.

An earlier, Feb. 21st editorial in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is headed "The 75 percent solution." Some quotes:
Though the bill makes numerous changes to the state’s criminal code, one Hoosiers will best understand addresses the misleading sentences judges hand to convicted criminals. As countless victims and others who follow the criminal justice process have learned, inmates – unless they grossly misbehave in prison – are generally released after serving half of their time. So a man convicted of child molesting, for example, may receive a sentence of eight years but be released in four.

The bill, advanced to the full House this week by the Ways and Means Committee, would require an inmate to serve at least 75 percent of the sentence – for example, six years of an eight-year term.

Corrections officials have generally supported the policy of giving an inmate two days credit for every “good” day served as a way to help keep order in prisons. An inmate, the reasoning goes, has a major incentive not to commit crimes or engage in unruly behavior behind bars if following the rules gets him out sooner. With this proposal, lawmakers appear to have preserved a still-significant incentive for good behavior while moving closer to making prisoners actually serve the sentence they received.

Standing alone, the provision would have some problems because it is more appropriate for career criminals and those convicted of major crimes. And after all, the intent is to address the state’s rising prison population at a time when other states are reducing the number of prisoners. Fortunately, the truth-in-sentencing language is part of a much broader bill that would beef up probation and other county-level programs to handle more minor offenders in their home counties and keep them out of prison, widely considered a training ground where minor offenders learn to become career criminals.

The proposal also changes a variety of sentences to offer more appropriate proportionality, in which the sentence fits the crime. Judges will still have the authority to sentence convicts to a probationary period after they are released, during which courts can monitor their behavior as they return to society.

Proponents believe the changes will at least slow the number of convicted criminals going to prison. If no changes were made, they say, Indiana would have to build a new prison in just six years. If the law is adopted, it would be a dozen years.

The bill as now written is effective July 1, 2014.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted to Indiana Law

Ind. Law - Bills of interest to the judiciary heard in committee during Week 7 of the General Assembly

Here is the seventh weekly installment of the Indiana Courts' Legislative Update for the 2013 legislative session. This was the final week for committee consideration of bills in the first house.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted to Indiana Law

Ind. Gov't. - Allen County to begin charging convicted sex offenders an annual fee to register their addresses

Vivian Sade had this initial report in the Feb. 21st Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:

A state law enacted four years ago allows counties to set up their own policies and charge a maximum of $50 a year for registration and $5 for each change of address, Commissioner Therese Brown said Wednesday.

The new administrative fund will allow the Allen County Sheriff’s Department to retain and use 90 percent of the money, while 10 percent will go to the state, Brown said.

In 2012, that 90 percent would have amounted to about $21,000 for 441 registered sex offenders, Sheriff Ken Fries said.

Fries said his department has three full-time employees who deal with tracking and registering convicted sex offenders. In Indiana, convicted sex offenders must register for either 10 years or life.

“The fees would help recover some of the costs, and why shouldn’t those guys help pay?” Fries said.

A story Feb. 23rd confirms that "Sex offenders in Allen County will have to pay an annual fee to register their addresses starting April 1."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - Pre-Civil War "epic partisan battles" in Indiana and Illinois

From the Opinionator page of the online NYTimes this weekend, an article by Stephen E. Towne is an associate university archivist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis about anti-war Democrats in Illinois and Indiana, and their their governors, Republicans Richard Yates and Oliver P. Morton, on the eve of the Civil War. A few quotes:

Springfield and Indianapolis were the scenes of epic partisan battles. At the Indiana State House, animosities quickly boiled over when Republican members “bolted” out of town, thus denying a quorum. This first bolt prompted a feud over Governor Morton’s message to the joint session. When Morton sent written copies of his speech to each chamber, Democrats refused to accept it and passed a resolution substituting that of Gov. Horatio Seymour, a New York Democrat. * * *

[Indiana Governor Morton] took extraordinary steps to combat Democratic legislators with a powerful tool at his disposal: the Union Army. In late January, cooperative army commanders in Indianapolis deployed an artillery battery near the State House, running exercises with them in an effort to intimidate the legislators. Anticipating that legislators aimed to seize state-owned arms, late one night the governor signed over ownership of the contents of the state arsenal to the local commander. * * *

In Indiana, Republicans in the legislature again bolted to prevent passage of Democratic bills, running out the legislative clock. Refusing to call a special session, Morton went on to govern Indiana illegally without legislative appropriation, borrowing funds from the War Department and taking out personal loans from New York bankers and Republican-controlled county governments to cover state expenses. Like in Illinois, during spring and summer Indiana faced a rising tide of organized violence in opposition to the war.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted to Indiana Government