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Dealers now accountable for deaths

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Indiana lawmakers passed dozens of new laws which took effect at the start of this week. They include an attempt to punish illicit drug dealers for the lives taken as a result of their business.

Anyone who “knowingly or intentionally manufactures or delivers a controlled substance” that results in the death of another can be charged with a felony that could send them to prison for decades. The measure was part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s agenda this year. While Holcomb has sought to take a compassionate approach toward the opioid crisis, calling addiction a disease and expanding access to drug treatment, the Republican has also maintained that the state needs to get touch on drug dealers.

Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, said the law will help deter drug dealers and help put an end to the crisis.

“Our penalties have got to be harsher, and we’ve got to put people behind bars that are precipitating this crisis and bringing the drugs to the street and just simply tearing communities apart.” Zay said.

“It’s not that those people think a lot before they get into that but if they know that there’s a harsher penalty, maybe they will think twice. We certainly as a lawful society have to put those appropriate sentence measures out there,” he added.

Other laws that took effect Sunday include:

Eyeball tattooings

Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, has said that he is not aware of any harmful incidents in Indiana that have arisen from the obscure practice of eyeball tattooing. But that didn’t stop the Indianapolis Republican from taking action to curtail a practice he views as a potential public health scourge.

His measure, which was signed into law by Holcomb, was proposed following a flurry of news reports last fall about a Canadian model who had major complications from getting her eyes tattooed purple.

Tattooists will be prohibited under the law from coloring the whites of an individual’s eyes.

An exception would be made for procedure done by licensed health care professionals. But that sets a threshold so high – further complicated by professional ethics guidelines, which obligate medical providers to do no harm – that the law amounts to an effective ban of the procedure.

The law imposes a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.

Sex education

A new sex education law will allow parents to review curriculum and “opt out” their children from such classes.

The law will also require public schools to make two attempts to notify parents in advance of planned sex education classes.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dennis Kruse, initially wanted to make it mandatory for parents across the state to “opt in” their children for sex education. But the Auburn Republican, who chairs the Senate education committee, backed down after other GOP legislators objected and agreed to switch it to an “opt out” provision.

Zay said the legislation was created to put controls on the extent of what was being taught at school because a testimony given to the committee showed that certain schools went past biological and health related education.

“I believe, as I believe most people do, particularly something as sensitive as sex education should begin at the home and probably be partnered along side faith-based institutions and what their priorities and what their objectives are,” Zay said. “Now if the public education is trying to get into that domain I think it’s important that they are transparent in what they are offering to the children and the parents should have the opportunity to know that rather than it just being taught and they find out after the fact by their children.”

Zay said through the media such as video games, radio, television and advertising, be believes “there’s enough exposure to sex and sexuality.”

“I don’t know how much more progressive we’d want to be to having all of that being offered and taught a long with the many different challenges that society is trying to put before us,” Zay said.

Many Democrats opposed the bill, arguing that it’s important for students to learn more about sex education, including sexual identity.

Short term rental

Re. Matt Lehman succeeded this year in passing a property rights bill that curtails local governments’ ability to restrict those who rent out their homes on short term rental websites like Arbnb.

But already, officials in Carmel, one of Indiana’s wealthiest cities, have thumbed their noses at the law, saying it doesn’t apply to them. That sets the stage for a possible court fight.

Lehman, who’s from the northeastern Indiana city of Berne, is one of the most powerful Republicans in the House. He tried to pass a similar measure last year, but members of his own caucus revolted.

The law passed this year allows people to rent out their primary homes. But municipalities are allowed to pass restrictions on secondary homes, such as requiring a permit to rent, or adopting noise and nuisance ordinances. Homeowners associations are also allowed to restrict short-term rentals. Municipalities that had short-term rental ordinances on the books before Jan. 1, 2018, are exempted from the law.

Official state insect

Say’s Firefly has become Indiana’s official state insect.

Students at Cumberland Elementary School in West Lafayette Championed the efforts for years, but had been unsuccessful until Holcomb made it part of his agenda for the year.

He praised the young students for their perseverance and civic engagement at a bill signing in March.

Entomologist Thomas Say named the insect in 1826.