People will not be allowed to panhandle within 50 feet of a business or public monument, and e-cigarette and tobacco stores will have to pay greater fines for selling to underage customers starting July 1.
The Indiana General Assembly, which met from January to March, passed numerous laws that go into effect at the start of next month. The laws ban holding a cellphone while driving and require schools to test their water for lead, among other measures.
Here’s a look at a handful of the most notable ones:
Vaping and smoking age now at 21
Senate Bill 1 bans people under 21 from buying or possessing tobacco, e-cigarettes or e-liquids, which is already a federal law.
The bill also makes selling these products to underage customers a Class C infraction. Sellers will have to pay $400 if they violate the law, an increase from the previous $200 maximum fine. They will have to pay even greater fines if they received previous citations in the past year.
The law also eliminates fines that underage customers paid for possessing the products.
“We support preventive measures in regards to preventing underage people from having access to electronic cigarettes,” said Shadi Khoury, owner of Indy E Cigs.
He said that fines should be punitive enough that the infraction doesn’t happen again.
Increased restrictions on panhandling
A House bill will forbid people from panhandling within 50 feet of a bank, restaurant, business or destination where a financial transaction takes place, which includes parking garages and meters. It also bans panhandling within 50 feet of a public monument.
The measure will essentially prohibit panhandling in downtown Indianapolis. The current law only prohibits panhandling within 20 feet of banks, ATMs and other locations.
Don Hawkins, the founder and president of Homeless & ReEntry Helpers, said he understands why panhandling will be prohibited within 50 feet of an ATM machine. “That’s just a common sense thing, asking them to stay away from banks and institutions,” he said.
However, he said the monument restriction does not make sense to him.
The ACLU of Indiana has filed a lawsuit against state and local officials because of the law. On Constitution Day, the ACLU normally distributes copies of the Constitution and asks for donations in Monument Circle, which will not be allowed under the law.
“This panhandling ban is an unconstitutional attack on free speech,” Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, previously told IndyStar in a statement.
A ban on holding cellphones while driving
House Bill 1070 will prohibit people from holding or using a cellphone while driving. They can, however, use a phone through hands-free technology or call 911 when there is an emergency.
An existing law prohibited drivers from texting, but law enforcement found this law hard to enforce. The National Safety Council, a nonprofit safety advocate, considers the bill a step in the right direction, said Alex Epstein, the council’s director of transportation safety.
“We’re glad that the bill was enacted and the governor signed it, but we know that hands-free is not risk-free and that no one should use a phone, either handheld or hands-free or any of the communication that it provides, while driving,” Epstein said.
Change to teacher evaluations
Another law that will go into effect on July 1 will make student test scores no longer a required part of teacher evaluations. Currently, test scores are a substantial component of evaluations.
The Indiana State Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, pushed for this to change, because test scores are an inadequate measure of a teacher’s effectiveness and ability. They better predict a child’s income level and background than the teacher’s quality.
“It’s no secret that teacher evaluations have been a major issue for ISTA for years,” John O’Neal, a lobbyist for the union, previously told IndyStar.
Charges for out of network medical billing
Starting on July 1, when patients see an out-of-network medical practitioner at an in-network facility, they can’t be charged more than the in-network price for the medical care. However, patients can be charged a higher rate if they receive a notice from their provider at least five days before the appointment with an estimated cost of the medical care and they consent to the cost.
The bill does not address whether the insurer or the medical provider has to pay the difference between the in-network and out-of-network costs. Democrats were opposed to the bill because they believe that local medical providers will have to make up the difference.
Water at schools must be tested for lead
House Bill 1265 requires the people or entities that have authority over a school building to test the school’s water for lead by New Year’s Day in 2023, unless the school has been tested since 2016. If the water contains 15 parts per billion of lead, the entity must remedy the school’s high lead level.
Schools in Lake County, which has seen lead contamination from industry, will have to test their water once every two calendar years starting in 2023.
Some wetlands lose protections
On July 1, surveyors will no longer need permission from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to clear wetlands when they conduct maintenance on a regulated drain. These drains include man-made ditches, drainage pipes and sewers that were made to address flooding.
IDEM is against the measure and thinks that it could bring about flooding, harm wildlife and worsen water quality.
Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Warsaw, previously told the IndyStar that the law will help farmers and counties avoid long conflicts with IDEM.
IndyStar reporters Arika Herron, Amelia Pak-Harvey and Chris Sikich contributed to this article.
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Anne Snabes at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.