Hundreds of new laws went into effect July 1 following the legislative session that concluded in April.
At the forefront of this year’s General Assembly was more money for teachers, school safety and improvements for the Department of Child Services.
Here is a look at some other new laws that may affect your neighborhood, family or school:
More money for teachers, school safety
Much of the 5 percent total increase to the education budget is expected to go toward paying teachers more and offering training and advancement opportunities to keep them in the classroom, rather than making the switch to higher-paying administration jobs.
Multiple school safety bills were proposed, and some, including a matching grant program for safety enhancements, passed. But most mental health language was removed from the bills, all of which spawned from a task force created in response to recent school shootings in Noblesville and Richmond.
Safer school bus crossings
Another education-related law that goes into effect today changes how school buses pick up and drop off students, requiring same-side pickups and drop-offs at bus stops. It also raises penalties for violators who ignore school bus stop arms, and gives schools the option to conduct referendums for funding to pay for stop arm cameras.
More rights for foster parents; lighter loads for caseworkers
The Department of Child Services was a big focus of this year’s legislative session, which spawned two new laws.
One gives foster parents more rights. It allows foster parents to intervene in CHINS and termination of parental rights cases, and makes them the first call if a child they have fostered goes back into the system after being reunited with a birth parent.
Another related law lowers the caseload for DCS caseworkers to no more than 12 families or 13 children at a time. It also allows caseworkers 45 days to file an abuse or neglect report, up from 30 days. Finally, it allows children in the foster care system to receive care until they are 21 years old, up from 18.
Stricter abortion laws
Gov. Eric Holcomb signed two bills this year that will change how abortions are handled throughout the state and locally.
One bans second-trimester dilation and evacuation abortions, but includes an exception for mothers whose lives are at risk. Another new law allows nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists to say no to assisting with an abortion, including providing medications, if they have ethical, moral or religious objections.
That protection was already in place for doctors.
More freedom for people with disabilities
Another new law gives those who have certain disabilities more freedom to make their own decisions. They now have the option of signing a supported-decision-making agreement that allows them to make their own decisions, including finding work and living on their own, with the help of a designated support person.
One of the last to pass hate crimes law
A hot topic during this year’s legislature was proposed hate crimes legislation, which makes bias-motivated acts criminal. Indiana was one of five states that did not have protections for certain groups of people based on race, religion and sexuality to name a few. Transgendered people and women were stripped from the list before the bill was approved and signed by the governor.
The new law encourages judges to consider bias based on a victim’s real or perceived traits. It also ensures hate crimes data is properly reported to the federal government.
Level 6 offenders can be sent to state facility
A new law that takes effect today gives judges the option to send Level 6 felons to the Indiana Department of Correction if they are violent or have at least two prior convictions, rather than to county jails.
The state passed a law in 2013 that said counties must keep Level 6 offenders in local jails, which added to statewide more overcrowding issues, including at the Jackson County Jail.
More rights for gun owners
Short-term gun permits will be free starting in 2020, according to a bill that was passed this year. But gun owners will still have to pay for a lifetime carrier permit.
That same bill, which becomes law today, allows gun owners to carry in churches, including those with schools. And lastly, a gun owner with a permit cannot be sued if their use of a permitted gun for self-defense is justified, according to the law.