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General Assembly

Casino revamp rolls in Senate

Plan would overhaul rules, taxes

– An overhaul of Indiana casino regulations and taxes has cleared the state Senate amid arguments from its supporters that the casinos need help against growing competition from surrounding states.

Senators voted 32-18 Monday night to approve the bill that would allow Indiana’s 10 riverboat casinos to move inland to adjacent property and permit live table games at the two horse track casinos.

The bill would also cut state taxes on casinos by millions of dollars.

Several senators who represent counties with casinos objected to provisions that would reduce how much casino tax revenue is distributed to local governments. They argue those communities bear extra expenses hosting the casinos.

The bill now goes to the House, where several leaders are leery of making major changes in casino laws.

Ultrasound rule on RU-486 remains

The Indiana Senate on Monday removed one ultrasound requirement – but not a second – for women seeking medical abortion.

Senate Bill 371 generally requires clinics providing abortion by prescription drugs, such as RU-486, to use the same requirements as those giving surgical abortions. It required an ultrasound during an initial exam before the medication is given by the doctor, and a second during a follow-up appointment a few weeks later.

Lawmakers approved an amendment offered Monday by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, that would allow doctors to use “appropriate testing” on the follow-up visit to confirm the pregnancy is terminated. This could be a simple blood test.

The amendment did not remove the requirement for the initial ultrasound, which might involve an invasive vaginal procedure rather than an external one.

The bill is up for final vote in the Senate today.

Medicaid addition stumbles in House

A House attempt to clear the way for a possible Medicaid expansion pending federal approval stalled Monday.

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, did not call House Bill 1591 for a vote after Gov. Mike Pence took Clere to task in a private meeting last week.

Pence doesn’t want the legislature to commit the state to any Medicaid expansion – even if it is under adjusted federal rules.

Clere said he needs more time to refine the bill and so he will work with legislation the Senate is sending instead.

But he said Pence isn’t the lone arbiter on the decision.

“This is too big and too important of an issue for the legislature not to be involved,” Clere said.

Senate Bill 551, which contains similar subject matter, is up for a full vote in the Senate today.

Pain clinic changes approved in Senate

The Senate voted unanimously Monday to approve new regulations for clinics specializing in prescribing controlled substances, usually to manage pain.

Senate Bill 246 now moves to the House for consideration. It would require a physician, hospital or licensed health facility to own any clinic or entity prescribing the drugs.

It also gives the attorney general more powers of inspection and emergency intervention, and it requires the state medical licensing board to draft rules and standards of care for such clinics or doctors focusing on controlled substances.

The bill came as a result of several state investigations into problematic pain clinics, including one in Fort Wayne.

House tweaks bill on teacher dues

The Indiana House voted 62-33 Monday on a bill that limits schools from withholding union dues from paychecks with a teacher’s permission.

House Bill 1334 says collecting dues is allowed unless the money is used for political activity.

Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, author of the legislation, said it isn’t appropriate to use schools to raise money for teacher unions because that mixes taxpayer dollars with politics.

Democrats argued sorting out where the money is spent will be such a blizzard of work that schools will simply opt out.

Two other provisions in the bill create a tax credit for teachers spending their own money on school supplies and lessening teacher continuing education requirements if they are deemed “highly effective.”

The only two area representatives to vote “no” were Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, and Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.