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General assembly

Lawmakers from area set their priorities

Scooter fees, bus safety among bills

– Area lawmakers have filed dozens of bills affecting all facets of Indiana life on topics as varied as scooters, buses, safety and food.

Many of the ideas come from constituents who have experienced problems. Sometimes legislators see a law in another state they want in Indiana. Still others are spurred by news events.

The latter is why Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, filed Senate Bill 238, which requires the Indiana State Police to establish a program to inspect private buses.

The legislation also requires the owner of a private bus to provide to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles an unexpired certificate of inspection before the owner can register or re-register the vehicle.

The bill gets an initial hearing Tuesday.

Wyss said a terrible bus accident in Indianapolis last year caught his eye when newspapers reported the bus was privately operated and not required to be inspected. School and charter buses are already inspected, for example.

“I want to ensure if church members or anyone is in a private vehicle that the vehicle was inspected and safe,” he said.

Wyss is also offering a bill to extend the life of the Professional Sports, Convention and Development Area surrounding Memorial Coliseum.

The Coliseum is seeking a $12.4 million expansion of the Exposition Center in 2015, but for the Coliseum to pay for the project with a bond issue, the law designating the area must be extended from expiring in 2027 to 2040.

Here is what some other area legislators are working on:

•Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, has jumped into the statewide debate over scooters on Indiana roads. The proliferation of the mopeds/scooters in some parts of the state has caused problems because drivers are unlicensed and uninsured.

Yet they are still on roads and can cause accidents.

Wolkins said his bill would require these scooters – which go a maximum of 35 mph – to register with the BMV and have an alternate plate. He said the state needs to start tracking scooters so the BMV knowshow many there are and whether additional legislation is needed to head off any problems.

There will be a $10 registration fee.

House Bill 1343 does not require licensing or insurance, as some want.

“That kills the bill every time,” Wolkins said.

But he hopes to clarify that uninsured motorist insurance should cover costs of any accidents involving a moped or scooter. The scooters currently aren’t considered motor vehicles and this insurance doesn’t apply.

•Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, has filed a number of bills protecting children and families.

“I’m going to be the mother of Indiana,” she said of her desire to fight for those in need.

House Bill 1016 gives Hoosiers younger than age 18 the right to file for a protective order. Currently, an adult has to sign the petition for it to be filed.

It is based on a case in Ohio in which a teenage girl whose parents were on drugs filed on her own for a protective order and couldn’t get one. She was later shot but didn’t die and fought to change the law there.

“The argument against is that every kid will file for minor problems, but a judge still has the discretion on whether to grant it,” Kubacki said.

She also has House Bill 1014, which speeds up the process of a divorce for a person whose spouse has been convicted of domestic violence.

“When a woman finally makes the decision to break the cycle she shouldn’t be tied up in court,” Kubacki said.

Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary, which had one meeting on the gay marriage bill and has not met again while voting on that matter is sorted out.

•Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, wants to boost “Indiana Grown” products.

In 2012, the initiative to highlight Hoosier food and products was developed and run by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. But Lehman wants to grow the little-known program into a major advertisement for the state.

He said Hoosiers spend $18 billion a year on food, and 90 percent of that comes from outside the state. Lehman wants to highlight local businesses that produce food with more than just a packaging sticker.

He said the state will have to spend a chunk of money – possibly from tobacco revenues – on the program to make it work as it has in other states such as South Carolina.

House Bill 1039 passed out of committee last week and is ready for a vote by the full House.

•Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, also has a bill concerning locally produced food.

Senate Bill 179 prohibits a local unit of government from requiring licensure or certification for food products of an individual vendor, farmer or bona fide egg producer who meets certain requirements.

The legislation allows small egg farmers to sell eggs at a farmers market, to a restaurant or grocery or at a roadside stand if they meet certain standards.

Banks has become interested in the issue as a number of niche farms in his area want to more easily be able to sell to farmers markets and restaurants.

“It’s all about the farm-to-fork experience,” he said. “The state rules sometimes go too far.”

The bill is set for a full vote in the Senate this week.