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[ATG] Zoeller thanks Terre Haute legislators for bipartisan support of bills
Start Date: 3/31/2014Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 3/31/2014
Entry Description

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – State lawmakers passed bills to combat human trafficking, protect the telephone privacy of consumers, return unclaimed property with interest to Hoosiers and encourage prompt medical intervention in certain emergencies, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said today.

Zoeller publicly thanked Terre Haute-area legislators, including State Senator John Waterman, R-Shelburn, State Representative Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, and State Senator Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, for their support of consumer protection and public safety bills that passed during the Legislature’s 2014 session.

“Before session my office had recommended several proposals for new laws that would help improve the health and safety of Hoosiers by strengthening existing law and addressing some problems that plague consumers.  Legislators of both parties and both houses worked collaboratively to pass these bills,” Zoeller said.  The Attorney General thanked legislators for the following bills that the Governor has signed into law:
  

Senate Enrolled Act 291:  Human Trafficking case coordination

Prior to the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, the Legislature at Zoeller’s recommendation passed a human trafficking statute, so that prosecutors could criminally charge those who facilitate organized commercial prostitution through coercion of sexual abuse victims. The Attorney General is co-chair of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) task force.  An update to the human trafficking law lawmakers heard this year, Senate Enrolled Act 291, clarifies that the AG‘s Office has the same authority as a law enforcement agency to access and maintain information about human trafficking investigations and assist in prosecutions of violations.  Sen. Waterman, a former Sullivan County sheriff, authored SEA 291.

“From my experience serving as a sheriff, I can tell you that human trafficking does occur in Indiana. That’s why we need to continue to update our laws to prevent these appalling crimes from occurring.  Hoosiers deserve to be protected, and I think Senate Enrolled Act 291 is another step in the right direction,” Sen. Waterman said.  

Senate Enrolled Act 208:  Unclaimed Property

Operated by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, the state’s Unclaimed Property program returned to Hoosiers a record $60 million last year in financial assets such as forgotten bank accounts, unpaid insurance proceeds, unreturned security deposits and unused store credits.  More than $400 million in unclaimed property is held in safe keeping by the program so it can be returned to Hoosiers. Claimants can check for property by visiting www.IndianaUnclaimed.gov, and the Attorney General’s staff also works to notify claimants and assist in reuniting them with their property.  Senate Enrolled Act 208 implements important changes to Indiana’s unclaimed property law. To make the statute compliant with recent court decisions, SEA 208 authorizes the State to pay interest to claimants on any interest-bearing accounts held by the Unclaimed Property program from the time the State collects them until they are distributed.  Also, SEA 208 protects claimants’ privacy so that their personal information is not disclosed in unclaimed property reports, to deter identity theft. 

“Indiana’s Unclaimed Property Division has over $400 million in unclaimed property which lawfully belongs to Hoosiers.  I was proud to sponsor Senate Enrolled Act 208 this session which passed unanimously out of the General Assembly,” Rep. Heaton said.  “The law better protects the personal information of anyone retrieving unclaimed property, and after authoring an amendment to the bill, it also allows unclaimed property that accrues interest to continue to build interest once received by the Attorney General’s Office. Since every penny counts and by allowing interest to continue to build, more dollars will be returned to the rightful owners of this property,” Heaton added.  

Senate Enrolled Act 349 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 16: Telephone Privacy

Operated by the Attorney General's Office, Indiana’s Do Not Call List program now has more than 2.3 million phone numbers registered by Hoosier consumers who do not want to be pestered with nuisance sales calls.  Telemarketers are required by law to abide by the list and not contact registered numbers or face civil penalties.  But in 2013 there were nearly 14,000 complaints from consumers who received unwanted telemarketing calls despite being on the list; and recently some companies have exploited technology to circumvent or evade the Do Not Call law.  One typical scenario:  A company selling a product or service does not cold-call directly but instead uses a third-party company as a lead generator to place unwanted robo-calls and then transfer the calls to the original company.  Senate Enrolled Act 349 updates Indiana’s statute to prohibit that practice, meaning companies that violate it will be subject to civil penalties.

In a related effort, the Legislature and Attorney General are urging the Federal Communications Commission to take more seriously the problem of robo-calls generated from outside the United States.  A large portion of illegal calls telemarketers make involve robo-calls generated using technology that can blast more than 30,000 calls per hour to Indiana residents, Zoeller said.  Due to jurisdictional hurdles, state governments do not have legal authority to prosecute illegal robo-calls originating overseas; it’s a federal responsibility.  Senate Concurrent Resolution 16 is a formal official request made by the Legislature, asking the FCC at the federal level to more aggressively regulate telemarketing calls and robo-calls that violate Hoosiers’ telephone privacy.  Now that the Legislature has passed it, SCR-16 will be officially transmitted by the state Senate to the FCC as a statement of the State’s position.  Sen. Waterman was a co-author of SCR-16.  

Senate Enrolled Act 227: Lifeline Law, drug emergencies and assault study

Originally passed in 2012 at the urging of college students, the Lifeline Law encourages young people to call 911 if someone suffers alcohol poisoning and makes the caller immune from criminal charges related to underage drinking.  Attorney General Zoeller has promoted awareness of the Lifeline Law at campuses with the Lifeline Law's author, State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. 

This year, Sen. Merritt authored Senate Enrolled Act 227, an update to the Lifeline Law that expands it to extend immunity from prosecution if underage callers seek help for other types of medical emergencies such as concussions, or if they are a victim of a sexual assault, or witness and report a crime.  Zoeller recommended an amendment to SEA 227 that encourages first responders – including law enforcement and firefighters – to be equipped with Naloxone, a medication that counteracts the effects of an opioid drug overdose.  It will remove legal barriers to first responders utilizing the antidote to save patients’ lives.  SEA 227 also authorizes a legislative study committee to study the topic of human trafficking facilitated on the Internet.  

House Enrolled Act 1218, House Enrolled Act 1360 and Senate Enrolled Act 408:  Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force recommendations
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force that the Attorney General co-chairs has for two years studied the rampant health problem of Hoosiers becoming addicted to opioid drugs such as prescription pain medications.  The task force recommended bills the Legislature passed:
  

  • Intended to deter prescription drug abuse that might be facilitated by overprescribing by providers, the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking Program, or INSPECT, is a database the state has operated for several years that tracks the dispensing of certain addictive controlled substances.  So that the database is kept updated in a timely manner, the task force recommended House Enrolled Act 1218, which requires pharmacists to provide dispensing information to INSPECT on certain opioid drugs – within three days, starting July 1, 2015, and within 24 hours, starting January 1, 2016.  HEA 1218 includes patient privacy protections for confidentiality.  
  • Mindful of patients already addicted, another of the task force’s recommendations was to address Indiana’s shortage of mental health professionals and addiction treatment professionals.  To encourage more of these professionals to practice in Indiana, House Enrolled Act 1360 offers up to five years of student loan forgiveness grants to psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, addiction counselors and mental health professionals who are pursuing addiction training in behavioral health and addiction psychiatry -- provided they practice their specialty within the state. 
  • The task force also reviewed the problem of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS, where newborns exposed to prescription or illicit drugs while in the womb suffer from withdrawal symptoms including respiratory complications, low birth weight, feeding difficulties and seizures. Senate Enrolled Act 408 establishes a standard clinical definition of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, and directs the Indiana State Department of Health to meet with various medical and pediatric stakeholders, to develop recommendations regarding diagnosis and screening and reporting of statistics of NAS that will be presented to the Legislative Council no later than November 1, 2014.  SEA 408 allows ISDH  before June 1, 2015, to establish pilot programs with hospitals to put the NAS recommendations into practice. 

“We are enormously grateful to legislators of both parties in the Indiana House and Senate who carefully evaluated the evidence, put Hoosier consumers first and passed our recommended bills in final form almost without opposition,” Zoeller said, noting 13 of 15 bills or resolutions his office recommended have passed this session.  Governor Mike Pence has now signed the bills into law. 

More information is at this link:  http://bit.ly/1gAgK5B

 

 

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Contact Information:
Name: Bryan Corbin
Phone: 317.233.3970
Email: Bryan.Corbin@atg.in.gov
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