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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 07, 2017 1:00 am

Senate won't vote on student journalism bill

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A bill protecting student journalists died in the Indiana Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, did not call down House Bill 1130 to meet a key legislative deadline.

The legislation was pushed by high school and college-age students looking for state help to shield their investigations or reports.

It would have prevented public K-12 schools from disciplining students for expressing their First Amendment rights in a school-funded publication. It also would have stopped school officials from censoring publications unless the content is libelous or slanderous.

The bill would have required local school boards to have written policies governing oversight of student publications, including physical and online newspapers and magazines.

It passed the House this session by a vote of 88-4.

But Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said school superintendents and principals pushed back against the bill at the last minute.

“They all weighed in late in the day and said they were concerned about the fact they weren't going to allow local control … so in the end we just let it go,” he said.

Cold-beer rages; bill clears Senate

The Indiana Senate approved an alcohol bill that would ultimately stop an Indiana convenience store from selling cold beer and liquor for carryout.

But the debate is far from over – with lawmakers needing to come to an ultimate conclusion in the next two weeks.

House Bill 1496 passed 40-8 and will be the vehicle used to address the matter.

The main issue is whether Ricker's should be able to continue using its legally obtained restaurant permits in Sheridan or Columbus.

A House proposal would have allowed that indefinitely while blocking new permits from being approved. But the Senate version would institute a high bar for renewal – proving that 60 percent of retail alcohol sales are from on-site consumption.

Ricker's sells made-to-order Tex-Mex food and has chairs and tables in two of its stores. So it applied for and received a restaurant permit that also lets it sell liquor and cold beer for carryout.

Liquor stores cried foul and legislative leaders said the move is devaluing liquor store permits that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. A restaurant permit is just $1,000.

“It is no exaggeration to say that every single person who has spoken to me about this issue has expressed complete and utter dismay at how Ricker's and other restaurants have been treated during this legislative session,” said Ricker's Chairman Jay Ricker. “Stifling free enterprise and the free market is not how we get a State that Works.”

Sens. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne; David Long, R-Fort Wayne; Sue Glick, R-LaGrange; and Andy Zay, R-Huntington, supported the bill. 

Sens. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Travis Holdman, R-Markle, voted against it. 

Short-term rental bill back to House

By a thin margin, the Indiana Senate passed legislation protecting short-term rentals such as those featured on Airbnb and other internet sites.

The 27-20 vote sends House Bill 1133 back for final negotiations with the House.

The bill bars local units of government from regulating – or banning – short-term rentals in any way.

Some cities around the nation – and in Indiana – have put limits on the practices due to concerns about people using their homes as commercial enterprises in residential areas. Testimony in hearings was that some people rent out an extra room or space but others have bought homes in high-traffic areas that they don't live in and instead rent out year-round.

The bill does limit short-term rentals to 180 days a year and requires insurance.

But it's unclear whether cities could start charging innkeeper's taxes to the owners of the homes.

“This is how many young people today prefer to travel,” said Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. “The question is how much of your home is yours and how much is the government's?”

The only area senator to oppose the bill was Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange. 

Baby boxes clear House; 1 change

The House voted 92-4 Thursday to legalize newborn safety incubators in hospitals that are staffed 24 hours a day.

The baby boxes allow Hoosiers to drop off an unwanted newborn safely and without having to face authorities.

Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, said the devices offer women anonymity and babies a chance to live.

It is an expansion of the state's existing Safe Haven law. Language added in the House also would grandfather two baby boxes already installed at fire stations in Woodburn in Michigan City.

It is unclear if the Senate will agree to that key change.

The only area representative to oppose the bill was Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen.