INDIANAPOLIS – A bill to protect businesses, schools and nonprofits from COVID-19-related lawsuits is heading to the governor's desk.
The Indiana Senate voted 39-7 Monday to accept final changes on the bill. Gov. Eric Holcomb has stated his support for the measure.
“Many Indiana businesses, organizations and individuals have made significant sacrifices during the pandemic to try and keep those in our community healthy,” said Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper. “Unfortunately, the losses some businesses have experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic are unrecoverable. Our goal with this legislation is to provide the reassurance and peace of mind organizations and businesses need to resume operations without the threat of a frivolous lawsuit, which will ultimately help our economy spring back.”
Messmer denied the bill creates a loophole for nursing home liability as Democrats suggest. He said they still have to meet a base level standard of care, and a person can sue in court.
Republicans in general have said the economy can't fully recover until entities are protected from frivolous lawsuits possibly alleging Hoosiers contracted the disease at their establishment. No such lawsuits have been filed in Indiana.
All of northeast Indiana's legislators supported the bill.
Gun permit repeal clears committee
The House Public Policy Committee voted 9-3 Monday to eliminate Indiana's gun permit requirement.
Under current law, Hoosiers wanting to carry a firearm must get a license. A five-year permit is free.
House Bill 1369 would have Indiana join 16 other states having no permit or license to carry.
The legislation was amended Monday to go into effect March 20, 2022. In the interim, it directs police, courts and other state agencies and local entities to create a list of Hoosiers who shouldn't carry a firearm.
During testimony, supporters said that would be more helpful than a list saying who can carry.
Indiana law would still prohibit certain Hoosiers from carrying a firearm, such as those with a felony conviction or who have been found mentally unstable.
The bill would also eliminate about $3.5 million in fees that goes to local police for training, ammunition and vests. But author Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, said there will be a line item in the state budget to cover that.
Republicans supported the bill, and Democrats opposed. It now moves to House Ways and Means because it has a fiscal impact.
Sports zone change approved
The Senate voted 41-5 Monday to increase the maximum amount of state tax revenue that can be captured by Fort Wayne's Professional Sports and Convention Development Area.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is the author of Senate Bill 384, which now moves to the House.
There is currently a $3 million cap, of which $2.6 million goes to Memorial Coliseum and then $400,000 goes to the Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board for Grand Wayne Center.
But the cap would rise to $5 million, and the new revenue would be split evenly between the Coliseum and Grand Wayne. The money is to meet capital needs.
Area senators supported the bill except for Sen. Justin Busch, R-Fort Wayne, who was absent.
Underage abortion limits advancing
Underage Hoosiers seeking an abortion would have to get their parental consent form notarized under a bill that passed a House panel Monday.
Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, alleged that some teens under 18 forge their parents' signature or have someone accompany them who isn't their parent.
House Bill 1577 also would require Indiana's informed consent brochure to include language saying medication-induced abortions can be reversed. Several doctors testified that information is not medically sound.
The bill passed 9-3 and now moves to the full House.