The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 28, 2022 1:00 am

General Assembly

House OKs bill limiting contact with wild animals

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Paying to pet a tiger or hold a bear cub would be a thing of the past under a bill passed 68-27 by the Indiana House on Thursday.

Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, said the docuseries “Tiger King” exposed inhumane treatment of animals by entities that provide such options.

That's why he authored House Bill 1248, which says a person who owns or possesses specific animals can't allow a “member of the public to come into direct contact with or enter into a proximity that allows for or permits direct contact with the animal.”

Money doesn't have to exchange hands for the prohibition to kick in, and it applies to bears, lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, jaguars and mountain lions.

Abbott told his colleagues that some bad actors take baby animals away from their mothers at an early age and declaw them for these encounters. And when the animal gets too old they discard them.

“This bill is all about the animals who are abused,” he said.

It doesn't impact private ownership of wild animals or professional zoos, wildlife rescue centers or petting zoos with smaller animals, Abbott said. And he says a person who owns one of these animals can still allow a friend of family member to pet the animal – but not the general public.

He said he isn't aware of any place doing this in Indiana but the state has to be proactive, comparing it to taking precautions to keep rats out of the house after it becomes a problem.

The bill moves to the Senate.

Senate passes bill to end emergency

The Indiana Senate voted 34-11 Thursday to pass a bill that would allow the governor's public health emergency to expire.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Indiana has been under a statewide public health emergency allowing many government decisions to be made by the governor via executive orders. Gov. Eric Holcomb identified key issues that need to be addressed through legislation so that the emergency can “responsibly” end.

Senate Bill 3 would do the following:

• Allow the secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration to waive state laws and rules so that Indiana could continue to receive extra federal funding for Medicaid;

• Guarantee households can continue to qualify for extra SNAP food assistance benefits through April 16;

• Permit the Indiana Department of Health to continue operating voluntary community vaccine clinics for Hoosiers;

• Enable retired health care professionals, recently graduated medical students and out-of-state licensed health care professionals to continue to temporarily practice in Indiana.

“By establishing ways for Indiana to continue receiving federal funding and making sure we have plenty of health care professionals, SB 3 would allow us to handle the situation through the normal governing process without the need for an ongoing emergency executive order,” said Rep. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso.

The bill now moves to the House, which already passed similar language but with additional controversial vaccine provisions.

House advances executive limits

House Republicans passed a bill Thursday that would curb how the executive branch – helmed by the governor – uses the rulemaking process to run state government.

Rules are how the nuts and bolts of state laws are implemented and have public notice and hearing provisions.

Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, called House Bill 1100 a “proactive approach to government oversight and reform.” It passed 61-29.

The measure requires all state agencies to renew rules more often and limits how many rules they can adopt without repealing one.

Another major change says agencies can't implement any rules that are more stringent than the federal government's. This issue has been an ongoing fight on the environmental front.

Originally the bill also attacked the use of executive orders by governors, but the language was removed.

The legislation now moves to the Senate.

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