Indiana statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana General Assembly will study taxation for vaping products and CBD, criminal sentencing reform and ticket scalping among dozens of topics to be explored in public meetings this summer.

The three issues are among approximately 40 study topics that were announced recently. They were trimmed down by House and Senate leaders from 155 requests by legislators.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said there will be a multi-year look at sentencing trends for criminal acts with an eye on a holistic approach to legislative proposals increasing penalties. The study follows a massive reform of sentencing laws three years ago.

"We struggled to pass comprehensive sentencing reform in 2015 and 2016. It actually took us about five or six years of negotiating and working with all participants to get there," Bosma said.

But as crimes rip through communities, some legislators author bills in response to local tragedies.

"It's very difficult to vote against that from a political perspective because those have been used in campaigns historically to say somebody's light on crime rather than thoughtful about crime and punishment. So it's our hope that among the four leaders we can sort of get our hands around these enhanced penalties by getting them into a study committee," Bosma said.

Part of the study will also include criminal laws concerning fraud and deception. A heavily debated bill in the Senate was signed into law this session that increases the penalty for the crime of deception if a health care provider misrepresents fertility procedures or sperm donors.

Also, taxation on vaping products was discussed during the recent session. One unsuccessful bill would have placed a 4-cents-per-milliliter liquid tax on e-cigarettes.

"One of the challenges that we have when you talk about that tax whether it's a vaping product or CBD is that it becomes a challenge for retailers to have to reprogram their cash registers," said Senate President Pro Tempore Rod Bray, R-Martinsville. "So that was one of the things that was part of the hangup."

Near the end of the recent session, talk arose of ticket scalping. One provision briefly added to an economic development bill in the Senate would have required anyone, including web-based agencies, who resells an event ticket to provide a refund if the event is canceled or the ticket is counterfeit.

"It came up right at the end of the legislative session. For a really big issue that a lot of people have an interest in, that's not the right time to try and hash that issue out. It should be a standalone bill of its own," Bray said.

Bosma added, "One place that state policymakers don't do a great job is in that zone between the old economy and the new economy — Airbnb, driverless vehicles, sales of vehicles over the internet. This is just an area of change and concern. The same thing is true of tickets this year.

"Ticketing is moving from handing you a nicely printed ticket to all-electronic. I'm not just talking about the movies. I'm talking about the Indy 500, the NBA, professional sports of all kinds. So it affects transferability, it just affects a lot of different things that you we have to sort through so that the economics of it makes sense," Bosma said.

Also, career counseling in schools will be explored over the next two summers. Funding for school counselors will be studied as will workloads for a profession that is being assigned more responsibilities in preparing students for the workforce.

Along those lines, there will be study of the effect of property tax referenda on teacher pay.

Among other topics:

• The various drivers of health care cost increases in meetings involving legislative council and public health committee legislators.

• Cost elements for Medicaid

• How guardians are assigned and assets are protected in cases involving elder care

• The preservation of Indiana farmland, the management of state forest land and erosion along the Lake Michigan shoreline

All committees are to wrap up their work by Nov. 1.

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