Pharos-Tribune

Breaking News

Local News

April 29, 2013

Reform bill stripped of funding

Lawmaker says criminal code bill not intended to be an unfunded mandate.

INDIANAPOLIS — Facing the end-of-session deadline, Indiana legislators moved forward on a bill to overhaul the state’s criminal sentencing laws but left undone the issue of where local communities will get the money to implement it.  

The House voted Thursday to approve a compromise version of the bill, designed to divert thousands of low-level offenders out of state prisons and back into local jails, probation departments, and community treatment programs.

A budget deal also reached Thursday contains $6.4 million to help local communities absorb extra costs of the new sentencing laws that would go into effect July 1, 2014. But that falls far short of $30 million recently requested by the bill’s supporters.

“We do not intend for this to be an unfunded mandate to the locals,” said Republican Rep. Greg Steuerwald of Avon, who authored House Bill 1006.

Steuerwald said the issue of funding will need to be taken up by a legislative study committee this summer.

As House Bill 1006 made its way though the session, it was stripped of funding. Not until this week, after county officials from around the state flooded their legislators with calls and emails, was money for local programs put in the budget bill.

Andrew Berger, head of government relations for the Association of Indiana Counties, said the lack of funding alarmed local officials who’d come to see the bill as little more than cost-shifting by the state to local governments.

“All along, the bill’s supporters said that if the locals aren’t given the resources, this isn’t going to work,” Berger said. “Well, then I guess it’s not going to work.”

House Bill 1006 rewrites the state’s felony criminal code to raise penalties for the violent and sex crimes and decrease penalties for low-level property and drug crimes.

The goal was to keep the worst criminals in prison and give judges the discretion to send low-level offenders into intensive local probation, work-release, or addiction-treatment programs to keep them from cycling back into crime.

But Berger said local communities can’t afford to pick up the all the extra costs. Few county jails have drug-treatment programs, the probation rolls in counties are already crowded, and there are counties in Indiana that have no community-corrections programs, he said.

“Without the money to make this work, what’s the point of the bill?” Berger said.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, a Democrat from Portage who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, had attempted to get $30 million in additional funding for local governments impacted by the bill: $10 million to expand community corrections, $10 million for local drug and alcohol treatment programs, and $10 million for county probation departments to hire and train more probation officers.

“I pushed that really hard,” Tallian said.

The bill’s authors remain hopeful that the funding issue can be resolved before the law goes into effect in 2014. But they face a challenge of trying get more money from the Legislature during a non-budget year.

State Rep. Tim Brown, the chief Republican budget-maker in the House, said there’s been conflicting opinions about the fiscal impact of House Bill 1006.

While the Legislative Services Agency has said the legislation will eventually lower the prison population and save the state money, the state Department of Correction came out with its own analysis that said the prison population will skyrocket, because of the bill’s longer prison sentences for the worst offenders.

Still, the bill’s backers remain hopeful that the legislation can be improved upon in the next legislative session.

Democrat Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington, a co-author of the bill, called House Bill 1006 “the scaffolding on which we’ll build a better criminal justice system.”

“We’ve got a lot more work to do,” Pierce said.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Police blotter: April 25, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 24, 2014

  • NWS-PT042414 Princess Singing-MAK Fairy tale remix: Lewis Cass presents "Once Upon a Mattress" WALTON -- Barbra Burch played Queen Aggravain in Lewis Cass High School's 1985 production of "Once Upon a Mattress." Twenty-nine years later, she is directing the musical at the school. "It's kind of surreal," she said. "There are some things that ta

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Indiana Packers opening Frankfort plant FRANKFORT -- Delphi-based Indiana Packers bought a former Birchwood Foods meat plant in Frankfort and plans to reopen it this summer. Indiana Packers, which employs 2,000 full time at its Delphi plant, is investing $2.28 million to purchase, renovate

    April 24, 2014

  • Minding the nutrition gap Almost one in five children in Cass County who sometimes don't have access to enough food for a healthy life aren't eligible for federal assistance programs designed to address that lack, a new study indicates. Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap proj

    April 24, 2014

  • Police blotter: April 23, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Mall mortgage up for auction The mortgage note for the Logansport Mall is scheduled to be sold at auction early next month. Foreclosure procedures for the mall began when lawyers for Algonquin State Bank, N.A., out of Algonquin, Ill., filed a complaint against the mall's owner -

    April 23, 2014

  • NWS-PT042314 Earth Day4.jpg Being kind to their mother: Lewis Cass students plant trees on Earth Day WALTON -- Weeks of planning came together Tuesday as students planted 22 trees on the grounds of Lewis Cass Jr.-Sr. High School in observance of Earth Day. Amy Densborn, a science teacher at Lewis Cass, wanted to plant the trees so that students in s

    April 23, 2014 5 Photos

  • NWS-PT042314 Bags.jpg Students collect 2,475 pounds of plastic bags The Cass County Solid Waste Management District now knows to be careful what you ask for. The district opted to again this year host its plastic shopping bag contest for area elementary schools in observance of Earth Day. Overall, the district recei

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Inmate sues for religious services at Miami County prison BUNKER HILL – A Native American inmate is suing the Miami Correctional Facility for violating his constitutional religious freedom after the prison last year terminated Native American worship services. Daniel Littlepage says in a class action lawsui

    April 22, 2014

  • Police blotter: April 22, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    April 22, 2014

Featured Ads
More pharostribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
eEdition