New laws set to take effect Sunday in Indiana will impact Hoosiers from birth to death and touch their lives in numerous ways along the way.
The General Assembly passed more than 200 bills earlier this year. Some, such as the widely celebrated measure allowing Sunday sales of package liquor, are already in place. Unless otherwise specified in the legislation, laws take effect on July 1 of each year.
One new law adds two more tests to an existing list of 10 health screenings for newborns. The new screenings are for spinal muscular atrophy, which can limit a child's ability to breathe and swallow, and severe combined immunodeficiency, a potentially fatal illness caused by genetic mutations.
“Parents can now rest assured that their babies are being tested at birth for these diseases so they have more treatment options and more hopeful outcomes,” said state Rep. Douglas Gutwein, R-Francesville, who sponsored the bill in the house.
Another new law permits wills, trusts and powers of attorney to be carried out electronically. Electronic signatures on such documents must still be witnessed by at least two people.
While 47 states permit electronic legal documents in many cases, extending the practice to wills remains rare. As of 2017, only Nevada permitted the practice, according to the American Bar Association.
Between birth and death, Hoosiers are likely to own several cars or trucks and another new Indiana law allows them to choose either a traditional paper title or an electronic one. For the vast majority of motorists who borrow money to buy their cars, the law requires the lienholder to notify the Bureau of Motor Vehicles when the loan is paid off.
Rural Hoosiers may be in for some help in accessing the growing number of electronic documents and other aspects of cyberspace.
A new law authorizes grants to bring high-speed internet service to areas where no terrestrial broadband service is available at speeds of at least 10 megabits per second. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs will administer the grant process.
Outdoor lovers may find it easier to access some trails around the state thanks to a new law that limits the liability of private landowners who allow use of their property to access trails.
Rails to Trails turns abandoned railroad routes into trails for hiking and biking. In some areas, property owners were reluctant to allow their land to be used to get to a trail.
“We were particularly impressed that Indiana took the lead on what I think is some pretty innovative legislation,” said Brian Housh, Midwest policy manager for the program. “By limiting the liability, I think it really does … encourage private landowners to allow trail access.”
Another new law that takes effect Sunday but was passed in 2017 boosts the state's motor fuel tax by 1 cent per gallon and by another penny each year through 2024.
A sampling of other new laws that may not have received widespread coverage include ones that:
• Require parental permission before children can receive sex education in public schools
• Allow a charge of invasion of privacy against sex offenders who knowingly live within one mile of their victims
• Provide immunity from civil and criminal liability for health care providers who intervene in suspected child abuse and neglect
• Require the Indiana State Department of Health to work with the secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration in developing a plan to reduce diabetes
• Increases the maximum number of foster children acceptable in a foster home from five to six
• Permits short-term rental of a property owner's residence and prohibits local governments from prohibiting or unreasonably restricting short-term rental of other residential property
• Allows industry representatives on a convention and tourism commission to live outside the county, but not outside the state, and repeals restrictions on party-affiliation of commission members
• Permits late fees of $20 or 20 percent of monthly rent when renters of self-storage facilities are late in paying
Also contributing information for this report was The Statehouse File, a reporting project that involves students and staff of the Pulliam School of Journalism at Franklin College.