Firearm, IDEM fees and puppy sales in today’s legislative roundup

By: - February 14, 2023 6:00 am

The House and Senate passed several bills Monday — and turned down some amendments. (Niki Kelly/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Republicans on Monday voted against a “parent rights” amendment to a bill that would cover expenses for teachers who undergo firearm training.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, offered an amendment striking the confidentiality clause from the bill, saying that parents should know whether or not their child’s teacher is armed or has proper training.

“Parents have a right, in my mind, to know whether their teacher might be wearing or storing a weapon in their classroom,” he said.

Bill author Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, argued that the confidentiality protected teachers from media scrutiny and said teachers were already well-vetted under the program.

State law already allows teachers to be armed in schools.

“We don’t want school shooters to know who is carrying and where they are,” Lucas said, saying it would work against deterrence.

The chamber defeated the amendment on a 29-67 vote along party lines.

House Republicans also defeated a second amendment from DeLaney on a 30-66 vote that would have required the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy to oversee the training program, rather than leaving the training to become “a bidding war between contractors.”

No more puppies in the window

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday passed a bill 7-2 that seeks to block local communities from enforcing outright bans on the retail sale of dogs.

Such ordinances already exist in cities like Bloomington and Carmel. Pet stores in those municipalities are currently barred from selling cats or dogs within city limits. Instead, they can only collaborate with animal care or rescue organizations to show adoptable cats and dogs.

The latest version of the bill adopted on Monday would prohibit a city or town from adopting or enforcing a regulation that prohibits sales of dogs from retail pet stores that source animals from state-approved breeders.

But it excludes any municipalities with ordinances in place before Jan. 1, 2024. Those cities and towns can keep their pet store bans in place.

Although the original version of the bill also included the sale of cats, the measure was amended to apply only to dogs to match language in a nearly identical bill under consideration in the House.

Corporate and franchise representatives from Petland, the nation’s largest chain of stores that sell puppies and other pets, previously testified that the bills offer “relief” from municipal bans and promote a regulated market for pet stores to sell animals from reputable breeders.

Democrats on the Senate committee argued the bill preempts local control and does little to ensure animal welfare.

But bill author Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, emphasized that his proposal includes provisions to “hold bad actors accountable.”

The bill requires additional records for dogs to be sold in a pet store — including those relating to vaccinations and pedigree information. Another provision seeks to carve out a remedy for customers if a pet is unfit due to illness or disease.

Other language would prohibit anyone in Indiana under the age of 18 from buying a dog.

The measure now heads to the full Senate chamber.

Air pollution permitting fees to increase

Indiana senators on Monday unanimously voted to raise permit fees for air polluting-businesses to prevent a federal takeover of the program, but with restrictions.

With emissions down, the state’s air program isn’t bringing in enough money to sustain itself — edging toward violation of the federal Clean Air Act and major consequences.

Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell. (Courtesy Indiana Senate Republicans)

“This is a big jump and we felt that — I felt, as chairman, and other people who were concerned — we felt that we needed to have a guardrail on this and that’s what this amendment does,” author Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, told the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.

The original bill would’ve let the state raise fees, whenever it needed, and by as much as it needed, to comply with the federal Clean Air Act. That was to be an exception to a five-year, 10% cap on fee increases dating back to 2019.

Senators approved an amendment stripping that exception out to instead directly raise annual base fees to $6,100 per permit. It’s currently $2,381 per permit, according to IDEM.

An Indiana Manufacturers Association representative said the group supported the amendment. Governmental Affairs Director Andrianna Moehle had previously expressed concern for small and medium businesses at a February 6 hearing.

“We know it’s imperative to fund the program sufficiently enough so that we ensure it stays with [the Indiana Department of Environmental Management], rather than … being taken over by the EPA,” Moehle said then. “However, we do believe in the need to maintain the current guardrails that are in place today.”

Others had said the department’s rules board, which sets fees, should get more leeway because of the federal requirements.

The committee advanced the bill 11-0. It’ll stop at the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its fiscal impact — although it would mean more, not less, money for the state — before heading to the Senate floor for potential amendments.

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Staff Reports
Staff Reports

Indiana Capital Chronicle staff - Casey Smith, Niki Kelly, Whitney Downard, Leslie Bonilla Muñiz