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Addressing School Safety, Pill Mills, Consumer Protection

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MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – Today Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller applauded the efforts of state legislators who recently passed bills addressing overprescribing of prescription drugs, enhancing protections for consumers and providing funding for school resource officers.
Zoeller thanked State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, State Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, and State Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, for supporting public safety and consumer protection during the Legislature’s 2013 session.
“Lawmakers of both parties and both houses worked collaboratively to tackle complex issues facing Hoosiers: providing for the safety of our children, protecting consumers and confronting the abuse of prescription drugs. Before session my office made recommendations about new laws needed to protect the public; and we are grateful that legislators worked so diligently to consider, refine and pass these bills that will serve the needs of constituents,” Zoeller said.
SEA 1: School Resource Officers
Zoeller thanked legislators for their passing Senate Enrolled Act 1, which allows schools to voluntarily apply for state matching grants of up to $50,000 to create or expand School Resource Officer positions. School Resource Officers or SROs are career police officers from local public safety agencies who have received special training in interaction with students, and who are assigned to schools to provide safety. 
Originally proposed by Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, in January, SEA 1 was based on a needs assessment study the AG’s Office conducted last fall – before the Newtown tragedy. The study found that school administrators and law enforcement officials would be interested in expanding School Resource Officer programs if funding were available. Under SEA 1, signed into law May 7 by Gov. Pence, a state board will be set up to review grant applications from schools and distribute funds. Application criteria are expected to be announced this summer. Sen. Charbonneau was the Senate second author of SEA 1, Sen. Randoph was a co-author and Rep. Lawson was House co-sponsor of SEA 1. Sen. Charbonneau and Rep. Lawson also served on the conference committee that advanced the final version of the bill.
“The School Resource Officer grant program will further develop the existing working relationships schools already have with their local law enforcement agencies. The daily presence of highly-trained, career police officers and sheriff’s deputies in schools can serve to increase respect for the law by students and also deter the problems in schools of bullying and drug abuse that occur in schools every day. We are appreciative that legislators took the original Senate approach to the bill that gives schools the flexibility to decide whether to apply for SRO grants or not, in keeping with local control, and I am pleased that the Governor signed it,” Zoeller said.
SEA 589: Licensing Enforcement and Consumer Protection
The Attorney General's Office enforces licensing laws against healthcare professionals such as physicians and nurses and other non-health related licensed professionals such as contractors, plumbers and architects. If the licensing rules are violated, then the Attorney General's Office can file a disciplinary action against the individual before one of the licensing boards, which conducts a hearing as to the licensee's status and ability to practice. If someone is practicing a profession without a license, a licensing board can issue a cease and desist order. Senate Enrolled Act 589 enhances that authority by allowing licensing boards to order unlicensed individuals to pay restitution to consumers who are victims of their actions. SEA 589 makes changes to funeral licensing, and prohibits individuals who sell pre-paid funeral plans from falsely claiming that the funeral service and merchandise is covered by Medicaid if it is not. Rep. Brown was House co-sponsor of SEA 589 and the Governor signed it into law.
“Senate Enrolled Act 589, which I co-sponsored, makes changes on various occupational licensing issues,” Rep. Brown said.  “The new law will protect professionals in those occupations as well as consumers who use their services. Consumer protection is essential to establishing consumer confidence, which in turn spurs greater economic growth.”
SEA 246: Prescription Drugs and ‘Pill Mills’
The Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which Zoeller chairs, examined the problem of pain-management clinics that dispense addictive controlled substances with little oversight.
“The epidemic of prescription drug abuse is fueled by the irresponsible overprescribing of addictive painkillers to patients which leads to drug dependency, easy access for abuse and accidental overdoses, all with terrible consequences. The Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force determined that the state’s efforts to curb these harmful practices by ‘pill mills’ would be enhanced with new state laws, and I am grateful to the legislators who have invested long hours into crafting effective new statutes to help address the epidemic in Indiana,” Zoeller said.
Senate Enrolled Act 246 makes important changes regarding clinics that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances. If a clinic owner does not otherwise hold an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration (CSR), then the owner must obtain a CSR for each facility they own in Indiana.  As part of registration, clinic owners have a responsibility for overseeing the operations in the clinic and ensuring that practitioners prescribe in a way that complies with law. Under SEA 246, through new rulemaking procedures of the Medical Licensing Board, the AG’s Office can move more quickly in taking enforcement action against practitioners who overprescribe and in obtaining records for an investigation. Sen. Charbonneau was Senate second author of SEA 246 and Sen. Randolph was a co-author.
 
SEA 277: Methamphetamine Vehicles Sales Disclosure
Criminals who produce the dangerous illegal stimulant methamphetamine often attempt to do so in hidden confined spaces, such as in vehicles, sometimes called "rolling meth labs.” Indiana’s Lemon Law protects automobile purchasers by requiring the dealer or seller who knows or reasonably should know that a vehicle is defective to disclose this fact to the purchaser. Because materials contaminated with meth residue can carry health risks to people exposed to them, Senate Enrolled Act 277 updates the private enforcement rights of the Lemon Law to require the vehicle seller to disclose that a vehicle previously had been used in manufacturing methamphetamine. If a vehicle seller fails to disclose a vehicle’s history in meth manufacture, then SEA 277 creates civil penalties, including paying the cost of decontaminating the vehicle or a $10,000 penalty. Rep. Lawson was a House co-sponsor of SEA 277.
 
HEA 1084: Homeowner Protection Enhancements
The Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Unit (HPU) within the Consumer Protection Division has filed numerous lawsuits against illegal foreclosure rescue consultants and other predators who defraud homeowners facing foreclosure. House Enrolled Act 1084 amends the foreclosure consultant law to prohibit consultants from misrepresenting themselves as being endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with any government agency or program. HEA 1084 also amends the law governing homeowner associations to create greater transparency and make a homeowner association’s financial records available to its members and to the AG’s Office.
Sen. Randolph was a Senate co-sponsor of HEA 1084.
“I’m pleased that we could pass this law to protect Hoosier homeowners from fraudulent loan practices,” Sen. Randolph said. “And I’m especially grateful for the Attorney General’s involvement in this important measure to ensure residents are given enough time to seek legal restitution.”
 
SEA 222: Unclaimed Property
By law the Indiana Attorney General’s Office administers the state’s Unclaimed Property program to ensure that abandoned bank accounts, stock dividends, insurance proceeds and other dormant assets are reunited with their rightful owners. In 2012 the Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division returned nearly $44.9 million worth of unclaimed property to Hoosiers, and in 2011 paid more than 85,000 in claims Hoosiers submitted. Senate Enrolled Act 222 will allow the AG’s Office to return money to consumers more efficiently and effectively. First, it requires that if property in safe deposit boxes has been abandoned for three years, then a bank must turn over the property to the state so that the AG’s Office can attempt to return it to the owners – reducing the time frame from five years to three. Second, SEA 222 requires institutions holding unclaimed property, such as banks, to electronically notify the state of the property they hold, rather than by filing time-consuming paper notification, so that the AG’s Office can expedite its efforts to return property. Rep. Lawson was a co-sponsor of SEA 222.
“Consumers who search for their unclaimed property online on our web site, www.IndianaUnclaimed.gov, often are pleasantly surprised at the money they find. It’s their money and we want to return it to them and SEA 222 that legislators passed will aid in that process,” Zoeller said.
Zoeller expressed his appreciation to legislators of both parties in the Indiana House and state Senate who passed by wide margins the bills on his 2013 legislative agenda.
 
NOTE: More information on the Attorney General’s 2013 legislative agenda is available at this link:  http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2472.htm
More information about the Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division is at this link: www.indianaunclaimed.gov


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