A series of new laws took effect Tuesday, including a new tax on gasoline and sweeping changes to the state’s criminal code.
Instead of the current 19-cent-per-gallon sales tax, Indiana is moving Tuesday to a rolling use tax. The new gas use tax will be 7 percent of the average price of gasoline in the state during the previous month.
The Department of Revenue has released that July’s gas tax will be $0.229 per gallon, calculated off of an average price of $3.269.
Other new laws include:
- A restructuring of the state’s criminal code to create mandatory minimum sentences for violent felons, as well as the addition of six to 20 years imprisonment for habitual felons;
- Allowing legally carrying gun owners to have their firearms in their cars while in school parking lots;
- Mandating high school football coaches take courses in player safety and concussion training every two years, as well as requiring concussed players sit out 24 hours after getting injured before returning to play; and
- An expansion of the state’s Lifeline Law granting immunity to individuals who are underage and under the influence while reporting certain crimes.
The author of the Lifeline law, state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, co-hosted a forum Tuesday with Rep. Susan Brooks, where the two heard from several law enforcement officials on the issue of drugs, specifically heroin.
“It’s killing way too many people of all ages, but particularly young people,” said Brooks.
“We’ve got to figure out how to take that out of the hands of our kids,” said Merritt, who was also asked about the new Lifeline law and what it would mean for Hoosiers.
“What we did was remove all the hurdles to call 911 and doing the right thing and making a good decision,” said Merritt.
As part of the lifeline law, some local authorities are now carrying an antidote that could save heroin users from an overdose. They say it’s already saved several Hoosiers.
But one provision of another new law is upsetting some prosecutors across the state. The newly revised criminal code means tougher sentences for violent felons, but for some drug dealers, it could mean much less prison time.
“They’re not as dumb as we think they are and they see that it’s going to be easier in Indiana now,” said Marion Co. Sheriff John Layton.
“If you’re looking at drug dealers, the real drug dealers, to say they should get 4 ½ years in prison I mean that’s absurd,” said Madison Co. prosecutor Rodney Cummings. “We fought that for two years. Nobody in the legislature listened to us.”
Merritt said he thinks that aspect of the criminal code should probably be looked at more closely in the future, so drug dealers don’t get out of prison too early. But overall he feels a lot of good came out of the criminal code revision, which also provides tougher sentences for violent felons and repeat offenders.
Another new law is designed to help our state’s entrepreneurs. Effective Tuesday, Hoosier companies can now raise up to $2 million in Internet-based crowd-funding from Indiana investors.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced those new rules Tuesday.
Indiana is now one of five states that has a program to help invest in homegrown start-ups. Wisconsin and Michigan just set up something similar for online investors and start-up business owners.
“It is an exciting day for Hoosier entrepreneurs and Hoosier investors,” said Lawson. “Indiana is moving to the forefront of harnessing the power of the Internet and social media to help foster investment in Indiana companies.”