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Senate panel OKs curbs on cold med

– A Senate panel voted unanimously Tuesday to further restrict the amount of cold medicine consumers can buy.

Senate Bill 496 aims to limit access to ephedrine and pseudoephedrine – primary ingredients in the making of methamphetamine.

It does not require a prescription to buy the products but does institute an annual limit on the amount a person can buy. This is on top of a pre-existing monthly limit in state law.

Each time a person buys the medicine, it is put into a real-time online system to track the purchases. If a purchase goes over the limit, a retailer is not allowed to finish the transaction.

Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said he thinks consumers with seasonal allergies and occasional cold and sinus infections will still be able to buy the medicine they need.

The current monthly limit is 7.2 grams.

Yoder’s bill also institutes an annual limit of about eight months’ worth of the medicine – or about 60 grams. He said that is equal to one pill a day. Yoder said that if people need more, they should be under the care of a doctor and can get a prescription.

The legislation now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Unemployment

The House Labor and Employment Committee voted 9-3 to make changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system.

The system has faced a major overhaul in recent years, but Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, has legislation to do more.

Most of the provisions of House Bill 1457 simply alter Indiana law to match federal requirements. There are two major changes, though.

The first would require Hoosiers on state unemployment – the first 26 weeks of benefits – to go to a WorkOne center for a skills assessment and career counseling in the fourth week.

There currently is no state requirement, which means this doesn’t happen under federal law until the 27th week.

Leonard and others said this increases the likelihood of unemployed workers getting training or finding available jobs that match their skills.

Another section of the bill would create a special higher rate for new construction companies to pay into the unemployment trust fund.

All new companies use a rate of 2.5 percent until they have several years’ worth of unemployment usage data.

But construction companies use the system more than other industries because of weather-related layoffs. And Leonard said some people have been creating new companies for each construction job and then dissolving it after completion to avoid a higher rating.

Twenty-eight states have higher initial rates for new construction companies.

The bill would set all new construction companies rates at 5 percent or the average of the industry – whichever is higher. That average is 5.9 percent.

Those in the building trades contested the measure, saying it singles out one industry and could discourage Hoosiers from opening a construction company.

Democrats opposed the bill; Republicans supported it. It now moves to the full House.

School buildings

The Indiana Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to loosen a state law limiting when public school districts can sell vacant buildings.

The original law required districts to hold onto the buildings for four years in case charter schools wanted to lease the building for $1.

Several lawsuits were filed in northeast Indiana regarding the law when districts had valid offers on the table and wanted to sell.

Senate Bill 135, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, would drop the time period to two years. He said the four-year period was an error in the legislative process.

The bill also would set up a waiver process within those two years in which a district can seek to sell the building if no charters contest.

The legislation moves to the Indiana House, where a nearly identical bill has already passed.

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