Zoeller Sets Sights on 2014Posted: Updated:
The Indiana attorney general is outlining several initiatives for the upcoming year. Greg Zoeller says he will continue to pursue additional funding for school resource officers, push for more safety regulations for prescription drugs and lead a federal lawsuit that includes dozens of school corporations challenging part of the Affordable Care Act. December 27, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Helping to secure a funding stream for school resource officers was one of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller's highest priorities in 2013 and in the new year Zoeller plans to continue that work to maximize dollars for SRO positions in schools so that children are protected.
Now that the Secured School Safety grant program that Zoeller advocated for was established by the Legislature and has funded 116 local grant applications, Zoeller plans to assist in an effort to obtain federal funding in Washington, D.C. for additional SROs. Specifically, the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill now being drafted by Congress includes funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant program containing monies for school resource officer positions in schools. Zoeller plans to advocate that more Indiana schools and law enforcement agencies partner in the fiscal year 2014 COPS grant application process. The goal is for Indiana applicants to receive an increased share of federal grant money to supplement existing state funding so Indiana schools can add SRO positions.
"School resource officers don’t just provide building security and deter violence; they are law enforcement officers who receive additional training on working with students. In our interaction with schools we have seen how SROs maintain discipline and can serve as positive law enforcement role models to at-risk students. I will do what I can to help secure necessary state and federal funding for SROs in subsequent budget cycles," Zoeller said.
In November 2012, prior to the Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy, Zoeller’s office conducted a needs assessment study that measured strong demand among school officials and law enforcement for additional SROs if funding were available.
In January 2013, Attorney General Zoeller and State Senator Pete Miller, R-Avon, proposed a bill to fund SRO positions using state grants. Senate Enrolled Act 1 creating the Secured School Safety grant program eventually passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence in April. The grant committee, on which Zoeller serves, in October awarded funding for 116 grant applications that allow school corporations to expand existing SRO programs or create new positions. SEA 1 contains $20 million over two years for school safety measures.
Sworn into a second term as Indiana's attorney general on January 14, 2013, Zoeller looked back on his office's accomplishments of the past year and looked ahead to the coming year.
Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force
The Licensing Division of the Attorney General’s Office has filed disciplinary complaints with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board against the licenses of 15 physicians accused of overprescribing painkillers. Attorney General Zoeller co-chairs the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force that has examined the problem of a small number of physicians' offices that overprescribe addictive painkillers, leading to dependence on and diversion of such drugs. The task force launched a new website, www.BitterPill.IN.gov, explaining prescription drug abuse and tips on how patients and their families can get help for addictions.
The task force is recommending the 2014 Legislature update state law to speed up the process by which pharmacists must report their dispensing of certain amounts of opioids to the state’s INSPECT database, to prevent excessive dispensing to individuals who might be drug-seeking that in turn could lead to overdoses.
Zoeller serves on the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana. Among the Commission’s projects is studying the correlation between police busts of meth labs and children being removed from homes by DCS caseworkers for child neglect. Methamphetamine addiction is fueled in part by criminals circumventing limits on purchasing pseudoephedrine, one of the precursors used in the illegal production of meth. As part of an “anti-smurfing” effort, Zoeller has visited retail pharmacies around the state with law enforcement to raise public awareness of the problem of circumvention of existing state limits on pseudoephedrine.
Identity Theft Protection
The Attorney General’s Office operates the Identity Theft Unit to assist victims of identity theft and fraud, to assist law enforcement in investigations, and to investigate privacy data breaches. In 2013, the Identity Theft Unit assisted nearly 1,000 identity theft victims in correcting their records and reviewed more than 400 data breaches. Zoeller’s office continues to monitor privacy issues arising from the recent credit card data breach involving Target stores. After several incidents around the state where sensitive medical files and financial records have been dumped in trash receptacles or left unsecured, exposing consumers to potential identity theft, Zoeller is asking the Legislature to update Indiana’s abandoned record statute to require companies experiencing paper data breaches to make prompt notification to consumers – including the option of providing substitute notice when the company does not have sufficient information to contact the affected consumers.
Representing State Government in Court
When offenders appeal their convictions or sentences, the Attorney General’s Office represents the prosecution in appellate courts. Assigned 1,382 new criminal appeals in 2013, the Attorney General’s Office has a success rate of greater than 90 percent in getting convictions and sentences affirmed and not overturned on appeal.
As state government’s lawyer, the Attorney General’s Office appeared on behalf of the State of Indiana and its officials in more than 2,700 civil lawsuits filed in 2013. When private plaintiffs file legal challenges to overturn laws the Legislature has passed, the Attorney General’s Office has a duty to defend the statutes and state authority. Zoeller’s office won victories in legal challenges to Indiana statutes regarding school vouchers, the ability of the Legislature to impose fines and the process for filling Lake County judicial vacancies; and the office continues to defend statutes in other cases on appeal.
Defending State Sovereignty
The State of Indiana represented by Zoeller’s office has joined with 39 school corporations in filing suit against the Internal Revenue Service in a legal challenge to the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act, which potentially could impose huge tax penalties on state government and schools as employers. The suit, which seeks a declaratory judgment on whether the federal government can tax state government, is likely to be heard in federal court in 2014. The AG’s Office’s Solicitor General, Thomas M. Fisher, leads the team of attorneys in the case.
Indiana also joined a multistate lawsuit against EPA that alleges the federal agency overstepped its authority by taking regulatory actions Congress did not authorize under the Clean Air Act.
Consumer and Enforcement Settlements
-In the State’s largest-ever settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for illegal off-label drug marketing, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries agreed to pay the Indiana Medicaid program nearly $17 million. The settlement in the case involving J&J’s drug Risperdal was negotiated by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU).
-The Attorney General’s Office’s Revenue Division successfully negotiated a settlement of an inheritance-tax case on behalf of the Indiana Department of Reven