By Maureen Hayden CNHI News Service
Hendricks County Flyer
---- — Patrons of the B-52 Pik-Up convenience store and tackle shop near the popular state-owned Brookville Lake may welcome news that tough penalties for violating some outdoor recreation rules are going away.
Some crimes — such as sounding a boat horn when there’s no emergency or exceeding the fish catch limit — are coming off the books or being reduced from misdemeanors to infractions this summer.
“They do gripe a lot about some of those laws,” said Tiffany Marshall, a B-52 store cashier. “They say things I can’t repeat.”
A law that takes effect July 1 may not stop the griping but it will significantly change the state’s boating, hunting and fishing rules. It eases dozens of penalties, removes some crimes and gives judges, prosecutors and state conservation officers more discretion over enforcement.
More violators will be cited with an infraction and fine — like a speeding ticket — rather than face the threat of jail, a criminal record and the loss of hunting, fishing and boating privileges.
Poaching a deer will still be illegal, for example, but it will no longer be a crime for a boat owner to post his license number in the wrong place on the vessel — unless it’s done to deceive law enforcement.
More penalties will be discretionary. A first-time offense of poaching a deer now carries an automatic $500 fine. Under the new law, it will be up a judge to impose the fine.
The changes were part of a larger effort to rewrite Indiana’s criminal code to make punishments more fitting of their crimes. Supporters say the law still protects natural resources but without such a heavy hand.
“If the law said you could only catch and keep a fish that was 14 inches long, it was a crime if it was 14 and a half inches,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, whose district includes Brookville Lake, which attracts about 1 million visitors a year. “We need to reserve our criminal penalties for real crimes.”
Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, crafted the changes last summer as a member of the Legislature’s Criminal Sentencing Policy Study Committee. It’s the same group that pushed the General Assembly to increase prison time for violent and sex offenders this year while lowering sentences for low-level drug and non-violent offenders.
Steele wanted to decriminalize even more offenses policed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources than what ended up in the final bill.
He argued that prosecutors, busy with other crimes, were refusing to take cases from DNR officers or allowing offenders to plead to lesser offenses. His solution: Use more civil infractions that don’t require a prosecutor to prove an offender’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, a first-term legislator who retired from the DNR as head of law enforcement in 2010, was wary at first. He saw strict enforcement of current laws as a deterrent — and a tool needed by the DNR’s 150-member staff who police thousands of acres of state-owned parks and lakes.
“But, candidly, some of the laws did need to be changed,” Crider said. “So the challenge was to come up with a system that’s fair. What we came up with isn’t perfect yet, but it’s workable.”
The Indiana Wildlife Federation wanted to see the bill stalled and sent to a summer study committee. It also cites concerns about diminishing the deterrent effect that Crider prizes.
“We’re concerned about the unintended consequences of the law,” said Barbara Simpson, the federation’s executive director.
Some DNR officers privately opposed the changes, as well. But DNR officials have publicly supported them, saying important penalties have been left intact and conservation officers have the discretion needed to enforce the rules with common sense.
Conservation officers previously had no discretion, noted DNR law enforcement spokesman Lt. Bill Brown in an e-mail. While the impact of the changes is still unknown, he wrote, “it is anticipated that this bill will serve the citizens, the natural resources and the officer very well in the future.”
Grocery prices are down slightly from a year ago and remain almost unchanged from last fall, according to Indiana Farm Bureau’s semi-annual “market basket” survey.
The average price on the 16 food items included in the informal survey decreased from spring 2013 by 51 cents for an overall total of $48.22. The same items were down 7 cents from the fall 2013 survey.
Eight of the items in the survey decreased in price compared to spring 2013.
These results differ significantly from the national survey coordinated by the American Farm Bureau Federation. The national survey, which combines the results from 27 states including Indiana, showed that the total cost of the 16 food items was $53.27, up $1.73 from a year ago.
“Farmers are consumers, too, so we’re just as glad as anybody else when food prices don’t rise,” noted Isabella Chism, IFB 2nd vice president and chair of the IFB Women’s Leadership Committee, which coordinates the survey. “But whether prices rise or fall, it’s important to remember that the farmer’s share of our food dollar remains really low. On average, 15.5 cents out of every food dollar goes to the farmer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The remaining 84.5 percent goes to the other parts of the food industry – those that get that food from the farm to our grocery stores and restaurants.”
As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.
“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily,” noted John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist.
The item showing the greatest decrease in Indiana’s survey from spring 2013 to spring 2014 was sirloin tip roast, which dropped by 70 cents per pound to $3.86. The other beef product on the list, ground chuck, increased in price, but only by 2 cents/pound to $3.70/pound.
Bacon, on the other hand, increased by 27 cents per pound to $4.12. Eggs also increased, rising 14 cents/dozen to $1.92.
“Several typical breakfast items increased in price, accounting for much of the modest increase in the (AFBF) market basket,” Anderson said.
Other meat products also showed decreases of varying amounts, including a pound of sliced deli ham, down 16 cents to $5.08, and 1 pound of boneless chicken breasts, down 37 cents to $2.54.
Other items that decreased were bagged salad mix, down 23 cents for a 1-pound bag to $2.11; a 10-ounce box of cereal, down 19 cents to $2.66; a gallon of whole milk, down 15 cents to $3.12; a 32-ounce bottle of vegetable oil, down 11 cents to $2.88; and orange juice, down 3 cents for a half gallon to $3.30.
Besides the meats and eggs mentioned earlier, other items that increased were apples, up 32 cents/pound to $1.88; shredded cheddar cheese, up 32 cents to $4.33/pound; 5 pounds of flour, up 13 cents to $2.55; bread, up 12 cents for a 20-ounce loaf to $1.53; and 5 pounds of potatoes, up 11 cents to $2.64.
The year-to-year direction of the market basket survey tracks closely with the federal Consumer Price Index (www.bls.gov/cpi/) report for food at home.
AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, conducted an informal quarterly market basket survey of retail food price trends from 1989 to 2012. In 2013, the market basket series was updated to include two semi-annual surveys of “everyday” food items, a summer cookout survey and the annual Thanksgiving survey.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 89 shoppers in 27 states participated in the latest AFBF survey, conducted in March.
Apples, 1 lb.
Potatoes, 5 lb.
Bagged salad mix, 1 lb.
Orange juice, 1/2 gal
Ground chuck, 1 lb.
Sirloin tip roast, 1 lb
Sliced deli ham, 1 lb.
Boneless chicken breast, 1 lb.
Whole milk, 1 gal.
Shredded cheddar cheese,
Grade A large eggs, 1 doz.
Flour, 5 lb.
Vegetable oil, 32 oz.
Cereal, 10-oz. box
White bread, 20-oz. loaf