As we continue to progress through the 2013 legislative session and head towards the finish line (April 29), I would like to reflect upon some memorable moments in the Legislature. Throughout all of the committee meetings, bills and debates, it occurs to me how much we have accomplished. More importantly, all of our efforts were made possible by working together in the spirit of bipartisanship.
Despite headlines suggesting partisan disputes, Republicans and Democrats have joined together to work on nearly every piece of legislation. Additionally, both the House and Senate have worked closely on all the issues affecting Hoosiers to create a cohesive legislative body. Some examples of this are House and Senate bills that have been combined in a joint effort to address similar issues. To highlight our progress so far, here’s are some of the bills that we are discussing.
House Bill (HB) 1040 and Senate Bill (SB) 164 both address CHINS (child in need of services) petitions. I authored HB 1040, and I was recently added as a co-sponsor to SB 164 in the House. The bill allows a prosecuting attorney to request a juvenile court to authorize the filing of a CHINS petition. This is the first step in bringing court review of allegations that a child is being mistreated by a guardian or parent.
In both pieces of legislation, a prosecuting attorney would represent the interests of the state in the ‘child in need of services’ proceeding. The introduced version of this bill was prepared by Department of Child Services Interim Study Committee, a committee I actively participated in during the interim. Both bills had Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate working together to ensure the safety and protection of Hoosier children.
Another example of cohesive activity in the Legislature is SB 202 and HB 1041. I authored HB 1041 and then became the House sponsor to SB 202. Both pieces of legislation deal with petitions to modify custody and visitation.
The bills require a person who is filing a petition to modify guardianship, custody or visitation to inform the court if they have been determined to be a perpetrator in a substantiated assessment of child abuse or neglect, or if the child named has been determined to be a child in need of services or informal adjustment. A judge cannot make such an important decision when it comes to modification of custody without the full disclosure of information.
Senate Bill 125 and House Bill 1123 both work to address the subject of improving the status of children. While HB 1123 establishes the Commission on Children, SB 125 establishes the Commission on Improving the State of Children in Indiana. Both commissions will be charged with studying and evaluating services, programs, and laws for certain youth.
A major component of HB 1123 is establishing a Fatality Review Team in each county. These review teams will submit an annual report to the state child fatality review coordinator and requires a local review team to analyze a child’s death in certain circumstances. In a similar fashion, SB 125 establishes a subcommittee on Child Services Oversight which will review reports from the Department of Child Services.
In politics it is important to work together, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, representative or senator. Legislators have worked closely together to maintain a sense of cohesion, so that every bill addresses a need for the betterment of Indiana. I am proud of the legislation that is being passed at the Statehouse, and I am confident it will improve the lives of Hoosiers throughout the state.