Now, with fewer than 10 session days remaining in the 2009 legislative session, House Bill 1722 is dead. However, three other bills are still very much alive and well. At this point, I'm hopeful that the home will continue operations for at least one more year.
House Bill 1001: The State Budget
As I've said before, the biennial state budget contains the funding to keep all state programs and services functioning, and it also contains funding for many programs or projects that are not unanimously supported.
In a long session, it is our top priority to pass a budget that, we hope, is balanced and effectively meets the needs of Hoosiers throughout the state.
In its current form, HB 1001 contains funding to keep the Children's Home alive for one more year, providing about $8.46 million for personal services and $1.23 for other operating costs. During the next year, the budget bill also creates and requires an Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home task force to submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly to suggest alternative uses for the facility by January 2010.
This task force will include seven members:
Senate Bill 191: Alternative Placements for Certain Students
This bill requires that the Children's Home must continue to offer services to eligible children in need of residential care and must not reduce staffing levels.
SB 191 also:
· Allows a juvenile court to place children in need of services in the Children's Home.
· Requires a school corporation, upon a student's withdrawal or expulsion from school, to advise the student's guardians of the services offered at the Children's Home.
· Requires the Department of Child Services to determine what modification or repairs would be necessary to license a private entity to operate the Children's Home under a public-private agreement as a residential child care establishment. DCS must file a report with these findings to the commission (see below) by Aug. 1.
The bill creates a much more comprehensive commission for the Children's Home than the budget bill. SB 191 creates the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home Commission comprised of 19 voting members, including all listed in the budget bill, plus a representative from the American Legion, one from the Children's Home's alumni association, the superintendent of the Children's Home, one parent of a student at the Children's Home and the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard.
Senate Bill 16: Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Children's Home Alumni Association License Plate
I added an amendment to SB 16, a bill dealing with learner's permits and graduated licenses, requiring the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to design and issue Children's Home alumni license plates and create a corresponding trust fund. Money from the plates will go to the trust fund, and every year, the BMV will give the money in the trust fund back to the alumni association to help provide funding for scholarships and items that make the facility feel more like a home for the students who attend.
All of these bills most likely will head into the conference committee process this week. While many of the provisions in these bills could change before the last day of session on April 29, I feel confident that so much has been done and that the Children's Home will not close at the end of this school year.
And that's reason for all of the "Homies" to celebrate.
You can keep track of all of these bills, and read them for yourself, at www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo.