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Indiana lawmakers create study committee on child welfare

Indiana Statehouse

Legislative leaders announced Tuesday that they will convene a summer study committee to examine systemic challenges faced by Indiana's embattled child welfare agency.

Posted: May. 16, 2018 2:31 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Legislative leaders announced Tuesday that they will convene a summer study committee to examine systemic challenges faced by Indiana's embattled child welfare agency.

The announcement comes as Democrats have repeatedly attacked majority Republicans for calling a one-day special session this week to complete some unfinished priorities — but doing nothing legislatively to address widely reported problems at the Department of Child Services.

Troubles at the agency will now be one of more than 50 different topics lawmakers will explore during the interim before the January start to the 2019 legislative session.

"Democrats have been suggesting legislative change without any specifics," said GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma. "We're trying to do ready-aim-fire rather than ready-fire-aim."

Legislative study committees often conduct in-depth research on vexing public policy problems. But it's not guaranteed that any recommendations they make will be taken up next year by the Legislature.

DCS has been under scrutiny since former Director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned in a scathing letter last December, warning that agency service cuts will "all but ensure children will die."

Bosma said he doesn't believe the agency has any funding issues. But said he's open to exploring what to do about an antiquated computer system that monitors the receipt and disbursement of child support payments.

The DCS study committee will likely begin meeting after an outside group conducting an agency review releases a report sometime in June or July.

Other topics up for consideration this summer include an exploration of the pros and cons of medical marijuana, the possibility of creating a hate crimes law — which the vast majority of states already have.

They will also conduct further review on alcohol regulations and discuss the possibility of legalizing sports betting, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday that gives states the option to do so.

Bosma said having a sports betting study committee doesn't necessarily mean that the lawmakers think it's a good idea.

"We need to understand the impact on our state including the existing gaming industry and be prepared for discussion next session," he said.

He added that the Indianapolis-based NCAA, which has been a staunch opponent of legal sports betting, will likely play an "impactful role" during the discussion on the matter, but said all stakeholders will have an opportunity to express themselves in the study committee.

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