Legislative Neglect

January 9, 2018 Ed DeLaney

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis) today issued the following statement through the Indiana House Media Relations Office:

If there’s one thing we all remember from our civics classes in high school, it’s this: “checks and balances” are at the heart of our democratic form of government.

That’s how the courts and Congress, aided by the press, held Richard Nixon accountable for the Watergate crisis.

Indiana faces a different but important crisis in dealing with opioids, especially as they wreak havoc on the lives of children whose parents become addicted.

The scope of the problem was brought home when the well-respected head of the state Department of Child Services (DCS) resigned, asserting that children’s lives were in peril because of fiscal actions taken or threatened by the executive branch of Indiana government. Remember that this DCS head served under two Republican Governors.

Some 100 days before her resignation, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that it lacked the guidance it needed to enforce legislative limits on caseloads for the social workers dealing with children being cared for by DCS. Such limits were passed in hopes of assuring adequate care for our kids.

This decision left only two of our three branches that might be able to act to resolve this crisis.

One of them, the executive branch, is the one that stands accused of failing in its commitment to adequately protect our youth.

That leaves only one branch in a position to take an unbiased look at the issue: the General Assembly.

Sadly, the supermajorities in both the House and Senate are refusing to do their duties. Instead they will defer to a review being conducted by a private outfit chosen by the very branch accused of falling down on the job. Nixon should have been so lucky.

Remember, the Legislature has two political parties that could conduct an honest inquiry. The Governor and his party control the executive branch. How can it be expected to arrange for itself to be fairly criticized?

Rather than do our job and investigate damning accusations involving the running of a key agency, our legislative leaders have begun to roll out a series of excuses:

“We are too busy.”

“It’s a short session. We don’t have time.”

“We need to decide whether to expand the number of places where someone can get cold beer.”

“This isn’t a budget year.”

“Maybe we’re putting too many kids into foster homes in the first place.”

“We gave them a lot more money.”

Well, why don’t we just do our legislative job and find out what is going on?

We could conduct open hearings and let the public, parents, advocates for kids and social service providers testify. We might even hear from actual caseworkers. If we needed more funds or new rules, we could act.

There is one more indirect option to move forward. I have drafted a bill designed to recruit and maintain caseworkers by simply paying them adequately and treating them like professionals. This could only help. I have shared my draft with the executive branch and House leaders. When I ask for a hearing, I am met with silence, or refusal.

So, I guess we just won’t do our job. No checks and balances for Indiana. Hopefully, we will get cold beer even if we can’t protect our children.