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Looking out for children

Two important child-protection bills go before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee at a meeting Wednesday. They are among a half-dozen bills recommended by an interim study committee examining problems in Indiana’s Department of Child Services.

Senate Bill 105 targets the statewide child abuse and neglect hotline instituted by DCS. It would allow any law enforcement employee, court employee, health or school official to directly contact a local office of the child protection agency to report and inquire about a case of suspected child abuse or neglect. Currently, they must dial the toll-free 800 number and report cases to call-center employees.

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, is author of the bill. Steele surveyed local officials and received numerous complaints about the hotline, which replaced county-level reporting systems. Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer sent a response listing 10 areas of concern. Henry County Judge Mary Geitz Willis complained that when she called the centralized abuse and neglect hotline to report suspected abuse, she was first hung up on and then screened out because she did not witness the abuse personally.

Senate Bill 572 establishes a child fatality review committee in each county and shifts oversight of child fatality cases from DCS to the Indiana State Department of Health. Anger over DCS’ performance even prompted the well-regarded head of the state’s child fatality review team, Antoinette Laskey, to resign in protest early last year.

Both bills are important pieces in repairing a broken child protection agency that, in some cases, has endangered children’s lives.

DeKalb County wind ordinance

The Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County, a group concerned about a proposed wind farm, is holding a public meeting today about the proposal and the county’s wind ordinance.

County officials wisely began to develop a wind energy ordinance long before Eosol America proposed building a 125-turbine wind farm in DeKalb County. The ordinance, which governs the location of turbines, setbacks from property lines and buildings, and road rights and easements, was adopted in 2011. But the county commissioners have made adjustments since then. On Jan. 14, the commissioners approved changes to the setbacks in the ordinance. The changes then go to the DeKalb County Plan Commission for a recommendation and then back to the commissioners for a final vote – expected to take place in late February.

Leaders on stage

Hoosiers will be hearing about leaders’ plans for the year and beyond this week.

President Obama will be formally inaugurated at 11:30 a.m. today, though he officially took the oath of office on Sunday, the day his new term began.

Inaugurations are often more about ceremony and symbolism than intense policy initiatives, and this will be more symbolic than most: The nation’s first black president will take the oath for his second term on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But Hoosiers will – or at least should – hear a lot about policy initiatives on Tuesday, when Gov. Mike Pence delivers his first State of the State address. Pence is expected to lay out his agenda for this year and beyond and may well offer some hints regarding how much he is willing to bend on a proposed state income tax cut that legislative leaders of his own party have questioned.

For the first time in a quarter century, someone other than Randall Shepard will deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. Shepard retired in 2012 after serving as chief justice since 1987, and new Chief Justice Brent Dickson will discuss Indiana courts’ successes and needs on Wednesday.

Public hearing

Local residents and Aqua Indiana customers can voice their opinions about the city’s plans to take over the Aqua Indiana water utility during a public hearing at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The week ahead

Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County: 7 p.m. today, 581 N. Grandstaff Drive, Auburn
Fort Wayne City Council: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Citizens Square
State of the State address: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Indiana House chambers, Statehouse
State of the Judiciary Address: 2 p.m. Wednesday, Indiana House chambers, Statehouse. Webcast at

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