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Smoking ban, child services at top of state lawmakers’ agendas

State legislators met with constituents in Goshen Saturday to discuss develops at the statehouse.

Posted on Feb. 26, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Goshen Chamber of Commerce hosted a Third House meeting Saturday morning, and Indiana State Representatives Wes Culver, R-Goshen; David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, and Rebecca Kubacki, R-Warsaw, gave legislative updates and fielded questions.

The meeting, which was attended by about 25 people, was moderated by Vince Turner, who said that all business in the 2012 session of the General Assembly should be concluded by March 9.

Culver opened by talking about the perception in the media that the General Assembly is full of partisan bickering, to which he stated, “seldom is it partisan” and then admitted that “it is on some issues.” Wolkins later said that “the next partisan issue” will be how to handle abused and neglected children and their families with the state’s Department of Child Services.

“Our friends on the other side have chosen this as an issue to try and get political points. If you look at the stats, our deaths, which have been from 55 to 60 up until about 2004/2005, they’ve been cut in half. This week there’s going to be an announcement: We’re going to have the lowest number of child deaths, and again, even one of them is too many, but we are making progress. We went from under 800 case workers up to 1,600 case workers. The case loads they have has been decreased. We’ve got a problem with the hotline. That just doesn’t seem to be working real well, and they’ve got to fix it — kind of the same thing they did with the BMV — now you can’t call your local license branch, you got to call Indianapolis, and they don’t answer the phone. It’s something that has to be fixed, and they will fix it. But what you’re going to see is they’re going to make us to look like we hate children. It started this week on committee reports. When something comes out of committee it’s automatic, it simply gets referred, we accept it, and it goes to second reading for amendment. They stood up and had about 14/15 speakers give very emotional testimony: ‘You’re killing children, you’re killing children,’ and so forth,” said Wolkins.

Kubacki said that “churches need to be more involved. Money is not the answer to social problems. We have to start getting more involved in our communities.”

“Right to defend against unlawful entry” is a bill that Culver talked about. “It took existing law that had bounds about when police could enter your home, and said police could enter, and you could not resist under any situation. And there was a law presented before the Senate that passed, that’s now before the House, that says no, we’re going to revert it back to the 2006 law that said that the police could only enter if there is just cause, and if there is not, there is a right for citizenry to resist. That is getting a lot of attention because police officers feel like that might put them in jeopardy, and citizens are saying ‘this is America, we’re not a police state, we have the right to defend our home and there needs to be just cause to enter in,’” said Culver.

Culver mentioned two bills that are moving through the General Assembly that will phase out the inheritance tax, or death tax, over the next five years. He also talked about denial of parenting rights to people convicted of rape, a bill that Kubacki is carrying. “A law was written this year that says, ‘If a woman is raped, there are no parental rights allowed for the husband.’ That seemed pretty clear, and everybody was for that, and then people started saying, well, don’t take away the parental duties. So that had to be backed in. Sometimes they know the rapist. It’s not like they run away and don’t know who they are. And then it got even stickier, because now it’s talking about rape within a marriage. So something will be passed, but it’s interesting how a law starts out pretty clean cut, and people think of these nuances. Usually we pass it one year, and we don’t think about them until the next year, and we come back and try to clean them up,” Culver said.

Culver stated that Indiana is losing $7 million in taxes a year because of ‘make your own cigarette rolling machines.’ The General Assembly has considered a statewide smoking ban for six years, and the current legislation was a big topic of conversation at the meeting. David Daugherty, the Goshen Chamber president, argued that “it is time to look at a state-wide comprehensive smoking ban,” while Julia Gautsche, a Goshen City Council member with a health care background, said “incremental change is the way to go.”


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