Indiana legislators present goals for new session; baby box bill promoted

Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, bangs a gavel as a call to order on Jan. 3, 2017, at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The start if the 2018 legislative session is here.

Lawmakers returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday for a packed 10-week session.

It was all smiles: the energy of the first day of session practically bounced off the walls

State Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour, said, “Oh, I’m excited! The first day of session’s always a great day to come catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while. This year’s particularly exciting.”

We caught up with Lucas and Democratic State Rep. Karlee Macer, who outlined their key bills.

Lucas said, “We have Constitutional-carry (firearms measure) coming up, industrial hemp, medical cannabis are three biggies I’m working on.”

State Rep. Karlee Macer, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “Making sure that our county veterans services officers have the tools they need, that are there on the front lines to help our veterans and their families.”

After 500-plus people sang and prayed at the public servant’s prayer service, lawmakers got down to business.

The House of Representatives introduced a new Democratic Party caucus leader. A hot topic for him and other members of the House was the Department of Child Services. House Speaker Brian Bosma said expert consultants are coming in.

Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, said, “We have more children in our system than Ohio and Illinois combined. Those states are twice our size, so there’s something up systemically.”

Across the hall on the Senate floor, Child Services was a sticking point, too. Lawmakers also said a long goodbye to Brandt Hershman, a Republican senator who retired Tuesday after 18 years.

Herschman said, “My parting comments are to thank you, to share my enduring respect, even when we disagree. To wish you all well and to encourage you to tightly guard the collaborative atmosphere that makes this place so special. Thank you, and God bless Indiana.”

Baby boxes measure

As the 2018 legislative session kicks off, one state senator was pushing for baby boxes to be installed around the state. A baby box allows a person to safely and anonymously use the Safe Haven law and leave a newborn at a fire department. The boxes have two doors with alarms and are heated on the inside by an incubator.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, a Republican from the Fort Wayne area, said there are only two baby boxes in the whole state. Wednesday, he introduced his bill, aiming to expand that. He wants fire departments that are staffed 24/7 to have the option to install them.

“We want to save lives and respond to new mothers that are concerned about anonymity,” Holdman said, “that feel like they can’t care for the child.”

Monica Kelsey, founder of the Safe Haven baby boxes, said, “I’m a medic and firefighter for the state of Indiana and I was abandoned as an infant. You can see where my passion comes from…. No child should ever feel unwanted. No child should ever be left in an unsafe place.”

Kelsey said the bill would be an expansion of the Safe Haven law that allows someone to give up an unwanted infant at a hospital or a place such as a fire department.

Holdman said a baby in Michigan City, Indiana, was put into a baby box and was rescued within minutes in November. That baby, he said, was recently adopted.