Indiana House Democrats have unveiled their list of priorities for the 2018 legislative session. The caucus says it will focus on initiatives to "improve the lives of Hoosier families, bring needed election reform to our state, and find answers to the troubled state Department of Child Services."

House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin (D-66) said in his opening remarks Wednesday the caucus would seek increases to the state minimum wage, support the concept of equal pay for equal work, and work to protect communities from the opioid epidemic.

Goodin says Democrats will also seek to establish an independent commission to oversee the drawing of legislative and Congressional districts. He says the goal is to change a growing belief that Indiana has turned into “a state where the lawmakers select their constituents, rather than the other way around."

Goodin adds the Indiana General Assembly needs to do something during the short session to address the controversy surrounding the Indiana Department of Child Services. Last month, DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned from her post with a scathing letter criticizing the administration of Governor Eric Holcomb for its handling of funding for the agency. 

Holcomb recently named Terry Stigdon as Bonaventura's successor. He also called for the Alabama-based nonprofit Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group to conduct a complete assessment of the DCS, which will be delivered to Holcomb this spring.

Our partners at WIBC in Indianapolis report while House Republicans agree there are concerns related to the DCS' operations, the General Assembly does not have the time in the short session to conduct hearings on the matter.

"If we as lawmakers simply stand by and let this mess fester without doing something…anything…then we have failed our mission," Goodin said. "I am demanding these bodies do something. We have oversight powers. Let us reach out to Gov. Holcomb and let him know that our equal branch of government will conduct hearings right now about how to repair DCS. If legislation is needed, then we can pass it. It doesn’t matter that this is a short session. As I recall, the purpose of a short session is to address emergency matters. What could be more dire than protecting at-risk children?"

House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-88) says he will call the Legislative Council to hold a hearing on the results of the assessment once it is complete, even if the legislature has adjourned.

Bosma says he will detail House Republicans' legislative agenda Thursday.