Legion Blasts Plan to Deny Hearing for ISSCH Bill 

The American Legion was thrust into a leadership role in the fight to save the Children's Home in January when the Indiana State Department of Health announced plans to close the home at the end of the current academic year

by Impact Wire Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Commander of the Indiana American Legion today blasted a maneuver by the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee to place in limbo a bill that would rescue the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home from the wrecking ball.

"Sen. [David] Long (R.-16th) has resorted to the kind of political stunt that too many times in the past has denied an open and robust debate on issues of importance to Hoosiers," said Ralph Tolan, Commander of the 125,000-member veterans organization. His comments came in the wake of Long's decision Wednesday to let H.B. 1722 languish in committee rather than move it forward for debate on the Senate floor.

"We don't know if he is taking his instructions from higher up, or if he is trying to match the House leader's [Rep. Patrick Bauer] style of strong-arm control. Regardless, such partisan political maneuvers are not in the interest of at-risk children or the voters of Indiana. We deserve the right to hear our elected representatives speak, and to hold them accountable for their votes."

The American Legion was thrust into a leadership role in the fight to save the Children's Home in January when the Indiana State Department of Health announced plans to close the home at the end of the current academic year. The Legion has coordinated opposition to the plan with members of the Home's alumni association and myriad other interested parties.

The Legion Commander also clarified his organization's position.

"In early January, we passed a resolution that simply called for restoring funding for the ISSCH in the new state budget. It was that simple, and it remains our objective. We did not ask for new money. We did not ask for revamping the school. We did not ask for removing it from ISDH control," Tolan said.

"We prefer to accomplish it without legislation, but we supported H.B. 1722 as a compromise. However, we believe the Indiana House got it right in its budget bill. ISSCH funding was restored to the proposed budget and it was approved by a bi-partisan vote in that chamber. Who knows what will happen when it gets to the Senate? We certainly hope it gets a fairer hearing than H.B 1722 got."

Tolan added that without a hearing, many of the facts surrounding the home will be obscured, primarily because, he said, the ISDH's initial justification for closing the facility has remained a source of misinformation despite the many errors and inconsistencies included in it.

"Here are just some of the facts and comparisons that need to be brought out," Tolan said. "H.B. 1722 would give the legislature authority to close ISSCH if it does not meet certain established benchmarks. It allows the Home to seek funding from sources other than the State of Indiana.

"The budget for the Home is just .8 percent (.08%) of the total budget for Indiana's colleges and universities; it is just 1.25 percent (.0125%) of the total budget for the Department of Corrections.

"In September 2006, Congress enacted PL-109, urging states to offer innovative programs for children who are in need of protection, which, according to the statute, 'may include residential education.' The State of Indiana is a leader in offering this innovation," Tolan said.

He promised that efforts by the Legion and its nearly 100,000 members of the American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of The American Legion to keep the home operating will continue.

General | Categories: government, indiana
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