A Republican state representative said she will introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would further regulate day care centers in the state.
The proposed bill comes on the heels of an incident in Merrillville in April, when police discovered loaded guns and other weapons, alcohol and an injured child in a residential home day care.
Police said then that the house was in deplorable condition and the state had tried to shut the owner down. The owner operated her center while appealing the state order.
State Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, said she interviewed a number of people, including those with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, before coming up with three main provisions in her proposed bill.
The provisions/ include: Day care owners would be required to supply a copy of their business license to town officials; having guns and other weapons on site would be added to the list of reasons for emergency closure of a center; the owner of a center that is closed for any reason would have to go through a waiting period before they could re-apply to reopen the center or open another center.
"I wanted to see how big the problem is," Olthoff said.
She said a lot of people like sending their children to residential day care centers as opposed to a commercial or faith-based center because they tend to be less expensive and two siblings can remain together instead of being separated into different rooms.
"One bad action shines a bad light on everyone," Olthoff said. "The FSSA said the biggest enforcers (of the laws) are the parents. They go there every day."
Merrillville Town Council President Richard Hardaway, D-2nd, commended Olthoff for her work.
"She said she was willing to do whatever we needed her to do," Hardaway said. "She took the bull by the horn and went downstate and started working on it."
Olthoff said having the business license would make town officials aware of day care centers.
She saidthat under current law, the owner of a day care center that is closed down for any reason can reapply and be open under a new name the next day.
Olthoff said her proposed bill wouldn't address the fact that the Merrillville day care owner was able to operate while appealing her closure.
"The FSSA struggles with that as well. That goes back to the parents. That lady lost all her clients anyway," Olthoff said, adding that she doesn't want to hurt someone who's falsely charged.
Olthoff said she has another month and a half to work on the wording in the proposed bill. She said she sent a copy of the proposed bill to the Geminus Corp. and Merrillville Town Council to get their input.
The council this summer approved a revised ordinance giving the town's building inspector and fire chief the authority to enter into any adult and child day care center to conduct safety inspections on an annual and complaint-driven basis and to set fees for violations.