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AUSTIN, Ind. (WISH) — A 41-year-old man was found dead after a house and utility shed fire in southern Indiana, state police said.

Paul Ray Collins’ body was found in the front-yard shed after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Police and fire authorities were called shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday to the fire in the first block of North Fourth Street in Austin. That’s a city of about 4,100 in Scott County in southern Indiana.

Indiana State Police did not say in a news release whether the death was suspicious but said detectives are investigating the death.

No cause of death has been determined. Collins lived in Austin, which is about 70 miles south of Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – One state lawmaker wants to make food labels crystal clear, especially when it comes to lab-grown meat and dairy products sold in Indiana.

Rep. Terry Goodin, a Democrat from Austin, said he believes if someone grows meat in a laboratory petri dish, they should not call it meat on Indiana’s store shelves. The idea of growing a hamburgers in a petri dish has been a big beef for Indiana’s cattle industry. 

“As a beef industry, we are very concerned about the future of cultured meat, lab meat, ‘Franken-meat,’ whatever you want to call it,” said Joe Moore, the executive vice president of the Indiana Beef Cattle Association. “And we’re very concerned about the labeling that’s going to be applied to that product. We believe consumers have the right to know what they’re eating.”

In November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced an agreement to jointly oversee the lab-growing food process.

Eventually, a steak could go from the lab to a plate, which is why Goodin presented his food-label bill to a Statehouse committee Thursday morning.

“What this basically says is if you buy meat out of the grocery store cooler, it’s going to be meat that’s produced on a farm and not in a laboratory, or milk in the dairy section as well,” Goodin said. 

The bill does not put the brakes on cultured meat production in Indiana.

“As a matter of fact, I encourage those companies to move to Indiana, create those kind of jobs in Indiana,” Goodin said. “We want them to come here.” 

Goodin added, “Just clarity, transparency is the basis of the bill.” 

Most of the people who spoke in front of lawmakers Thursday were supportive.

“The distinction between meat from harvested livestock and poultry and other products is very important to us,” said Josh Trenary with Indiana Pork. “Consideration of this bill, by this committee shows Indiana’s being proactive in protecting the interests of a very important industry in our state.” 

“We do support labelling,” Justin Schneider with the Indiana Farm Bureau said. “However, I will say that generally anything that’s in interstate commerce, our position has been at the state level that that should happen at the federal level.”

The state Board of Animal Health is keeping tabs but said it’s neutral on this bill

“We want to be a partner to the General Assembly in preparing for this type of product entering the marketplace,” said Sarah Simpson with the Board of Animal Health.

No vote was taken Thursday, but Goodin said his bill could be back in front of lawmakers as early as next week. 

After months of waiting, a final audit report for the Indiana Department of Child Services is out. 

It details a long list of what the department is doing well but also focuses on what needs to improve moving forward.

Three key highlights of the 116-page report

Child Services Director Terry Stigdon said, “This cannot and will not be like before. We must commit to changing our agency from the inside out.” 

The report also said that from September 2005 to 2017, the number of children in the Child Services system jumped 89 percent, or more than 9,600 children, a reflection of Indiana’s opioid epidemic.

“It’s a factor, because the opioid epidemic has expanded over the last five years,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb. “We recognize that and how and when and where our families are getting treatment is critically important to this.” 

The report also showed Indiana’s Child Services has almost the highest rate of abuse or neglect referrals — more than 9,800 cases in 2017 — and only three states were worse.

Among other findings listed in the report:

The governor and the Child Services director both said there is a culture of fear from within the department. Stigdon described that culture as one “of employees afraid to share concerns or to make human mistakes.” 

The Child Services director said Monday, “That absolutely stops today.”

The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, the nonprofit that prepared the report, listed reducing worker caseloads and refocusing on families among its recommendations.

Kristi Cundiff, CEO of Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents, said, “We want to see changes in permanency of children and subsidies with children, higher so families can give children permanent homes so they’re not lingering in foster care.” 

Among the recommendations from the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group:

Republican leaders said they were pleased the governor and Child Service took swift action after the report. 

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said in a statement: 

“Protecting Indiana’s most vulnerable children continues to be a top priority for the General Assembly, and it’s clear that more must be done to ensure child safety and better outcomes. This comprehensive independent assessment is a critical tool as state and local stakeholders at all levels work together to improve our child welfare system. I’m also encouraged by the immediate and swift actions being taken by Governor Holcomb and the Department of Child Services as a result of this report. The Legislative Council will convene ‪at 1:30 p.m. on July 2 to review the findings and recommendations, and discuss next steps.” 

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long also issued a statement:

“Today we learned from the experts at CWG that though the Indiana Department of Child Services is staffed by Hoosiers who are clearly dedicated to the welfare of the children they serve, there are structural and policy issues that are making the job of a caseworker more and more difficult to manage. This assessment will provide the information we need as lawmakers to take measured and well-informed action to benefit DCS and the extremely vulnerable population it serves. My thanks go out to Gov. Holcomb for his leadership on this issue – requesting an in-depth audit of this long-troubled agency was the right call, and I commend the governor taking immediate action to address some of these issues.”

Democrats said they want legislative hearings.

State Rep. Ed DeLaney, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said, “We’d have to have hearings and bring people in to explain what is this culture of fear? How did it get here? How do our salaries compare to other states?” 

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson, said in a statement:

“I am encouraged by this comprehensive report and am looking forward to seeing how the governor, in conjunction with the department, are able to implement as many of these recommendations as possible to ensure that we are providing the absolute best care and protection for our most vulnerable children.
“I am eager to get to work with my colleagues in the General Assembly during the interim study committee on DCS this summer to immediately execute any recommendations that must be done legislatively to serve families and keep children safe.

“At one time, foster families were receiving adequate stipends to fund child care so that parents could still work and provide for their families. Those stipends no longer exist causing parents to simply forego jobs since they are unable to afford the rising costs of child care. This specific challenge has led to an underwhelming number of foster parents compared to children in need of homes, a significant issue in our state. It is my hope that this specific challenge is one of the first to be addressed by the state. 

“Indiana has clearly not invested enough in prevention, support and treatment services that help keep children out of the system. I commend the governor for finally listening to the calls from Democrats to open up the surplus and adequately fund one of the most important departments in our state. Our children, our families and our entire state will be much better for it.”

Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, from Austin, also issued a statment:

“Today, at long last, the people in charge of state government acknowledge that DCS is broken. It has taken more than a decade to get to this point, but we’re there.

“The question is now where do we go from here?

“One of the many disturbing things about today’s report – along with the high levels of abuse and neglect that exist, a highly centralized management that detracts from improving services, and the ‘culture of fear’ that prevents staff from speaking out about their concerns – was that there have been five previous reports made about the problems at DCS, yet most of the recommendations for improvement have not been implemented.

“In other words, the problems are not new. What needs to change is the willingness to act on them.

“It would appear this administration is willing to act, unlike its predecessors. We must hold them to their word.

“The Indiana General Assembly has a responsibility to act. The lives of children are at stake.

“I know that there will be a study committee looking into DCS issues this summer. I also know the Legislative Council intends to look into this matter further in early July.

“My intention would be to ask my fellow legislative leaders to make a DCS study permanent so we can make sure the changes contained in today’s report are implemented. There appears no willingness among my colleagues in leadership or from the governor to consider a special session on this matter, so a permanent study until the problem is fixed would seem the best way to go.

“We must not tolerate the loss of one more child to abuse or neglect. Actions are needed now.”

It is important to note there were five previous reviews done in years past but not much was implemented from those reports.

Holcomb on Monday also announced $25 million will be available from the state’s surplus fund, with the goal of improving salaries and training.

The governor also announced the former Boone County Prosecutor, Todd Meyer, will be the new deputy director of Child Services. His new job, which started Monday, is to implement the recommendations set out in the report. 

After the annoucement, Meyer said, “We’re going to be meeting with community stakeholders and working to reinvigorate those relationships with them. That’s a key component to DCS’ success story statewide, clearly. My experience is that DCS works best when it has its community partners to lean on and glean support from.That’s a critical component to doing this and we’re going to start that today.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In just a matter of weeks, lawmakers will gather at the Statehouse to talk about sports betting, but the gaming option remains a year or more away for Indiana. 

This Indiana gathering will come after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports. Indiana lawmakers decided to study it this summer.

On Monday, New Jersey’s governor signed legislation allowing sports betting. Michigan is also considering it. 

Republican State Rep. Alan Morrison from Brazil, Indiana, said he has championed legal sports betting in Indiana for years. He has tried several bills in years past. “Ultimately, I think it’s a great thing for our gaming industry and, at the end of the day, it’s a win for states’ rights.”

His new plan is to create a bill that helps iron out the kinks of how it would work. “We have 13 casinos or racinos, boats. We have a handful of off-track betting facilities. Those would be the facilities that we would allow.” 

He said, “If we implement it correctly and do some things we need to, I imagine it will mean multiple tens of millions of dollars back to the state every year.”

Morrison said if progress is made as he would like, we could see sports betting in Indiana by summer 2019.

The Democratic Party leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, Terry Goodin from Austin, said he is ready to talk about sports betting.

Goodin  said, “If we do that, if we have a good strong civil debate, I think we can come up with a good solution. I don’t think any one person or one group can come up with the solution. I think the solution needs to be a mix of ideas and thoughts from everyone involved in the process.”

Not all Hoosiers support the addition of sports betting, though.

Christina Gray, executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, said, “We think it’s going to open the door to a lot of possible issues with people having problems with gambling.” 

Gray said, “If they decide to allow sports betting, we would likely see an increase for those who may have a problem gambling. For treatment, also maybe some more funds to help us get the word out about problem gambling.” 

The state has a hotline — 1-800-994-8448 — and a website listing links to resources that can help people with gambling addictions. Another state website offers an anonymous self-assessment test to determine if someone has a gambling addiction.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — We’re already at the halfway point of this year’s legislative session.

How are things going? It depends on who you ask.

Republicans who hold the House and Senate majorities are mostly happy with where things stand. On the flipside, Democrats described it in pretty much one word: ugh.

Both sides acknowledge there’s still a lot more work to be done inside the Statehouse.

Yet “great” and “tremendous” was how House Speaker Brian Bosma saw progress by Republican lawmakers thus far.

He points to legislation passed out of the House that includes developing the workforce, fixing the opioid crisis and shoring up K-12 funding.

Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis, said Tuesday, “Our No. 1 priority was to fund our public school’s funding formula, and which we did for this year and next.”

But, Senate Democrats threw the book at Republicans for killing hate crime legislation last week.

State Sen. Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, from Anderson, said, “It’s hurting us. Not only because of the reputation of the state of Indiana for failing in this regard. It raises the question ‘what’s wrong with Indiana?’ It’s bad for economic development, too.”

Something state Republicans and Dems seem to agree on so far this session is cannabidiol oil. On Monday, a bill that would formally legalize CBD oil passed the Senate and was transferred to House.

State House Minority Leader Representative Terry Goodin, a Democrat from Austin, said, “I think it’s going to move forward. I think folks have realized this is not marijuana. These folks are not taking CBD oil out back and smoking it and getting high.”

Lifting the ban on carryout package Sunday sales of alcohol has been another talker, too.

Bosma said, “I think Sunday sales is a given. It’s just when is it going to happen and will it get loaded up with something else? Hopefully not.”

Rep. Terry Goodin said, “That was an issue most Hoosiers wanted. Was that the most important thing that should take place, over DCS?”

The Indiana Department of Child Services is a priority, both parties have said. An outside agency is in the middle of its own independent report on Child Services. Still, each party’s tact differs.

Bosma said, “I think we have a systemic issue. That’s what they’re looking at. If it requires legislative action immediately, we’ll take it. If it’s required next year, we’ll take it.”

Lanane said, “We absolutely do need to make sure there’s a level of comfort that we are protecting our children before we leave on March 14. We really need to roll up our sleeves and get this workforce development bill moving.”

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, said:

“This session, we have passed legislation out of the Senate to continue to fight the opioid epidemic, improve our workforce development efforts and support our schools. … We also passed legislation to improve civil forfeiture laws and allow the carryout sale of alcohol on Sundays. While I am pleased we have moved all of our agenda items out of the Senate, there is much work to be done on these issues as they move through the House of Representatives, and as we consider bills that have come over from our colleagues in the House. I look forward to a collaborative and successful second half as we address issues that are critical to the success of the Hoosier state.”

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A folksy state lawmaker from rural southern Indiana was picked Monday as the new Democratic minority leader for the Indiana House of Representatives.

But what’s yet to be seen is whether Austin Rep. Terry Goodin will be a mere placeholder, or someone who makes a credible effort to lead Democrats out of a wilderness of irrelevance. They hold just 30 of 100 Indiana House seats.

“This is all about elections, we know that,” Goodin said following his selection by members of the House Democratic caucus. “We’re going to give the people in the state of Indiana their voice back.”

Republicans dominate not only the Indiana Legislature but also the congressional delegation and all elected Statehouse offices. They’ve controlled the Indiana House since wresting control away from Democrats during the 2010 tea party wave. That enabled the GOP to control the once-in-a-decade redistricting process, which comes after the federal census and resulted in redrawn legislative and congressional districts favoring the party.

Goodin, who was first elected the House in 2000, is a throwback to the kind of conservative Democrat who used to perform well in Indiana legislative races. He has often sided with Republicans on anti-abortion and gun rights legislation, and vows as the Democratic leader to not “have nuclear bomb approach” toward partisan wrangling.

Goodin bested fellow Rep. Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne after one ballot of voting. He declined to say what the vote was, or whether his ambitions include remaining leader beyond the 2018 races.

He replaces former Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City, who announced this month that he was stepping down from his leadership role after five years and wouldn’t seek another term next year.

“There’s going to be a different voice with a little more southern accent and twang to it, but we’re going to have a unified voice,” Goodin said.

Goodin said he intends to keep his day job as superintendent of the Crothersville Community Schools, a district of about 500 students some 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

SCOTT COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — A Friday morning crash killed two teenagers in Scott County.

The Scott County Sheriff’s Office responded after a vehicle driven by 18-year-old Jacob Justice of Scottsburg went off the road while traveling on Jack Morgan Road near State Road 256 outside of Austin. Investigators said the vehicle went off of the west side of the road, flipped and hit several wooden fence poles.

Justice, along with 16-year-old Cameron Prestegui of Austin, were killed in the crash. Investigators said Justice was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle.

17-year-old Jonathan Brown of Austin was wearing a seatbelt in the back seat. He was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Indiana State Police sent a crash reconstruction team to the scene.

AUSTIN, Ind. (WISH) — The man who pleaded guilty to murdering a 78-year-old man in 2015 was sentenced to 85 years in prison Thursday.

James Caudill admitted to murdering John Turner inside John’s Coin and Jewelry in Austin, Indiana.

Caudill received the maximum sentence in the case.

Police said Caudill and his brother were attempting to rob the store when the murder happened.

His brother, 31-year-old Christopher Caudill of Austin, is charged with assisting a criminal, theft and other counts.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

AUSTIN, Ind. (WISH) — How far would you go to help someone in need?

For Karen Lankton-Schmidt, the answer is at least 1,000 miles. She’s a Red Cross volunteer from Zionsville who flew to Texas this week to assist people affected by torrential downpours.

“They’re facing a disaster and I had the time and some of the skills that would help them and make a difference and make their life easier,” Lankton-Schmidt said.

More than a dozen Red Cross workers from Indiana are on the ground across Texas, where fast-moving floodwaters killed at least 16 people and nine soldiers at Fort Hood in the past week.

Lankton-Schmidt is in Austin, but the work she does there affects people across the state. She’s helping Red Cross decide where to use their resources by tracking floodwater. With Lankton-Schmidt’s help, people can get supplies before disaster strikes.

“I just want to give them encouragement and let them know we are out here and we want to get them help as much as we can,” she said.

Other volunteers from Indiana are providing shelter, mental health care and transportation. Red Cross Indiana also sent two emergency vehicles to Texas.

“That’s kind of the way we are in Indiana, and it’s nice to be able to help people from other areas,” Lankton-Schmidt said.

The Red Cross is still looking for volunteers and donations. You can reach the organization at 317-684-0441.

SCOTT COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Three people, including an elementary school teacher, were arrested for drugs in Scott County on Thursday.

Harold Kemp and Zackie White

Indiana State Police and members of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office did a search of 3171 Slab Road in Austin, finding Opana, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Arrested were 42-year-old Harold Kemp and 31-year-old Zackie White. Kemp’s address is listed as the Slab Road residence. Kemp faces preliminary charges of possession of a narcotic substance, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and maintaining a common nuisance. White faces preliminary charges of possession of a controlled substance and visiting a common nuisance.

Investigators then learned that 47-year-old Laura Nowling, another occupant of the residence, was possibly in possession of drugs while at work.

Officers went to Scott County School District #1 and said they found meth and paraphernalia with Nowling. She was arrested and faces preliminary charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and maintaining a common nuisance.