Others Join Our Call for Change at IDEM
The Hoosier Chapter's campaign to improve the staffing situation at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) continues to receive the support of the media, lawmakers, and other environmental groups. The Chapter is pushing IDEM to increase inadequate staffing levels, stop the hiring of nontechnical employees in technical positions, and end irresponsible use of temporary employees.
“This is one issue that the Chapter can take real credit for highlighting,” Chapter lobbyist Bill Hayden said. Last year, the Chapter Executive Committee passed a resolution calling for staffing of the state agency from 990 positions to the 1,230 minimum recommended by the General Assembly in 1994.
This staff shortage cripples IDEM's ability to issue permits, meet federal and state mandates, and fulfill its mission of protecting the state's environment, the resolution states.
Since then, the Environmental Quality Service Council Subcommittee, a legislative study group that monitors IDEM, studied the issues raised by the Sierra Club and made recommendations to address the problems. The adopted report is at www.ai.org/legislative/interim/committees/reports/EQSC1C9.pdf
NUVO, an Indianapolis weekly newspaper, published a major story on the situation. “Most environmental groups in the state have endorsed a bold Sierra Club resolution calling for IDEM to upgrade its staff and reverse a growing focus on political employees,” stated the NUVO story by Maureen Dobie. “Even respected state legislators, including Rep. Mark Kruzan and Sen. Vi Simpson, have pressed for action on the IDEM staffing issue.”
IDEM Commissioner John Hamilton has made some effort to reduce the temporary employees, but no significant increases in staffing have been planned.
Instead, the O’Bannon Administration is supporting two bills that would eliminate the requirement that candidates pass minimum competency test and instead allow hiring on the basis of “relative ability, experience and skills.” It would thus allow managers to hire the best candidate, but it would not keep them from hiring completely incompetent ones. HB 1785 was slicked through the House without adequate notice or discussion. It passed the House 95-0. SB 568 was heard Feb.18 in the Senate Labor & Pensions Committee. Only two spoke in favor of the bill. About eight people and organizations opposed the bill. No vote was taken.
“I have a feeling this bill will be around one way or another until the end of the session,” Hayden said.
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