- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - House lawmakers kicked off the new session Wednesday with renewed commitment to address children and family issues since the high-profile deaths of two children and an independent review that found the state lacking.

House Speaker Shawn Jasper said the Legislature will create a special committee in the next week aimed at proposing reforms to the state Division for Children, Youth and Families.

House Democrats also resisted a plan to eliminate the House Children and Family Law Committee, which takes up bills around parental supervision, divorce and child services.

The DCYF has been in the spotlight the past year following the two deaths of children involved with the agency. The independent review found the agency too often fails to protect endangered children and its staff members are overworked.

Republican leaders wanted to get rid of the House committee and send the bills to other panels, such as criminal justice or health and human services. But Democrats protested, arguing it’s not the right time for that.

“Children have never been in greater danger in this state than they are right now,” Democratic Rep. Mary Beth Walz said.

Republicans pushed back, saying the committee has become hard to fill. At times, the committee has been ineffective, with hearings devolving into opportunities for members and public witnesses to air personal grievances.

But Democrats’ arguments ultimately won, with the House voting 196-172 to keep the committee.

A Commission to Review Child Abuse Fatalities also exists.

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