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Featured Podcast

What are your state legislators doing on your behalf? The Indiana House Republicans host a podcast each week to answer this  question and talk about what’s happening in your state government. The podcast features one-on-one interviews with lawmakers who highlight new laws, events and other issues impacting Hoosiers.

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Apply For On My Way Pre-K

Indiana’s early learning pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, is currently accepting applications from eligible families for the upcoming school year.

On My Way Pre-K provides grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families to attend a high-quality pre-K program. Eligible families must live in one of the 20 pilot counties (Allen, Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo counties), and meet the following requirements:

  • Child must be 4 years old by August 2019;
  • Child must be a resident of Indiana;
  • Child must start kindergarten in the 2020–21 school year;
  • Parents/guardians in the household must be working, going to school or attending job training; and
  • Families must have an income below 127% of the federal poverty level.

Once the family has met eligibility requirements and been awarded a grant for their child, they may choose from any of the eligible On My Way Pre-K programs in their county. Families can search for approved providers here.

Giving kids a solid foundation for learning has been shown to help close an achievement gap that is often seen between students who do not attend early learning programs and their peers who do. House Republicans supported legislation creating the On My Way Pre-K pilot program and nearly 8,000 Hoosier children have benefited from the program since its creation in 2015. This session, state lawmakers are working on legislation to take this program statewide.

Grants will be awarded until all the available slots are filled, so be sure to apply early.

Improving the Crossroads of America

Nearly 200 communities across Indiana will receive state matching grants to improve local roads and bridges.

A combined $115 million was awarded to Indiana cities, towns and counties through the Community Crossings Matching Grant Program, which is now in its third year. The grants are a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2016, and are awarded by the Indiana Department of Transportation based on applications submitted by local officials.

These funds help communities address their immediate road-funding needs, like road and bridge preservation, road reconstruction and intersection improvements. With construction season kicking into high gear, INDOT and the Indiana State Police are promoting Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12.

INDOT offers these tips to keep both motorists and construction workers safe in work zones:

  • Stay alert! Watch for speed limit reductions, narrowing lanes, changing traffic patterns and highway workers.
  • Pay attention. Work zone signs will tell drivers exactly what to expect ahead.
  • Merge early. If drivers merge as soon as they see signs, traffic will flow much more smoothly.
  • Slow down! Don’t speed, there could be slowed or stopped vehicles in the construction zone.
  • Keep your distance. Maintain a safe distance on all sides of the vehicle.
  • Minimize distractions. Don’t text or talk on the phone and avoid taking your hands off the wheel. Driver inattention is a leading cause of all highway crashes.
  • Plan ahead. Expect delays during construction season and allow extra travel time, or select an alternate route.

INDOT provides timely, accurate and relevant work zone information to travelers using the INDOT TrafficWise website, the INDOT Construction Map and Twitter updates. You can also download the INDOT mobile app for free through the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

We can work together to make sure everyone makes it home safely. Please don’t drive distracted and keep an eye out for our hardworking road construction workers.

Expanding Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a pervasive problem throughout Indiana and the nation. Lawmakers are working to combat this serious disease and offer support to those who are suffering.

To assist Hoosiers in their fight to overcome addiction, legislation would help more people be admitted into inpatient treatment facilities. Under current law, those seeking treatment for addiction must be sober or in withdrawal, which may prevent some from getting help.

Oftentimes, a user may turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with asking for help or seeking treatment. This legislation would allow those ready to receive professional help to be admitted to treatment facilities – regardless of their sobriety – to better ensure they have an opportunity to overcome addiction.

Another bill would establish the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Center Grant Program. These grants could help recovery centers with community outreach, treatment and recovery efforts, and facility maintenance. Funds from this program would be administered by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, and grants would be evenly distributed across the state.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 2-1-1 or click here to connect with local resources.

To track these bills and others, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

Better Outcomes For Kids

State lawmakers are working to give Hoosier kids more tools and support to build successful futures. Whether in school or overcoming at-risk behaviors, a pair of legislative proposals would help improve outcomes for the next generation.

Apart from their teacher, some students may not have supportive adults providing sound guidance. Legislation would create a pilot mentorship program for older Hoosiers to work with students. This program would provide opportunities for some community members to volunteer their time while sharing their life experiences and skills with students. With these volunteers visiting our schools, they can help guide students facing difficulties or connect them with the right resources before issues boil over. Not only would this program enhance school safety, but it would also enrich students’ lives.

The juvenile system is not always equipped to handle all the needs of troubled young people. Juvenile offenders are more likely to have suffered abuse, and often face higher risks of mental health concerns, educational problems, occupational difficulties, and public health and safety issues. Another bill would establish a preventative program for at-risk youth to help address these issues early on, before they become life-long problems. The program would be voluntary and confidential, and is designed for those referred by school staff, police, court officials, other agencies and parents with concerns about a child.

These programs could offer much-needed support services like mentoring, mental health counseling and tutoring at no cost to families. To track these bills and others, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

Be Prepared For Severe Weather

While severe weather can happen at any time throughout the year, warmer months mean thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes are more likely to occur. With March 17-23 recognized as Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Indiana, consider working on a plan to keep you and your family safe.

To begin, discuss how your family will receive emergency alerts, where you will take shelter, how you will evacuate, and how the household will communicate with each other and outside caregivers. Your plan should be written down and made available to every family member. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers this emergency plan to fill out or use as a guide. Next, it is vital everyone in the household understands and practices the plan.

The American Red Cross also recommends having an emergency preparedness kit. You can find a pre-made kit here or you can prepare one yourself. A basic kit should include:

  • Food and water for three days;
  • Flashlights and extra batteries;
  • First aid kit and any necessary medications;
  • Battery-powered weather radio;
  • Multi-purpose tool;
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items;
  • Whistle to signal for help; and
  • Cell phone charger and a backup battery.

The National Weather Service issues weather advisories to alert Hoosiers of weather conditions nearby. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather, and you should have a plan prepared. A warning means severe weather is likely to occur soon, and you should take action and get to a safe place.

It’s important to be prepared for all types of weather. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offers resources to help Hoosiers learn more about flooding, lightning, thunderstorms and tornadoes.

For more tips, click here.

Expanding Newborn Screenings

Legislators are working to save the lives of Hoosier babies by adding a rare neurological disorder to Indiana’s newborn screening panel.

Krabbe is a rare genetic disease that destroys nerve cells in the brain and throughout the nervous system. It affects 1 in 100,000 people in the United States. Symptoms can include loss of head control, muscle spasms and delays in typical developmental milestones. In most cases, symptoms of the disease develop within the first six months of a baby’s life and usually result in death by age 2.

While there is no cure for Krabbe, stem cell transplants have improved outcomes for some infants who were treated early. Lawmakers were inspired by Bryce Clausen, an Indianapolis 1 year old, who was diagnosed with Krabbe at 6 months. Clausen was not screened for this disease at birth, and because his diagnosis came after the onset of symptoms, he is ineligible for treatment options.

State Rep. Doug Gutwein from Francesville sponsored legislation that would add Krabbe disease to Indiana’s newborn screening panel. Two similar diseases, Pompe disease and Hurler syndrome, would also be added. Indiana already tests newborns for 49 other conditions, including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, hearing loss and critical congenital heart disease.

Gutwein led a major effort last year to add spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, and severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, to Indiana’s newborn screening panel. Thanks to early detection through newborn screenings, Hoosier babies born with these conditions now have a chance at a better quality of life.

To track legislation, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

Lawmakers Fill Backpacks For Hungry Kids

TheIndiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Division of The Salvation Army joined forces at the Statehouse to fill backpacks with donated food items to help feed hungry kids across Indiana.

Between lunch on Friday and breakfast on Monday, 1 in 5 Hoosier kids will go about 68 hours with limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In January, House lawmakers launched a food and backpack donation drive collecting over 200 backpacks and more than 5,300 healthy snacks and kid-friendly food items. The Salvation Army will deliver the donations to local schools across the state.

In addition to the donation drive, House lawmakers launched a social media campaign using #eliminate68 to draw attention to the number of hours a child could be hungry between school meals on Friday and Monday.

By working together with the Salvation Army, we hope our actions encourage others to help fill the gap for those who need it most. Whether you donate to a local school’s backpack program, food pantry or The Salvation Army, Hoosiers have the power to make a positive difference.

The Salvation Army has a longstanding reputation of providing nutritious meals to anyone in need, including through food pantries, meal programs and community gardens. Nationally, the organization provides 156,000 meals every single day. Through our partnership, we want to help contribute to the organization’s massive impact in communities across the state and bring attention to food insecurity for Hoosier kids.

Halftime Update

The Indiana General Assembly has reached the halfway point of the legislative session, which is a milestone for legislation as House bills move to the Senate and Senate bills crossover to the House. Of the 201 bills the House passed to the Senate, 75 percent received bipartisan support.

We made significant progress with our House Republican priorities, which include passing a balanced state budget, increasing protections for Hoosier youth, strengthening the state’s commitment to students and teachers, better aligning workforce initiatives and supporting Indiana’s veterans:

  • House Bill 1001, the House Republican’s balanced state budget proposal, maintains healthy reserves while funding substantive increases for education and school safety.
  • House Bill 1002 promotes early and continuing career exploration and navigation, reinvigorates career and technical education courses and encourages completion of certifications or postsecondary credentials. In addition, the bill prioritizes funding for workforce programs with proven results and provides additional flexibility for schools to partner with employers to establish work-based learning opportunities.
  • House Bill 1003 strongly encourages schools to shift more existing and future dollars to Hoosier classrooms by setting a target for public schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instructional expenses.
  • House Bill 1004 builds on Indiana’s already strong school safety policies by implementing recommendations from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s school safety report to improve physical security at schools and mental health resources for students.
  • House Bill 1005 moves up the appointment date of the school superintendent of public instruction to 2021 from 2025.
  • House Bill 1006 implements necessary reforms for the Indiana Department of Child Services in order to improve the outcomes of the state’s most vulnerable children. The bill includes reducing family case manager caseloads and allowing foster youth to receive services and participate in independent living programs into their early 20’s.
  • House Bill 1007 aims to engage more at-risk expecting mothers in early prenatal care, and requires medical providers to give verbal substance use screenings to pregnant women to improve and increase referrals to addiction treatment.
  • House Bill 1008 creates new professional growth and advancement opportunities through teacher career ladder models.
  • House Bill 1009 provides critical support for new educators by creating residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom.
  • House Bill 1010 phases in an income tax exemption for military retirement pensions and increases the assessed value eligibility cap for the disabled veterans’ property tax exemption.

Legislators must conclude the legislative session by April 29. To track these and other bills, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

 

Lawmakers Raise Cancer Awareness

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 35,280 Hoosiers will be diagnosed with cancer each year.

February is National Cancer Prevention Month. To help raise awareness on how to reduce the risk of cancer, House lawmakers participated in Suits and Sneakers Day, which is an annual event promoted by the American Cancer Society.

With more than half of all cancers in the United States attributed to preventable causes, these healthy habits can help reduce risks. To prevent many types of this disease, choose to eat better foods and get more exerciseRegular screening tests are also key to finding cancers early.

Click here for more information on how to help spread awareness and fight back against cancer.

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