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.
House Republicans successfully advanced their top priorities before the legislative session concluded late Wednesday.
Lawmakers passed legislation providing a funding boost for K-12 schools, strengthening Indiana’s workforce, attacking the opioid epidemic and increasing government efficiency.
Legislation providing an increase in funding for K-12 schools would account for a higher than expected increase in enrollment at traditional public schools. This increase would be in addition to the $7 billion Indiana spends on K-12 education annually.
Currently, $1 billion is being spent on 30 workforce programs annually across nine state agencies. However, Indiana’s workforce shortage continues to persist. Legislation would re-evaluate workforce-related programs using return-on-investment metrics enacted in 2017. The bill would also match Career and Technical Education students with local businesses and encourage students to complete training in high-demand fields. The legislation also doubled the funding for workforce training grants to better connect Hoosier workers with high-demand, high-wage jobs.
House Republicans passed two pieces of legislation to help combat the growing opioid epidemic by expanding substance abuse and treatment options, and streamlining licensure and credentialing for mental health professionals. Nine additional opioid rehabilitation centers around the state will be established to ensure no Hoosier is further than an hour-long drive from treatment. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there was a 52-percent increase in opioid deaths from 2015 to 2016.
To further reduce government bureaucracy, House Republicans passed two bills in order to streamline local and state government operations and reporting requirements.
Giving kids a solid foundation for learning has been shown to help close an achievement gap that is often seen in students who do not attend pre-K or similar early learning programs. 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 but not yet 5 years old by August 2018;
- Child must be a resident of Indiana;
- Child must start kindergarten in the 2019–2020 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 percent of the federal poverty level.
Providing young Hoosiers with more, early education opportunities can jump start their academic careers and set them on a path for a successful future. Families will be notified to set up an appointment to verify their eligibility and complete the grant process with their local intake beginning in April 2018. Recipients will also choose an approved On My Way Pre-K program from various locations, which can be found here.
Grants will be awarded until all the available slots are filled, so be sure to apply early!
More than 20,000 Hoosier children are in the foster care system. House legislators are working hard to ensure students in foster care better succeed in school and foster parents’ rights are protected.
Proposed legislation would provide a critical step in meeting the needs of Hoosier students in foster care. Currently, nearly 56 percent of children in foster care graduate from high school, and only three percent graduate from college. By having the Department of Education, DCS and the State Board of Education work together on reporting the educational outcomes for youth in foster care, we can find ways to improve Indiana’s graduation rates and provide necessary support to children in the foster care system.
Another proposal would provide foster parents a stronger voice by establishing a foster parent bill of rights. Under this legislation, the Department of Child Services would form a working group of current foster parents, child-placing agencies and other organizations or individuals that have expertise in foster care services. This group would develop and update rights and responsibilities of foster parents. This document would be available to the public online and distributed to current and prospective foster parents. This bill would give foster parents the voice they need to make decisions on the behalf of children placed in their care and hopefully encourage more participation in the foster care system.
As the demand for foster families in Indiana reaches an all-time high, House lawmakers worked to raise awareness and support foster families. The Indiana House of Representatives partnered with the Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy and its Institute for Excellence, a nonprofit organization serving more than 4,600 Hoosier children every day, to host “Bags of Hope”. House lawmakers and staff held a donation drive at the Statehouse and collected over 3,800 items for foster families caring for newborns and infants. Together with IARCA, more than 100 diaper bags were filled to be distributed to local foster families.
To learn more about this partnership and ways to help, visit www.FosterHopeIndiana.org.
To track legislation as it moves to the governor’s desk for consideration as new laws, click here.
Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal activity in the world, as well as the second-most lucrative. In Indiana, there were 83 human trafficking cases reported and 268 calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016 alone. To combat this pervasive crime, House Republicans are proposing legislation to crack down on offenders and help victims get the help they need.
Under current law, health practitioners are required to report all suspected human trafficking patients, regardless of age, to social services and local law enforcement. When referred to authorities, victims 18 years of age or older could potentially be tried for prostitution or face possible retribution from their trafficker. According to medical professionals and advocates, this discourages those victims from seeking help. Proposed legislation would remove the requirement to report suspected adult human trafficking victims and instead, would encourage and require licensed health care providers to offer information about community resources and services, such as a 24/7 victim hotline.
Another proposal would create separate offenses for human and sex trafficking. This would make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on specific offenders and trafficking networks. This legislation would expand Indiana’s Rape Shield Statute to include victims of human trafficking and require law enforcement to notify the Department of Child Services of a possible trafficking victim if they are under 18 years of age, which would help young victims by placing them in protective custody. This measure would also call for the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to look into of what specific authority a law enforcement officer has in order to take custody of a child when the officer suspects he or she is a victim of human trafficking.
By improving how human trafficking cases are handled from the start and cracking down on offenders, Indiana can continue to bolster our fight against these crimes and help keep Hoosiers safe. If you or someone you know suspects that a person is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
Hoosier children are our future. This session, House Republicans are working on legislation to better protect children in every community.
Recently, the House of Representative’s passed a bill to expand Silver Alerts to include missing children with disabilities. Silver Alerts are issued by law enforcement and voluntarily broadcast by TV and radio stations when an adult has wandered from their home or a caregiver and are unlikely to return without assistance. Currently, if a child wanders from their home or care center, there is no emergency alert system to make the public aware. An Amber Alert, which is Indiana’s Emergency Alert System for abducted children, does not apply to children who leave their home, school or care facility at their own free will. State Rep. Sharon Negele of Attica wants to better ensure children with mental or physical disabilities who need help returning home are included under the updated Silver Alert system.
State Rep. Douglas Gutwein from Francesville also authored legislation that would add two new tests to Indiana’s newborn screening panel. Newborn screenings are used to identify diseases in babies shortly after their births, allowing for early interventions that can prevent the need for long-term care or death.
One test that would be added would be for spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, a severe genetic disorder that alters the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord. This results in muscle weakness and may lead to the inability to walk, talk, swallow and breathe. Another test would be for severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, which causes individuals to be highly susceptible to life-threatening infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi. This disease often forces children into high levels of quarantine to avoid infection. Early detection is key in allowing children with these conditions to live a better, healthier life.
To track these and other bills, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.
Indiana is ranked No. 1 in state government by U.S. News & World Report. To continue this momentum, a House Republican proposal would repeal or update unused, clumsy, and duplicative reports required of state government entities. In total, eight chapters, 99 sections and 31 reports in the Indiana Code could be repealed, and 35 standalone reports or reporting requirements would be combined into more accessible formats. This bill would help streamline administrative processes and improve public transparency.
Another bill would bring various local government processes into the digital age, ultimately reducing publishing, mailing and clerical costs. This legislation would ensure that journals, enrolled acts, session laws and Indiana Code would be distributed in either paper or electronic format. These measures would allow local government to achieve greater efficiency and save money for Hoosier taxpayers without impacting the level of service.
House Republicans are dedicated to transparency. We live broadcast each House session online and House committee meetings. The Indiana Transparency Portal, www.in.gov/itp, brings better visibility, openness and accountability to state government. The portal provides information on agency budgets, state contracts, agency performance measures and local government expenditures.
More details can be found on the Indiana General Assembly’s website here, along with a live feed of session and committee meetings.
The 2018 legislative session reached its halfway point. House Republicans have made great progress with our legislative priorities, including increasing K-12 funding, strengthening Indiana’s workforce, attacking the opioid epidemic and increasing government efficiency.
In support of House Republicans’ top priority, a key House bill would provide additional funding to traditional K-12 public schools after a surge in enrollment. Traditional public school enrollment exceeded budgetary forecasts by over 6,000 students. To account for that growth, funds could be transferred from the State Tuition Reserve Account to schools. Currently, Indiana spends about $7 billion annually on K-12 public education.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, from 2015 to 2016, there was a 52 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths. To help combat this epidemic, proposed legislation would open up to nine new treatment centers, greatly improving access to addiction treatment programs throughout the state, and ensuring Hoosiers in underserved areas have options to begin and sustain their recovery process. Another bill would allow the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Council to create a pilot program to open state-supported drug treatment programs to individuals who have been charged with a misdemeanor. This option is currently only available to Hoosiers who have been charged or convicted of a felony.
To learn more about how House Republicans have progressed on their legislative agenda, click here.
To track these and other bills, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here. A great way to stay up-to-date with your local representative and events going on in your community is to sign up at the bottom of our homepage, IndianaHouseRepublicans.com, to receive electronic newsletters.
The deadline to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is approaching. All students, regardless of income level, who are planning to attend college must complete the FAFSA form every year. This is the single most important form for helping students receive money to go to college. The FAFSA is also required in order for students to be considered for government grants, scholarships and student loans.
The FAFSA must be filed by April 15 to be eligible for state financial aid.
To help families navigate the application process, financial aid experts will be providing assistance for college-bound students across Indiana from 2-4 p.m. on Feb. 25, during College Goal Sunday. Students who attend could win 1 of 10, $1,000 scholarships. There will be 40 sites statewide – click here for the location nearest you.
Can’t make it to a College Goal Sunday event? Learn tips for filling out FAFSA and common mistakes to avoid by clicking here. You can also explore different types of financial aid by clicking here. If you need any assistance submitting the application, call 1-800-4FED-AID.
Indiana created one of the most promising and inviting business climates in the country. By lowering state taxes and removing burdensome regulations, we attracted nearly 30,000 job commitments in 2017 alone. Now, we need to ensure Hoosiers can fill those positions. Indiana currently invests $1 billion each year in 30 different workforce development programs across nine state agencies, yet employers still struggle to find qualified workers to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs.
Strengthening Indiana’s workforce and continuing to grow the state’s economy are top priorities for House Republicans this session. House Bill 1002, authored by State Rep. Todd Huston, aims to revamp the state’s workforce programs and funding by using return-on-investment metrics to determine which programs are successful and where improvements are needed. Identifying where our programs overlap will help streamline efforts to make the system more efficient and beneficial to Hoosier jobseekers and employers.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development would also have two employees at each WorkOne center, which connects Hoosier employers and jobseekers with state resources, to inform local school officials and students of available grants and programs. Career and technical education students would have the opportunity to opt into a database, which would help connect them with employers and open positions in their communities.
If you are a job seeker or a Hoosier business looking to hire, you can visit www.NextLevelJobs.org. This resource connects Indiana employers with qualified workers and offers training resources to those looking to skill up.
Continuing efforts to attract, retain and train more workers in high-demand fields will help increase Hoosiers’ wages and grow the economy.