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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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Grants pave way for local road projects

Communities across Indiana will soon be able to apply for state matching grants to improve local roads and bridges.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will begin accepting applications on Monday, Aug. 6, for matching funds for shovel-ready local construction projects through Community Crossings, Indiana’s local road and bridge matching grant program.

The grants are a result of legislation passed by House Republicans in 2016. In the past two years, the state has awarded $300 million to Indiana cities, towns and counties through the program.

These funds help communities address their immediate road-funding needs to keep Indiana’s roads and bridges safe. A strong infrastructure supports a more robust economy and keeps our communities moving forward.

Projects eligible for funding through Community Crossings include road resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation, road reconstruction and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance in connection with road projects. Material costs for chip sealing and crack filling operations are also eligible for funding.

All application materials must be submitted by 5 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 28. Click here for more information about the Community Crossings Matching Grant Program.

Improving School Safety

Ensuring school safety is an issue at the forefront of our country right now. This is a complex problem with no simple solution, but taking a multifaceted approach can help better protect our students.

Indiana is on the right track. Last year, the Security Industry Association highlighted our state as a “national leader” for implementing and investing in school safety policies. Indiana is 1 of 5 states with a “red flag” law, which allows guns to be taken from individuals a court determines to be dangerous to themselves or others.

Indiana’s School Safety Specialist Academy has trained and certified nearly 2,500 specialists at no cost to schools. We are also 1 of 2 states to require every school district to employ a certified specialist who is trained annually on best practices.

In addition to these measures, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new law authored by State Rep. Wendy McNamara putting more protections in place for Hoosier students. The law appropriates up to $5 million to the Indiana Secured School Safety Grant Fund in addition to the $45 million already allotted to support initiatives to keep schools safe and secure.

Under the new law, school safety specialist training will include information on identifying, preventing and intervening in actions by a person on school property who has the intent to harm others.

The mass murderer in the recent Parkland tragedy pulled the school’s fire alarm in order to fill the hallways with students and faculty. To help prevent copycat attacks, protocol in the event of an unplanned fire alarm is updated to allow an employee to barricade or block a door for up to three minutes while the fire alarm is investigated by a designated school official.

Students go to school to get an education, and they should not have to worry about senseless violence in their classrooms. Hoosier lawmakers, educators and law enforcement officers have worked and will continue working to ensure the children in our schools are safe and protected.

Teachers make a difference

The single most important factor in a student’s success is an excellent teacher. Most of us can name a teacher who had a major impact on our education or career choice. To recognize educators and their vital roles, the country is celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11.

Even the smallest act of kindness can help show your gratitude, like sharing a picture of yourself with an influential teacher or a picture of your child with their teacher and a simple thank you message on social media using #TeacherAppreciationWeek.

House Republicans are working to encourage the best and brightest to enter the teaching profession and make a difference in students’ lives. We created the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship, which was recently awarded to 200 highly qualified students across the state. The scholarship is available to top-performing students each year who commit to teaching in Indiana for five consecutive years after college graduation. Recipients receive $7,500 per year for up to four years to obtain a teaching license. Learn more about the scholarship here.

Each year, the Indiana Department of Education conducts the Indiana Teacher of the Year program to recognize outstanding classroom teachers from across the state. One person is chosen to represent Indiana teachers at the national level. For more details and to apply for 2019 Indiana Teacher of the Year, click here.

We are fortunate to have the leadership and perspective of multiple educators in the state legislature. As teachers and public servants, Reps. Tony Cook, Wendy McNamaraand Jeff Thompson all work tirelessly to make Indiana a great place for our children.

Please take a moment this week to make sure our Hoosier educators know they’re valued!

Kicking off summer travel season

Our Hoosier state is home to beautiful parks, great restaurants and fun attractions for the whole family. To kick off the summer travel season and highlight all that Indiana has to offer, we are celebrating Visit Indiana Week May 6-12.

More than 200 attractions, parks and restaurants across the state will offer discounts to travelers, featuring a different and exciting theme for each day of the week:

  • State Parks Sunday: Kick off the week with free admission to 51 of Indiana’s State Parks and Recreation areas.
  • Museum Monday: Experience 1 of 29 Hoosier museums offering a wide array of exhibits at a discounted rate.
  • Tastings Tuesday: Sample local beverages at 35 Indiana wineries, breweries and cideries.
  • Wild Wednesday: Get up close and personal with animals and the wilderness at 13 of Indiana’s zoos, sanctuaries and farms.
  • Throwback ThursdayDiscover more than 200 years of Indiana’s rich history at35 historical destinations across the state.
  • Foodie Friday: Come hungry to 1 of 28 Indiana eateries offering discounts.
  • Sports and Outdoor Saturday: Embrace your adventurous side at 21 sporting events or activities.

For more information on Visit Indiana Week festivities, click here.

Prescription Drug Take Back Day April 28

Saturday, April 28 is Prescription Drug Take Back Day and many locations throughout the state will accept unwanted and expired prescription drugs.

Click here to find a drop off site near you.

Proper disposal of prescription drugs helps protect children and pets from accidental consumption, and also helps curb illegal drug use and theft. Indiana is working hard to combat the opioid epidemic and recently passed new laws to aid in this effort. With 4 out of 5 new heroin users starting with prescription medications, these drug take-back programs give us another tool to fight addiction and make a real difference in saving lives.

Unused and expired medicine also harms the environment. It is important to never wash any medicine down the drain or flush it down the toilet. Doing so contaminates Indiana’s rivers and groundwater. By properly disposing of medicine you are protecting yourself, your neighbors and the environment.

During the most recent National Take Back Day event, Hoosiers safely turned in 1,308 pounds of prescription drugs.

Learn about safe disposal and storage methods for prescription drugs by clicking here.

Upgrade to Real ID

Hoosiers renewing or updating their driver’s licenses or identification cards are encouraged to upgrade to a Real ID.

The Real ID is a product of the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005. After the attacks on 9/11, the law was created to set security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. Indiana was an early adopter of these security standards and was the first state to become fully compliant with the law.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, a Real-ID compliant credential will be required to fly commercially in the United States, as well as to access military bases and other secure federal facilities. Alternative documentation, such as a passport or Common Access Card, will also be accepted. This law applies to all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories.

Everyone applying for a new Indiana driver’s license, learner’s permit or state identification card are required to obtain a Real ID-compliant credential. However, those who already have an Indiana credential may opt out of a Real ID.

You can apply for a Real ID by visiting any BMV branch. When applying, you must have required documents with you to establish your identity, lawful status, social security number and Indiana residency, such as a birth certificate or passport. If your name has been legally changed and differs from your identity document, proof of the name change must be provided in order to obtain a Real ID. Acceptable documents to show a legal name change include a marriage license, divorce decree or court order.

Click here for a documentation checklist to ensure you bring all you need to the BMV when upgrading to a Real ID.

Visit RealID.in.gov to learn more.

Students: Showcase your STEM knowledge

Gov. Eric Holcomb invites students around the state to showcase their knowledge in science, technology, engineering or mathematics and apply to join the 2018 Governor’s STEM team.

The program honors four outstanding high school students for their exceptional performance in one of the STEM subjects. Students can apply or be nominated by a teacher or school staff member. All applications must be submitted by April 22.

Applicants will be evaluated by a panel of STEM professionals, teachers and university representatives. Winners will be announced in May, and selected based on academic performance, work in research, leadership, community service and extracurricular involvement. Winning students will each receive a $1,000 college scholarship from Indiana’s College Choice 529 Direct Savings Plan and letter jackets identifying them as members of the governor’s STEM Team.

STEM courses prepare our future leaders for life beyond high school and provide a good foundation for them to grow and make an impact on our communities. Our state understands the importance of STEM-related subjects and wants to recognize those who set themselves apart in these areas.

For more information on the 2018 Governor’s STEM Team, click here.

Work zone safety

In 2014, more than 400 were injured and 14 people were killed in work zones across the state.

April 9-13 is Work Zone Awareness Week in Indiana, marking the beginning of highway construction season. The Indiana Department of Transportation offers these suggestions 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.

Watch INDOT’s video urging motorists to avoid distracted driving here.

INDOT provides timely, accurate and relevant work zone information to travelers using message boards, the INDOT TrafficWise website, the INDOT Real-Time Traffic Conditions website and Twitter updates. You can also download the INDOT mobile app for free through the App Store and Google Play.

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. Remember, they are working to make the roads better for you!

Improving financial literacy

Since April marks the deadline for tax filing, it seems fitting that it would also be National Financial Literacy Month. However, you don’t have to wait until tax season to look into your financial situation. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average American holds a credit card balance of more than $4,800. Add in interest rates and other financial obligations, like mortgages and student loans, and it can be easy to feel trapped. Fortunately, there are resources available to help Hoosiers build their financial literacy and begin taking the steps necessary to improve their financial situation.

The Indiana Department of Financial Institutionsoffers a number of educational tools to teach consumers about credit. They have also developed lesson plans for parents and teachers to inform students on consumer credit and their credit rights.

Another great resource is 360 Degrees of Financial of Literacy. Founded by the American Institute of CPAs, this website offers a wide variety of tools to help consumers at any stage of life assess their financial situation and take charge of their finances. Similarly, the Financial Literacy Monthwebsite offers a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to help consumers achieve financial freedom. The site also provides links to helpful worksheets, eBooks and webinars, all for free.

Understanding money matters is important for all consumers. By taking advantage of the resources available, Hoosiers can take charge of their finances and get closer to their financial goals.

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