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.
Indiana’s jobless rate continues to be at its lowest level since 2000. That isn’t the only data point indicating Hoosiers are experiencing a booming job market.
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits in 2019 fell to its lowest level in more than 10 years. The state’s labor force participation rate continues to climb higher than the national average.
With a need for more workers, it is important for Hoosiers to acquire the skills and training required to fill increasingly technical jobs. In 2017, lawmakers created the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant program. Since then, more than 10,000 Hoosiers have earned a high-value certificate and approximately 23,000 are currently enrolled.
The program works to drive economic growth by providing education and training. Employees can receive up to $5,000 and employers up to $50,000 in grant money to help pay for training costs. Because of Next Level Jobs, more residents are now better prepared to work in high-paying, high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, information technology and health and life sciences.
In addition to Next level Jobs, Indiana’s tax cuts play a role in spurring business investment and attraction from outside the state. Indiana is ranked the 10th most favorable in the country on the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. This includes corporate and individual tax rates and sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes. Indiana also ranks favorably compared to neighboring states.
With statistics and initiatives like these, Indiana can continue to break employment records and create a welcoming place for businesses to start and grow.
As the legislative session moves full-speed ahead, state lawmakers continue to look at what is important to Hoosiers, including helping curb growing health care costs. This session, House Republicans passed a bill to stop surprise, out-of-network medical billing.
Surprise billing is when an individual goes to an in-network health care provider for a service, but is unknowingly seen by an out-of-network physician. The patient is then left with an expensive medical bill not covered by insurance. Surprise billing can happen for a number of reasons, for example, a person could have a surgical procedure with a surgeon covered by insurance, but another medical provider such as an anesthesiologist is out-of-network, unbeknownst to the patient. After the procedure, the patient has to pay an unexpected and high medical bill.
Unfortunately, approximately 8 percent of all emergency visits in Indiana result in surprise medical billing. Across the nation, 50 percent of all emergency ambulance rides result in surprise medical billing.
Proposed legislation would prohibit health care providers from billing in-network patients for amounts exceeding in-network rates. Patients would still be responsible for paying deductibles, copayments and coinsurance amounts, and would continue to have the option to receive services from out-of-network providers.
Many have seen drivers swerve in and out of lanes, stall at green lights, or slam on their brakes due to their eyes being off the road or their hands being off the wheel. Proposed legislation would prohibit the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving, except when using hands-free technology like Bluetooth.
Under this proposal, Hoosier drivers would not be able to hold a cell phone or electronic communication device while driving. However, a motorist could still use a device to make calls in hands-free mode or in place of a GPS on the dash of their vehicle.
Each day, nine Americans are killed as a result of distracted driving. It is also one of the top killers of teenagers, responsible for more than 58 percent of teen crashes. There are 21 states with similar hands-free device driving laws.
Texting is by far the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes a person’s eyes off the road for five seconds and while travelling at 55 mph, that is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field. Any non-driving activity engaged in while driving is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.
While Indiana already prohibits texting while driving, it is difficult to enforce. This is a simple but effective way to strengthen the current law. It provides clarity for drivers, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Studies conclusively show how dangerous distracted driving is, yet drivers continue to use their devices, including scrolling through social media feeds and playing games, placing everyone in danger.
There will be a comprehensive and statewide educational campaign to inform Hoosiers about this proposed law, if it is enacted.
Click here to learn more about this bill.
Just as everyday Hoosiers work hard to manage their finances by sticking to a budget, avoiding debt and preparing for the future, it is the responsibility of state government to make smart financial decisions with taxpayer dollars. House Republican lawmakers take this obligation seriously and continue to fulfill the trust that voters have placed in them by enacting responsible legislation and making sound investments for Hoosiers.
Indiana is in a unique position thanks to sound fiscal policies and responsible budgeting. Last year, Indiana’s tax revenues exceeded expectations by nearly $270 million, or about 1.7%. These unexpected revenues are the state government equivalent of a year-end bonus. Republican Statehouse leaders are responsibly investing these monies in one-time, higher education projects.
With House Enrolled Act 1007, Indiana will cash-fund six state university capital improvement projects approved last year for debt financing. This will save $137 million in long-term interest payments and eliminate $21 million in annual bond payments. This will put Indiana in an even better position by freeing up additional funds in future budgets.
While some called for the state to use these one-time dollars to start or expand government programs and projects, they failed to take into account the recurring expenses and costs. Indiana is in a sound place financially, and House Republicans are working to keep it that way for future generations.
The Indiana House of Representatives and the Senate voted in support of this fiscally responsible plan, with Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signing it into law.
For more information about House Enrolled Act 1007, click here.
Indiana’s students have many opportunities to participate in paid internships or work-based programs. These experiences allow young Hoosiers to determine which career path is right for them and develop their skills to enter the workforce. However, some may feel they have no choice but to turn these opportunities down, as their pay could jeopardize their families’ eligibility for certain benefits.
Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are based on a family’s net income. Currently, these programs include pay from internships and opportunities geared toward students when considering a family’s eligibility. State lawmakers want young Hoosiers to be able to take advantage of these opportunities to advance their careers.
Proposed legislation would exempt dependents’ income earned through paid internships and work-based programs from their families’ eligibility for these programs. Every Hoosier should be able to participate in these experiences regardless of their families’ financial situation.
Indiana continues working to further develop its workforce to meet the needs of job creators across the state. In fact, according to Indiana’s Next Level Jobs initiative, there are more than 45,000 high-paying job openings in fields such as advanced manufacturing and health care. This legislation would help fill jobs and continue Indiana’s economic momentum.
Click here to learn more about House Bill 1009.
Teachers are vital to the success of our students, and local schools are often the cornerstone of our communities. House Republicans continue to value the hard work and dedication of Hoosier educators. This session, several bills are a result of listening to our teachers and schools about how we can better support them:
Hold teachers and schools harmless from ILEARN results
As Indiana transitions to the new ILEARN exam, which is the state’s standardized testing program required by federal law, legislation would ensure the state’s school accountability grades and teachers’ evaluations are not negatively impacted by test scores for two years. The annual ILEARN exam is taken on a computer by students in grades 3 through 8 in order to gauge student achievement in various subjects. When schools made the switch to this new test last year, lower test scores were expected. To give students, educators and schools time to adapt to the new exam, proposed legislation would hold teachers and schools harmless for test results in 2019 and 2020.
Decouple teacher performance evaluations from student test scores
Because student learning can be measured in a number of different ways, proposed legislation would remove the requirement that standardized test scores significantly inform teacher evaluations and pay. Local school districts best understand the strengths of their teaching staff and how to accurately assess their effectiveness in the classroom. With this legislation, local school districts would have a choice in how to use test results when evaluating teacher performance.
Provide flexibility in teacher training and licensure requirements
The needs of young Hoosiers are constantly growing and changing, making it important for schools to have flexibility in determining which state education requirements best serve their students. Proposed legislation would empower local schools to determine which education laws and requirements are unnecessarily burdensome and apply for a waiver with the State Board of Education to bypass certain regulations. The bill would also task the State Board of Education with evaluating and streamlining Indiana’s current teacher training requirements. In addition, this legislation would revise a 2019 law regarding 1 of 4 teacher licensure renewal options. Under one of the options, teachers can develop a Professional Growth Plan and earn 90 points or hours over five years. With this bill, it would no longer be required that 15 of those points be obtained through professional development related to their community’s workforce needs.
All three of these bills are moving through the legislative process. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more and follow their progress.
We owe a great debt to our military service members of past and present. However, some veterans today struggle to meet their most basic needs like having a safe place to call home. In fact, Indiana has seen a 6 percent increase in the number of homeless veterans in the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In order to give back to those who have served and protected our country, House Speaker Brian C. Bosma and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta announced a partnership between the Indiana House of Representatives and the American Legion Department of Indiana during the 2020 legislative session. As part of the collaboration, lawmakers and House staff are collecting much-needed hygiene and food items. In February, legislators will assemble hygiene and emergency food kits at the Statehouse, which the Indiana Legion will distribute to veterans in need across the state.
To help spread awareness for the number of Indiana veterans without a place to call home, legislators and the Indiana Legion also launched a social media campaign using #HelpHoosierHeroes.
Hoosiers who wish to make a donation can find a list of most-needed items at IndianaHouseRepublicans.com/HelpHoosierHeroes. Donations can be dropped off outside the House Chamber on the third floor of the Statehouse in Indianapolis.
The Indiana Legion is committed to providing continued service to fellow veterans, their families and communities. For more information about the programs and services available for Hoosier veterans, visit IndianaLegion.org.
Although Indiana’s temperatures have dropped, we can still stay active outdoors this winter. Follow Visit Indiana’s guide to outdoor recreation to experience Indiana’s beautiful winter, whether planning an adventure near home or making a weekend getaway at the opposite end of the state.
Spend time outdoors at one of several Indiana outdoor ice skating rinks, many of which are in the heart of some Hoosier downtowns. Ice skaters can go shopping or stop by a local coffee shop for some hot chocolate to help stay warm between skating sessions.
Hilly southern Indiana makes for some great downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing, with locations in Lawrenceburg and Paoli, while northern Indiana is home to cross-country skiing on the 6.4-mile Ly-co-ki-we Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park.
Also in southern Indiana, Hoosiers can hit the throttle on a snowmobile with more than 60 miles of trails in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, or try out the famous sledding experience at Pokagon State Park’s Toboggan Run, the only refrigerated toboggan run in the Midwest.
For those looking for an experience without the snow, consider a trip to Turkey Run State Park to see the habitats of bald eagles, go horseback riding in Hendricks County, or explore the Indiana Cave Trail where the temperature never changes.
Check out VisitIndiana.com to plan one of these adventures or find others close to home. As you plan for the outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather by bringing boots, mittens and winter coats, and don’t forget the camera for capturing the scenery and memories. Most important, have fun!
Students interested in learning more about state government are encouraged to participate in the Indiana House Page Program during the upcoming 2020 legislative session.
Hoosiers ages 13 to 18 can spend a day at the Statehouse in Indianapolis assisting House legislators and staff and touring government offices. Pages experience how the Indiana legislature works, including discussions on various proposals for new laws.
Indiana’s 2020 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 6, and must conclude by mid-March. Pages can pick available dates during that timeframe. Openings fill quickly, so students are encouraged to apply soon. Participants receive an excused absence from school, and groups can participate together. Please note that students are responsible for their own transportation.
For more information and to apply for the Indiana House Page Program, visit IndianaHouseRepublicans.com/PageProgram2020 or call 800-382-9841.