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January 2020

Saving Taxpayers More Than $130 Million

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.

Removing barriers to opportunity

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.

Supporting Students, Teachers & Schools

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.

Helping Homeless Hoosier Veterans

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.

New Year, New Winter Fun

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!

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