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Around the House

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The Indiana House Republican Caucus is the majority caucus of the Indiana House of Representatives & has 67 legislators, led by House Speaker Todd Huston.

Boosting Small Business Recovery

Small businesses are a vital part of the Hoosier economy, and the pandemic created many hardships throughout the last year. Employers have worked diligently to keep their doors open and made large investments to keep employees and customers safe. Some are still trying to make ends meet.

To help speed that recovery, a new law expands the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant Program to provide more small businesses a chance to recoup some of their losses.

This grant program is an extension of the already existing Small Business Restart Program and would continue to be administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Originally, the program was started with federal COVID-19 relief dollars and issued $34.5 million in grants. Through the CARES Act, an additional $60 million has been made available.

Eligible recipients include those whose revenue is $10 million a year or less, with fewer than 100 employees as of Dec. 31, 2019, and they must show average monthly gross revenue loss of at least 30%. Grants cannot be more than $50,000 to any individual business.

Small businesses may apply until Dec. 31, 2021, but are encouraged to apply and submit expenses for reimbursement as soon as possible, as grants will be issued in the order they are received until funding is exhausted.

For more information about the grant program, visit backontrack.in.gov.

Solving More Crimes With Digital Evidence

As the world becomes increasingly digital, criminals are using advanced technology to commit crimes and take advantage of Hoosiers. To keep our communities safe, law enforcement officers must be prepared to use cyber resources to track down and catch criminals. This session, we passed a new law helping law enforcement agencies partner with local university students to analyze digital evidence during criminal investigations.

This new law establishes the High Tech Crimes Unit Program where prosecuting attorneys can call on Hoosier college students to help gather and process digital evidence. The program is based on the success of the Tippecanoe County High Tech Crime Unit, which gave Purdue University’s Cyber Forensics Program the opportunity to partner with local law enforcement agencies. Students in related fields can now collaborate directly with prosecutors to analyze digital evidence in crimes such as child pornography, child abuse, drug investigations, murder, fraud and more.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council will approve 10 units established by the High Tech Crimes Unit Program as well as oversee the selection of university groups to partner with under this new law, which will go into effect July 1. To learn more about this new law, visit iga.in.gov.

Focusing On Civics Education

Civic engagement is key to our representative democracy. To ensure our nation and democracy thrives, a bill recently cleared the General Assembly to require civics education be taught to students in middle school.

Hoosier students typically complete a government class their senior year of high school and civics education is woven into the middle school curriculum. However, there is no course dedicated to this important topic, and some younger students may leave school before graduation. House Enrolled Act 1384 would incorporate civics education into students’ curriculum sooner as they take at least one semester of a course dedicated to civics in grades 6, 7 or 8 – well ahead of when they reach Indiana’s legal voting age.

Young Hoosiers need to understand their government at the local, state and federal level, and learning civics from a young age will help prepare the next generation of strong leaders.

For more information on House Enrolled Act 1384, which is currently on the governor’s desk to be considered as a new law, visit iga.in.gov.

Check out your own civics knowledge with this practice test.  

Honoring Purple Heart Recipients

The Purple Heart medal is one of the most prestigious awards given to a veteran, and is presented to service members wounded or killed as a result of enemy action while serving in the U.S. military.

Any Hoosier veteran awarded the Purple Heart is eligible to purchase a distinctive Purple Heart license plate. Currently, Purple Heart recipients can request multiple specialty plates for vehicles registered under their name, including those driven by spouses. However, when the veteran passes away, the spouse cannot renew the plate.

House Enrolled Act 1039 would allow a surviving spouse of a Purple Heart recipient to continue displaying the Purple Heart license plate.

Purple Heart recipients carry with them the scars of battle, and so do their families. With this bill, which received overwhelming support from the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate, surviving spouses will be able to continue memorializing their loved one’s legacy through a simple but meaningful gesture. House Enrolled Act 1039 is now eligible to be signed into law by the governor.

To learn more about the distinctive license plates the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles offers to military personnel, Hoosier veterans and civilians wanting to show their support for the armed forces, click here.

Supporting Low-Income Workers

In 2020, Indiana received more than 31,000 new job commitments, even when facing a global pandemic. As the economy continues bouncing back from the disruption caused by COVID-19, skilled workers are needed to fill in-demand jobs across the state. However, some Hoosiers are not pursuing free education and work-based training opportunities because a higher paycheck could disqualify their family from benefit programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This session, we’re making it a priority to ensure Hoosiers 24 years old and younger can earn additional income without disqualifying their family from benefits.

Currently, TANF eligibility is determined by the total income of a household, which includes young adults who may be living at home after high school. House Bill 1009 would incentivize more young Hoosiers to work toward post-secondary degrees, workforce certificates, pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship programs, without the threat of their family losing assistance as they further their education. This legislation would also increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to 10%, providing additional relief to working Hoosiers. This increase could put roughly $11.2 million back into the hands of low-income working families each year.

House Bill 1009 received overwhelming support in the Indiana House of Representatives and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Family and Children Services. To learn more, visit iga.in.gov.

Closing The Digital Divide

Whether it is for students trying to connect to their classes, patients receiving medical consultation, employees working from home or hopefuls embarking on new careers, more Hoosiers are in need of dependable broadband.

This session, House Republicans are working on legislation to ensure broadband reaches lesser-served areas of the state.

To help close the digital divide for Hoosier students, workers and employers, the House Republican Budget includes $250 million in broadband expansion grants. These grants are offered to providers and used to strengthen access to reliable and affordable internet service throughout Indiana.

Under another proposal, the Office of Rural and Community Affairs must consider deploying broadband to rural areas that are most in need when providing Next Level Connections grants.

In order to get broadband to more communities quicker, a bill would streamline the permitting process for broadband projects to help developers work across multiple counties without being tied up with inconsistent regulations from different communities.

As Indiana continues to reopen and spur economic growth and development, accessing reliable, affordable internet connection is more important than ever. Learn more about House Republican efforts to expand rural broadband at iga.in.gov.

Supporting Our Small Businesses

Small businesses are quick to lend a hand to neighbors in need and go out of their way to support local communities. They are vital to Indiana’s economy, and are being hit hard by the pandemic, especially those in hospitality and tourism industries. To assist Hoosier entrepreneurs, House lawmakers passed a bill to help struggling businesses bounce back.

House Bill 1004 would extend and strengthen an existing grant program to accelerate economic recovery and protect Indiana jobs. This Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant Program could provide up to $50,000 in grant funding to eligible businesses. To qualify, businesses must be in good standing and able to show a significant loss of revenue. If awarded a grant, funds could be used toward a portion of business and payroll expenses. 

House Bill 1004 received bipartisan support from the Indiana House of Representatives and has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration. For more information about legislation from this session, visit iga.in.gov.

Supporting Lawful Gun Owners

The Indiana House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1369, which would allow law-abiding Hoosier adults to carry a firearm without having to get a government-issued license.

Currently, Hoosiers must complete numerous steps within 180 days after first applying for a carry permit, including:

  • Completing a firearm license application online;
  • Scheduling an appointment to get their fingerprints taken; and
  • Completing local law enforcement agency processing.

It is only after these steps are taken that the Indiana State Police do a final review and either issue or deny a permit to the individual.

Under the bill, the process to legally purchase a handgun would not change. Individuals must still complete the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form. They also have to be approved by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to ensure that only eligible buyers will legally purchase handguns.

Reciprocity permits, including 5-year and lifetime permits, provide Hoosiers the ability to carry in 31 other states, and would still be available under this bill. Under the proposal, the lifetime license fee would drop from $125 to $75 and the 5-year permit would remain free.

Funds collected from Indiana’s handgun permits help support local law enforcement firearms training, ammunition, body armor and other expenses. However, any loss in department funding as a result of this bill would be restored through a new appropriation in the state budget. Departments would also continue collecting funds from reciprocity permits.

If passed, Indiana could become the 19th state to allow lawful carry.

House Bill 1369 now moves to the Senate for further consideration. For more information, visit iga.in.gov.

Helping Hoosier Students Get Ahead

Last year brought sudden changes for everyone, and as many professionals transitioned to remote working because of COVID-19, so did Hoosier students. For some, this was not an easy adjustment. While necessary steps were taken to keep our children and educators safe, schoolwork became difficult as students switched between e-learning and classroom environments.

A recent study completed by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes showed the average Hoosier student lost 129 days of reading knowledge and 209 days of math knowledge, as a result of COVID-19 disruptions. There is no doubt schools are going to need extra assistance to help students get back on track.

House Bill 1008 would establish the Student Learning Recovery Grant Program to help students experiencing learning loss due to the pandemic. This proposal would create a $150 million grant program to provide individuals or organizations resources to help students this summer who have fallen behind in class, scored below academic standards or are at risk of falling behind. By providing the tools necessary help close learning gaps, this grant program could provide additional support for students on their journey to get the most out of their education.  

The Indiana Department of Education, along with the State Board of Education, would determine program criteria for grants. Applying organizations, which could include local schools, colleges or universities, community or philanthropic organizations, and prospective, current and retired educators, would be required to submit a plan detailing the programs that would supplement a student’s regular coursework. The DOE would be responsible for overseeing the grant program.

Click here to learn more.

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