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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 70 legislators, led by House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Honoring our fallen heroes

Memorial Day is a time to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy today. Our appreciation for those who have dedicated their lives to defending the blessings of liberty is boundless.

While we can never repay the debt owed, we must also thank our veterans for their service. A new law will phase in a full income tax exemption for military retirement pensions and survivors’ benefits over a four-year period. House Republicans hope to encourage our veterans to live, work and retire in Indiana.

There are approximately 400,000 veterans living in Indiana, but many are unaware of the resources available to them. Under another new law, questions regarding the status of veterans and surviving spouses will be included on applications for driver’s licenses and permits, and state identification cards. The Indiana Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be able to access this information to connect with veterans and their families when promoting outreach programs.

Another new measure calls for more oversight for Indiana’s Military Family Relief Fund to ensure transparent and equitable distribution of money. The fund is a dedicated account that receives money through donations and the purchase of veteran license plates like “Support the Troops.” Emergency grants through the fund may be used by military families to assist in food, housing, utilities, medical services and transportation expenses.

As you enjoy Memorial Day weekend, please join House Republicans in remembering our fallen service members and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

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Explore Indiana Festivals

It is festival time in Indiana again! No matter what activities you and your family enjoy, there is something for everyone in the Hoosier state.

For upcoming events in your community and throughout Indiana, check out the 2019 Indiana Festival Guide. With county fairs, holiday parades and celebrations, music festivals, and everything in between, there is no shortage of fun summer activities.

Visiting attractions right here in Indiana is easy, affordable and helps support the economy. In fact, Indiana welcomed 80 million visitors in 2018, generating more than $12.7 billion in revenue and helping Hoosiers save an average of $561 in state and local taxes per household.

Go to visitIndiana.com for trip ideas and information on lodging, events, attractions, restaurants and discounts. Copies of the festival guide, the 2019 Indiana Travel Guide and other helpful publications can be downloaded or mail-ordered for free at visitIndiana.com or by calling 800-677-9800.

Get out there and experience all our state has to offer. Stay safe and travel Indiana!

Connecting Educators, Students and Employers

Indiana has a challenge of filling more than 1 million jobs over the next 10 years. To help bridge the gap between when students leave the classroom and join the workforce, we are focused on better preparing young Hoosiers to hit the ground running.

How do we strengthen the connection between Hoosier employers and the classroom?

The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet worked with educators, counselors, business leaders, parents and the Indiana Department of Education to identify and recommend solutions. One recommendation focused on better ensuring our educators have opportunities to connect and collaborate with industry leaders to understand their needs for skilled workers and the changing job market.

When educators renew their licenses, they have four different options. They can complete six hours of college coursework, participate in the National Board Certification process, count other educational requirements for other concurrently held licenses toward the professional educator license, or develop a Professional Growth Plan. If a teacher chooses the PGP option, they must earn 90 professional growth points or hours over the course of five years.

Lawmakers supported the passage of a new law (HEA 1002), which says 15 of these 90 professional growth points must relate to a teacher’s community or the state’s workforce needs. The law does not take effect until July 1, 2019. Points can be earned through existing or new professional development opportunities like webinars and conferences provided by the state, or through more intensive experiences like business partnerships or externships. Teacher externships and industry learning are already commonplace in many areas around the state. This change only specifies how 15 of these 90 professional growth points are completed, and does not require teachers to earn additional points or dedicate more time for licensure renewal. Teachers who are currently renewing their license or begin the renewal process prior to July 1 will not be impacted by this change until the next time they renew their license.

By working together, educators will have opportunities to connect with business leaders to help ensure coursework is relevant for students and our young Hoosiers have the tools needed to be successful in a competitive job market. Click here to learn more.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Studies show that, outside of parents, high-quality teachers are the most significant factor in a student’s success. To recognize educators and their vital roles, the country is celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10.

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

This year, House Republicans enacted an honestly balanced state budget that includes a record investment of $763 million in new K-12 funding over the previous state budget. To directly support teachers, lawmakers included $37.5 million per year for Teacher Appreciation Grants to reward effective and highly effective educators.

The budget also includes a $150 million payment to an unfunded pension liability for Hoosier teachers, freeing up an estimated $70 million in annual savings to school budgets. Schools are strongly encouraged to direct these savings into increasing teacher pay.

Lawmakers also funded teacher residency programs to better prepare educators to enter the classroom on day one, as well as teacher career ladders that increase opportunities for professional growth and advancement. These programs will help prepare new educators and encourage highly effective teachers to stay in the classroom.

The General Assembly is fortunate to have the leadership and perspective of multiple educators as members of the House Republicans. As teachers or retired educators, Reps. Tony Cook, Wendy McNamara, Christy Stutzman, Jeff Thompson and Dave Wolkins 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!

Legislative Priorities Accomplished

House Republicans successfully advanced their top priorities as they wrapped up the 2019 legislative session.

The passage of a $34 billion balanced two-year state budget topped the list with a record increase in new K-12 education funding. Other priorities included increasing protections for Hoosier youth, strengthening the state’s commitment to students and teachers, better aligning workforce initiatives and supporting Indiana’s veterans:

  • House Enrolled Act 1001, the state budget proposal, maintains prudent reserves while providing a historic increase in K-12 public education by investing $763 million in new funding over the previous state budget. Lawmakers included $37.5 million per year for Teacher Appreciation Grants to reward effective and highly effective educators. The budget also includes a $150 million payment to an unfunded pension liability for Hoosier teachers, providing an estimated $70 million in annual savings to school budgets.
  • House Enrolled Act 1002 promotes early and continuing career exploration and navigation, reinvigorates career and technical education courses and encourages completion of certifications or postsecondary credentials.
  • House Enrolled Act 1003 strongly encourages schools to shift more existing and future dollars to Hoosier classrooms by setting a target for public schools to spend at least 85 percent of state funding on instructional and classroom expenses.
  • House Enrolled Act 1004 builds on Indiana’s already strong school safety policies by implementing recommendations from Gov. Eric Holcomb’s school safety report to improve physical security at schools and mental health resources for students.
  • House Enrolled Act 1005 moves up the appointment date of the school superintendent of public instruction to 2021 from 2025.
  • House Enrolled Act 1006 implements necessary reforms for the Indiana Department of Child Services in order to improve outcomes for the state’s most vulnerable children.
  • House Enrolled Act 1007 aims to engage more at-risk expecting mothers in early prenatal care, and requires medical providers to give verbal substance use screenings to pregnant women to improve and increase referrals to addiction treatment.
  • House Enrolled Act 1008 creates new professional growth and advancement opportunities through teacher career ladder models.
  • House Enrolled Act 1009 provides critical support for new educators by creating residency programs to pair new teachers with mentors in the classroom.
  • House Enrolled Act 1010 phases in a 100% income tax exemption for military retirement pensions.

The legislative session has concluded, but lawmakers will be busy in the interim preparing for next session. Stay up-to-date with your local representative by signing up to receive electronic newsletters.

Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Saturday, April 27, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day with many locations throughout the state accepting 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 can curb illegal drug use and theft. 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 21,480 pounds of prescription drugs.

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

Apply For On My Way Pre-K

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 by August 2019;
  • Child must be a resident of Indiana;
  • Child must start kindergarten in the 2020–21 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% of the federal poverty level.

Once the family has met eligibility requirements and been awarded a grant for their child, they may choose from any of the eligible On My Way Pre-K programs in their county. Families can search for approved providers here.

Giving kids a solid foundation for learning has been shown to help close an achievement gap that is often seen between students who do not attend early learning programs and their peers who do. House Republicans supported legislation creating the On My Way Pre-K pilot program and nearly 8,000 Hoosier children have benefited from the program since its creation in 2015. This session, state lawmakers are working on legislation to take this program statewide.

Grants will be awarded until all the available slots are filled, so be sure to apply early.

Improving the Crossroads of America

Nearly 200 communities across Indiana will receive state matching grants to improve local roads and bridges.

A combined $115 million was awarded to Indiana cities, towns and counties through the Community Crossings Matching Grant Program, which is now in its third year. The grants are a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2016, and are awarded by the Indiana Department of Transportation based on applications submitted by local officials.

These funds help communities address their immediate road-funding needs, like road and bridge preservation, road reconstruction and intersection improvements. With construction season kicking into high gear, INDOT and the Indiana State Police are promoting Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12.

INDOT offers these tips 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.

INDOT provides timely, accurate and relevant work zone information to travelers using the INDOT TrafficWise website, the INDOT Construction Map and Twitter updates. You can also download the INDOT mobile app for free through the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

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.

Expanding Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a pervasive problem throughout Indiana and the nation. Lawmakers are working to combat this serious disease and offer support to those who are suffering.

To assist Hoosiers in their fight to overcome addiction, legislation would help more people be admitted into inpatient treatment facilities. Under current law, those seeking treatment for addiction must be sober or in withdrawal, which may prevent some from getting help.

Oftentimes, a user may turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with asking for help or seeking treatment. This legislation would allow those ready to receive professional help to be admitted to treatment facilities – regardless of their sobriety – to better ensure they have an opportunity to overcome addiction.

Another bill would establish the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Center Grant Program. These grants could help recovery centers with community outreach, treatment and recovery efforts, and facility maintenance. Funds from this program would be administered by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction, and grants would be evenly distributed across the state.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call 2-1-1 or click here to connect with local resources.

To track these bills and others, watch committee meetings and view session live, visit the Indiana General Assembly’s website here.

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