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State announces major broadband expansion

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently announced an initial round of broadband infrastructure expansion projects for several rural areas. It is part of the new state budget passed in the 2019 legislative session that all Indiana House Republicans supported.

The Next Level Broadband program awarded just over $22 million in funding for broadband expansion in 11 locations across Indiana. This will provide reliable and affordable internet access to underserved areas in 12 counties, including more than 4,800 homes and businesses.

Indiana’s Next Level Broadband program is a $100 million investment in ensuring rural residents are connected to dependable internet service, helping to close a digital divide with those who live in our urban centers.

For the first round of funding, telecommunications providers applied for up to $5 million in funding to expand internet service to unserved areas if they offered at least a 20 percent match. Unserved areas are defined as those that don’t even have one provider with internet speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload – considered the speeds necessary for the most basic service.

Seven providers and utility cooperatives pledged $14 million to match Next Level Broadband’s $22.1 million commitment, totaling just over $36 million in new internet service for the state. The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, tasked with leading the application process, selected 11 projects.

Those broadband expansions will result in internet service of up to one gigabyte, the highest download and upload speeds currently available on the market. Click here for more details.

The broadband infrastructure improvements are just one facet of Holcomb’s $1 billion Next Level Connections program. Other objectives include expediting major highway projects, generating more nonstop flights at state airports and expanding railroads in northwest Indiana. A commitment to providing superior infrastructure establishes economic opportunities for all Hoosiers.

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Stop for children, school buses

As children return to school and more buses are on the roads, it is important for motorists to know the laws and prioritize safety.

When a bus is stopped with its flashing red lights activated and its stop arm extended, drivers are required to stop when approaching a school bus from any direction. If motorists are on a highway that is divided by a barrier or unpaved area, they are required to stop if they are traveling in the same direction as the school bus. If there is no barrier, all lanes in all directions must stop.

While most drivers follow these traffic laws, there are still some who are either unaware or disregard the law completely. In fact, Hoosier bus drivers report an average of more than 2,500 stop-arm violations each day.

To keep young Hoosiers safe and hold motorists accountable, lawmakers passed a law increasing the penalties for individuals who fail to stop when a school bus stop arm is extended. Through the new law, the penalty for injuring or killing someone as a result of recklessly passing a school bus has been increased, which could potentially mean larger fines, and longer jail sentences for violators. A court can also suspend your driver’s license for 90 days, or for a year if it’s your second offense.

For the safety of both children and drivers, it is important to continuously watch out for school buses and the students around them as they return to the roads this month.

Click here to see helpful tips for motorists to best keep young Hoosiers safe.

2019 Indiana State Fair Kicks Off

For more than 165 years, generations of families have enjoyed the Indiana State Fair. From Aug. 2-18, this annual Hoosier tradition will again offer a vast number of activities for all ages to enjoy.

This year, the fair will focus on everyday Heroes of the Heartland whose exceptional commitment and caring enrich our lives without the benefit of capes, costumes or superpowers. These farmers, teachers, law officers, firefighters and members of the Armed Forces are our support and our strength. Click here to submit a photo of your Hoosier hero and to find the schedule of the fair’s cultural heroes.

For fans of comic-book super heroes, you can check out the Super City: Where Heroes Unite! interactive exhibit. Each day, a different super hero from either DC or Marvel comics will be available for daily meet and greets at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. A super hero virtual reality experience will also be available.

The Free Stage will feature a variety of musical acts including Ace Freely of Kiss, Air Supply, KC & The Sunshine Band, and Boyz II Men. The Hoosier Lottery Grandstand will also provide plenty of entertainment with a mixture of free and charged admission events. An illuminated tractor parade, hot air balloon launch, and traditional events like the high school band and cheerleading competitions, along with the tractor pull and rodeo are sure to be crowd pleasers.

Click here to check out other shows and competitions on the schedule.

There are over a dozen new foods to try this year, including bacon poutine, bison hush puppies and the trifecta hero dreamsicle.

If you’re planning to visit the Indiana State Fair, be sure to check out the promotional days and deals. Days dedicated to military personnel, first responders and other causes give guests the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets. Click here to view a full list of Indiana State Fair ticket deals.

Check out IndianaStateFair.com for more information.

*Photo attributed to the Indiana State Fair

Schools eligible for safety grants

Schools seeking additional funds for safety improvements can apply for the Secured School Safety Grant. Applications to receive funding through the program need to be submitted before Aug. 2 and can be found by clicking here.

Grants can be used for hiring school resource officers, conducting threat assessments, making safety improvements to buildings, and covering startup costs for “active event” warning systems to quickly notify emergency responders.

State lawmakers recently appropriated an additional $5 million to the fund, which now totals $19 million.

School safety is critical, and these grants help schools take important steps to protect students and foster a positive learning environment. From providing money to schools to update security to being prepared for active shooter scenarios, Indiana is addressing the issue from all sides.

Since being established under law in 2013, the Indiana Secured School Safety Grant Program has delivered more than $53 million in matching grants to Indiana school districts across the state.

Grant awards will be determined by Sept. 1, 2019.

To learn more about the program, access school safety resources, and to sign up for updates please visit: https://www.in.gov/dhs/securedschoolsafety.htm

Indiana top state for infrastructure

Indiana is home to more than 80,000 miles of highly traveled roadways, making it all the more important to maintain and preserve our roads and bridges. In recent years, House Republicans worked hard to support and improve our state’s infrastructure in a comprehensive, responsible and sustainable way. These efforts have paid off, as Indiana was recently ranked No. 1 in the country for infrastructure by CNBC.

In 2017, Hoosier lawmakers supported the largest, fully funded infrastructure investment plan in state history. This conservative plan ensures Indiana’s roads are paid for by the motorists who use them, without passing any debt to future generations. The plan also created the Community Crossings Matching Grant program, which awards millions of dollars each year to local communities for road and bridge improvement projects.

Though construction zones can be frustrating at times, our roads require ongoing maintenance to keep Hoosier motorists safe. To help Hoosiers navigate work zones, the Indiana Department of Transportation created a few helpful tools. TrafficWise gives information on traffic conditions, road closures and travel times, and CARS 511 shows road conditions, closures and width/weight restrictions. Both of these online resources, as well as other information on current road construction projects, can be found on the INDOT website. The state also has an INDOT Mobile app, available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Indiana’s commitment to improving our roads and bridges is working for Hoosier motorists and businesses. This recognition from CNBC highlights Indiana as a leader in infrastructure, and reinforces our reputation as the Crossroads of America. Click here to learn more.

Supporting Young Hoosiers with Disabilities

Oftentimes, parents or guardians of children with disabilities incur additional expenses, which can put a strain on the wallets of families just trying to do what is best for their child.

Indiana First Steps is the state’s early intervention system, which works to ensure all Indiana families with infants and toddlers experiencing developmental delays or disabilities have access to services like medical care, counseling, speech and physical therapy and more. Through First Steps, young Hoosiers with disabilities are provided the tools and support needed to more easily navigate their world and prepare them to live more independently today and in the future.

Families with children ages 3 and under who are experiencing developmental delays or have a diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay may be eligible for First Steps services. Families who qualify for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will be considered eligible for First Steps services, without having to go through additional application processes.

Under a new law passed this year, the Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services will review and revise their policy regarding make-up therapy sessions. Families will now be able to make up missed appointments, ensuring their child is not missing out on important care. Lawmakers also worked to streamline the application process for First Steps and the new two-year state budget doubled funding available for the program, helping more Hoosier children get the care they need.

These changes are just a few of the ways House Republicans continue to support young Hoosiers with disabilities and their families.

For more information on the First Steps program, visit the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration at www.in.gov/fssa.

Progress In Fight Against Opioid Epidemic

According to a new report from the American Medical Association Opioid Task Force, opioid prescriptions in Indiana decreased by 35 percent over the past five years, a sign of progress in the state’s efforts to combat addiction.

The opioid epidemic has impacted countless Indiana families, resulting in addiction and drug overdose deaths.

Prescribed opioids can be effective, but are also highly addictive pain relievers. In fact, many become addicted and turn to less expensive and easy to obtain heroin or other illegal drugs.

Through implementing commonsense solutions to mitigate this serious health threat, efforts to slow down the illicit use of opioids are paying off. Working to solve the opioid epidemic in Indiana is critical issue that could save lives, and first responders, lawmakers and organizations like the Indiana Commission to Combat Drug Abuse are working tirelessly to create a united front against the opioid epidemic.

By requiring doctors and pharmacists to check Indiana’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database before prescribing or dispensing an opioid, new laws have curbed drug users’ ability to illegally obtain multiple prescriptions. To help stop addiction before it starts, steps have been taken to limit the amount of opioids that can be prescribed to individuals.

These efforts, combined with stronger punishments for drug dealers and providing more treatment options for Hoosiers, are helping the state tackle this epidemic from all angles.

Still, too many are facing addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling, please connect with Indiana 2-1-1 for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit www.samhsa.gov.

To read the full report from the American Medical Association Opioid Task Force, click here.

Nominate An Exceptional Woman

Each year the Indiana Commission for Women recognizes Hoosier women who have been pioneers throughout their lives or who have stepped forward as leaders by breaking down barriers and overcoming obstacles.

The ICW created the Torchbearer Awards in 2004 as a way to honor the achievements of women who have contributed to making Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Nominations for the 2019 Torchbearer Awards are currently open. Click here to download a form to nominate an outstanding woman. All nomination forms must be received by the ICW no later than 5 p.m. on July 12.

Today, the Torchbearer Award is Indiana’s most prestigious recognition for women in the state. Recipients are women who helped remove barriers to equality and women’s full participation in all aspects of life, and who have created lasting legacies by overcoming immense challenges with courage, perseverance and compassion.

Recipients are selected based on their extraordinary contributions or achievements in the areas of their professional careers, community leadership or public service.

Click here for more information about previous winners.

Shop Local, Support Indiana Grown

Indiana farms produce some of the highest-quality products in the world, but less than 10 percent of food purchased in Indiana is sourced from within the state.

Purchasing locally made and sourced products helps keep money in communities and supports the economy. Often, local businesses purchase from other local businesses, and these funds help grow a region’s tax base. Schools, public safety providers and volunteer organizations throughout the state benefit from this economic growth.

To help Indiana farmers and producers have a greater market for their products, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture created the statewide initiative, Indiana Grown.

Indiana Grown helps provide a clearer designation of which products come from Indiana. By allowing members to use the Indiana Grown logo on their products, the initiative helps consumers easily identify these goods while they are shopping.

Certified Indiana Grown goods can be found in a variety of locations across the state, such as grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores and more. Throughout the summer and fall, local farmers markets are also a great place to find Indiana Grown products right in the neighborhood.

Today, there are over 1,100 Indiana Grown members, including farmers, distributors, producers, processors, wineries, breweries and artisans. It has never been easier to start shopping local.

Visit www.indianagrown.org to find a business or vendor selling Hoosier goods nearby, or apply to become a member. Farmers, producers, processors, artisans, retailers, grocers and restaurants can be a member or partner at no cost. As a certified Indiana Grown member, locally sourced products will be promoted and marketed through the program.

By purchasing more goods grown, raised, produced and processed in Indiana, consumers help keep dollars and food close to home, build sustainable communities and support fellow Hoosiers, while preserving the state’s agriculture heritage.

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