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Around the House

Targeting IN’s Health Challenges

According to the United Health Foundation’s 2020 American Health Ranking, Indiana falls near the bottom in numerous health categories, including smoking rates, obesity rates, and multiple chronic conditions. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic made the public health disparities Hoosiers regularly face even more apparent.

To help more Hoosiers lead healthier lifestyles, House Bill 1007 would establish a new public health grant program aimed at providing funding to address multiple public health issues around the state. The Indiana Department of Health would administer these grants, prioritizing new and existing proposals that focus on tackling chronic health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

The proposed grant program, IN It For Health, is based on Indiana’s successful Safety PIN program, which provides funding to local health organizations to reduce Indiana’s infant mortality rate. Last year, through the Safety PIN and other programs, Indiana reached a record-low infant mortality rate for the first time in the state’s history.

To learn more about House Bill 1007, visit iga.in.gov.

Supporting Local Law Enforcement

This session, House Republicans are working on legislation to support local law enforcement, and boost accountability and transparency in policing.

House Bill 1006 would require full employment record sharing between police departments to identify bad actors, provide additional flexibility to the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board in order to address significant officer misconduct, and require de-escalation training for new recruits and current officers.

House lawmakers are also committed to investing in improved training programs and much-needed facility upgrades at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which hasn’t been updated since the 1970s.

Indiana’s public safety officials risk their lives to protect local communities, and they need the tools to continue keeping Hoosiers safe. Key supporters of the proposal include the Indiana State Police, Indiana State Police Alliance, Indiana Fraternal Order of Police, Indiana Sheriff’s Association, Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police, Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, Hoosier State Press Association, Inc., the Indy Chamber of Commerce and the Public Defender Commission. 

From improved training to increased accountability, these enhancements would help Hoosier police officers better serve and protect their communities.

House Bill 1006 passed out of the House of Representatives unanimously. The legislation now heads to the Senate for further consideration. To learn more, click here

When Families Choose, Students Win

For young Hoosiers, receiving a high-quality education can be a difference maker in their lives and lead to a successful future. Families across the nation celebrate Jan. 24-30 this year as National School Choice Week. The week represents the freedom and flexibility to choose a school that best meets the needs of all students.

Last year, Indiana ranked third in the nation for parent empowerment. The pandemic showed just how important providing flexible schooling options are for the many different academic, medical and social needs that students deal with on a daily basis.

Although Indiana currently has strong school choice programs, some students still don’t have effective education options available. Legislators have made it a priority this session to ensure more Hoosiers can exercise school choice.

Depending on a family’s income, students who attend accredited nonpublic schools can apply for a Choice Scholarship and be eligible to receive up to 90% of their tuition funding or as low as 50%.

House Bill 1005 would eliminate these financial barriers by providing 90% tuition support for every qualifying family and increasing the income threshold to help more Hoosiers. This proposal would also establish the Indiana Education Savings Account Program, which would provide eligible families funding to directly pay for tuition or education-related services from an Indiana school.

This legislation will be considered in the House Education Committee. Learn more about this bill and others at iga.in.gov. More information on National School Choice Week is available at schoolchoiceweek.com.

Lawmakers Help Hungry Hoosiers

Feeding America estimates more than 1 million Hoosiers are food insecure or at-risk of hunger, a number that has risen nearly 30% since 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many families – some for the first time – to turn to their local food banks and pantries for meals.

To help raise awareness about this issue, the Indiana House of Representatives is partnering with Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, the state’s network of Feeding America food banks, to launch a donation drive at the Statehouse during the 2021 legislative session.

Lawmakers and House staff will be collecting non-perishable food items like canned meat and fish, peanut butter, soup, healthy snacks, and canned fruits and vegetables. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry will distribute any donated food items collected at the Statehouse to their member food banks.

In 2020 alone, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry distributed 150 million pounds of food to member banks and food pantries, which is equivalent to 125 million individual meals. Because it is expected Indiana will continue to see high-levels of need through 2021, this partnership will help Feeding Indiana’s Hungry meet the needs of Hoosiers across the state and bring attention to food insecurity.

In addition to the donation drive, House lawmakers launched a social media campaign using #HelpingHungryHoosiers to raise awareness for the number of Hoosiers who are food insecure. Families in need can visit FeedingIndianasHungry.org to find support and resources.

Top Priorities For 2021 Session

House Republicans are hard at work on their legislative priorities for the 2021 session, including passing a responsible state budget, helping small businesses, investing in Hoosier students and supporting law enforcement.

Chief among these priorities is creating a fiscally responsible budget that makes key investments, while maintaining prudent reserves and our state’s AAA credit rating. Targeted investments include expanding rural broadband, so we can help close the digital divide for Hoosier students, workers and employers, and creating a new grant to help find solutions for Indiana’s most critical health challenges.

As businesses continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, providing civil liability protections for them, schools, health care entities and others will be critical to Indiana’s economic recovery. Additionally, enhancing the Small Business Restart Program would provide additional support to small businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, which has been hit especially hard over the past year.

House Republicans are committed to ensuring all K-12 public school students receive full funding for the 2020-21 school year, whether they attended classes in-person or virtually due to COVID-19. Lawmakers are also calling for a one-time grant to help children combat learning loss they may have experienced as a result of the pandemic. Legislation would also ensure more families can exercise school choice and provide their children the best education.

Proposed legislation would also support law enforcement, and increase transparency and accountability in policing. House Bill 1006 would require full employment record sharing between departments to help law enforcement identify bad actors. The Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board would also be given more flexibility to address significant officer misconduct. De-escalation training for new recruits and current officers would also be required. As part of the state budget, a one-time grant would create a program to help departments pay for body cameras for police officers.

As lawmakers take on these and many other important issues, there are multiple resources to help Hoosiers stay informed on proposals being considered.

Track legislation, and watch committee meetings and session live at iga.in.gov.

Keep up with what is going on at the Statehouse by signing up for your state representative’s email newsletter the bottom of the page at IndianaHouseRepublicans.com.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates.

Indiana releases COVID-19 vaccine plan

Indiana recently rolled out a plan to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, and Hoosier first responders, health care workers and those 80 years and older are currently eligible.

Visit ourshot.in.gov to find out if you are eligible, locate a nearby vaccination site and sign up for an appointment. Those who do not have access to a computer can call 211 to register from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily – including weekends.

This vaccine is administered in two doses, 21-28 days apart, and is available at no cost.

Family members can make appointments for loved ones who qualify. Individuals must bring their photo ID to the appointment. At the first appointment, Hoosiers will be required to schedule a time for their second dose.

The Indiana Department of Health will open up vaccinations by age group beginning with people 80 years old and older. Be sure to check ourshot.in.gov frequently for updates.

In addition to wearing masks and social distancing, the coronavirus vaccine provides another level of protection to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Have you already received the vaccine? Make sure you’re on the v-safe after vaccination health checker, a smartphone-based tool that checks in on you after the vaccine.

Local Communities Receive Road Funding

From Churubusco to Evansville and Crown Point to Madison, counties, cities and towns across Indiana recently received more than $101 million for road and bridge projects through the Community Crossings Matching Grant program.

A result of a 2017 law House Republicans championed, this funding is available through the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Eligible projects include:

  • Road and bridge preservation;
  • Road construction;
  • Intersection improvements;
  • Guardrail replacements;
  • Signage;
  • Americans with Disabilities Act compliance;
  • Chip sealing expenses; and
  • Crack sealing expenses.

Open to all local governments, the program is highly competitive. Each year there are two rounds of applications to spread out project proposals and allow more communities to apply. Click here for a list of recent recipients.

Cities and towns with a population less than 10,000 must contribute a 25% funding match, while larger communities must provide a 50% match. Half of the available funds must be awarded annually to municipalities with populations less than 50,000.

Applications for the first round of 2021 are now open. All materials must be submitted by 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 29. Communities receiving funding will be notified in late winter or early spring. Learn more about Community Crossings on INDOT’s website.

Preparing For The Next Step

Hoosiers with education beyond high school, whether a college degree or other form of credential, are best positioned to secure high-demand, high-wage jobs. In fact, those with additional education in Indiana earn up to $1 million more than those with only a high school diploma over their lifetime.

Our state is a popular destination for businesses to open up, bringing with them job opportunities and economic development. Your Next Step, a new program launched by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, is a one-stop-shop for resources in Indiana, helping Hoosiers take advantage of these opportunities and take the next step in their career, education and life.

Your Next Step offers support for Hoosiers at any stage of employment and education level to find a job in today’s market, like resume building, job referrals and placement assistance, and insight on local demand in certain fields. Experts are also available to help determine what education and training options are best for jobseekers and could be available for little to no cost.

Need some more help before you can focus on pursuing education and training? Connections to other support like health care, childcare and local resources are also just a few clicks away.

To get started connecting to resources and see if you qualify to earn your credentials for free, visit YourNextStepIN.org.

Nominate Local, Longstanding Businesses

Many Indiana companies have been contributing to the economy for more than 50 years, and some have been in operation for a century or longer. These local businesses provide much-needed jobs to Hoosiers, attracting top talent to communities and making our state one of the nation’s top places for business. Indiana honors these longstanding businesses through the Governor’s Century and Half Century Business Awards

These awards recognize Indiana businesses that have remained in operation for at least 100 or 50 years, respectively, and are committed to serving the community. Business owners can read through the program criteria here, and submit an online application here.

While applications are currently being accepted, processing and reviewing each submission begins in January 2021. At this time, awards are being assigned on a rolling basis, and applicants should not delay in submitting an application. The winners will be recognized for their accomplishments later in 2021.

The challenges businesses have weathered over decades, including during the past year, is an achievement worth celebrating. For more information about the program, qualifying criteria and to start an application, visit the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s website.

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