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Around the House

Spurring Economic Growth In Hoosier Communities Large And Small

To further accelerate and spur Indiana’s economic growth, the next two-year state budget invests $500 million in the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI. Through this bold, transformational program, neighboring counties will team up to strategically promote and make their communities a magnet for top talent and new jobs.

Our state is in a strong financial position to make this large and beneficial investment on behalf of Hoosier communities large and small. This program is expected to have a significant return of investment of at least $2 billion in public, private and philanthropic match funding.

READI builds on the framework of the successful Indiana Regional Cities Initiative and the 21st Century Talent Initiative, which encouraged communities to team up on economic development efforts. Through READI, the state will provide competitive grants to regional counties, cities and towns working on a shared vision of their future and mapping out programs, initiatives and projects to retain today’s talent and attract the workforce of tomorrow.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. will oversee the program and provide grants of up to $50,000 as regions develop plans, which could include infrastructure projects, workforce programs and revitalization efforts. Funds can also support multi-year programs, including talent attraction initiatives, public-private partnerships to advance innovation and small business support services.

Now through July, Indiana counties, cities and towns are encouraged to coordinate and self-identify proposed regions. The IEDC will be hosting informational meetings across the state in the coming weeks.

We are READI for economic growth, and this responsible funding approach will transform all corners of our state and ensure small, local communities are part of Indiana’s long-term success. Learn more about this innovative program at iedc.in.gov.

Supporting Those Who Protect Us

Indiana House Republicans are celebrating National Police Week, and we thank our state and local law enforcement officers who risk their lives each day to protect all Hoosiers.

Our hardworking public safety officers deserve our support, and Indiana’s next two-year budget makes strong investments on behalf of the men and women who serve our communities.

The biennial budget dedicates $70 million to improve state training facilities and enhance programs and provides $3.5 million yearly for local law enforcement training grants. These additional funds will help our officers be better prepared for the situations they encounter to keep themselves and Hoosiers safe.

A new $10 million grant program will help local police departments purchase body-worn cameras, and legislators invested $20 million of federal stimulus dollars for the Indiana State Police to purchase body cameras. These devices increase accountability and transparency within policing, and also help maintain and strengthen relationships within communities.

Additionally, the budget provides salary increases for our state police, conservation and excise officers. We also invested $3 million to help expand the High Tech Crimes Unit Program so more crimes can be solved by using digital evidence, and $5 million annually to support the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force, which helps get dangerous criminals off our streets.

When our law enforcement officers have the tools, funding and training resources they need, they can better protect all Hoosiers and themselves. We thank our law enforcement officers across the state who make Indiana a better, safer place.

This week, four Indiana officers who died in the line of duty will have their names engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. To Joseph Fishback Sr., Te’Juan Johnson, Breann Leath and Kenneth Lester, we honor your service.

Click here to learn about other virtual events throughout National Police Week.

Celebrating Visit Indiana Week

Hey Hoosiers, it’s Visit Indiana Week and time to kick off the summer travel season!

With 24 state parks, 15 state forests and 11 state historic sites throughout Indiana, now is a great opportunity to get out and explore our state.

Grab your Indiana State Nature Passport and check-in at 1 of 59 locations before May 8 to be eligible for prize packages. At the conclusion of Visit Indiana Week, Saturday, May 8, one lucky person will win a grand prize that includes a 2021 State Park Pass, $50 gift card for camping and a subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine.

Don’t have an Indiana State Nature Passport? Don’t worry, it’s free and easy to sign up. Just click here and be on your way to winning prizes when checking into 59 Hoosier outdoor locations.

Be sure to mark June 5-6 on your calendar for free admission to state parks, recreation areas, forests and reservoirs, and free fishing days on public waters.

Beyond our state’s natural beauty, check out Indiana’s attractions, shopping and agritoursim.

During Visit Indiana Week and beyond, let’s get out and explore all corners of Indiana. From the Hoosier National Forest spanning nine counties in South Central Indiana, to the Indiana Dunes State Park with three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, adventure awaits.

Visitindiana.com is ready to help Hoosiers get out and explore our great state. To learn more and start planning your next adventure, click here.

Investing In Students, Educators

Indiana is making an unprecedented investment in K-12 education in our next two-year state budget. Half of all state spending is already dedicated to K-12 education, and Indiana is investing a historic $1.9 billion in new money over the biennium. These additional dollars include $600 million annually to increase teacher pay.

Our investment fulfills and exceeds the $600 million needed to meet the governor’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission‘s recommendations to make Indiana’s teacher pay more competitive. With this additional funding, locals should be in a strong position to raise minimum starting teacher salaries $40,000. To ensure our investment is being used to support students and teachers directly, schools are required to dedicate at least 45% of tuition support to teacher pay. If these benchmarks are not met, corporations must report to the Indiana Department of Education or apply for a waiver.

In addition to raising teacher pay, lawmakers furthered their commitment to students and teachers by appropriating $150 million to establish the Student Learning Recovery Grant program, which will help students who have fallen behind their peers due to COVID-19. Increased funding will be available for special education grants and complexity grants to help Indiana’s most vulnerable students. In addition, career and technical education programs will continue to be supported, providing students opportunities to pursue trade occupations while in high school. Non-English speaking programs will also see increased funding over the next two years. Each year, $1 million will be allocated for the teacher residency grant program, and $37.5 million will be available for Teacher Appreciation Grants, which reward highly effective and effective educators.

With these record-breaking investments in public school funding, lawmakers also expanded our School Choice Scholarship Program, which removes financial hurdles for families who want to choose the best educational fit for their child. In addition, lawmakers created the Indiana Education Scholarship Account to empower parents with special education students to select a school that meets their unique needs. 

This historic state funding is on top of the $2.8 billion in federal money sent to Indiana schools.

This new budget is a huge win for Hoosier students and teachers, and it is thanks to Indiana’s conservative leadership and strategic investments over the last decade. While the state continues to prioritize K-12 education, the next budget also reduces taxpayer-funded debt by over $1 billion, provides opportunities for future tax cuts and reforms, and makes critical investments in infrastructure, broadband, mental health and law enforcement. Click here to learn more about the next two-year budget.

Propelling Our State’s Economy Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic left many states in a precarious financial situation. Not Indiana.

Thanks to strong, conservative leadership, the Hoosier state was able to manage the economic fallout from the pandemic better than most. A year ago, Indiana’s unemployment skyrocketed to over 17%, but now we’re at 3.9% – well below the national average of 6.7%.

Still, many small businesses and low-wage workers have been negatively impacted over the last year, especially those in the tourism and hospitality industries. The Indiana General Assembly will use part of a projected revenue increase of more than $2 billion over the next two years, as well as $3 billion in emergency federal funding, to support small businesses and workforce training, and position Hoosier communities for economic development and growth.

A new law invests $60 million to bolster the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant. Administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the program provides eligible businesses a grant of up to $50,000 to cover a portion of business and payroll-related expenses. Information on the grant program can be found on the IEDC’s website under the “COVID-19 Updates & Resources” banner at the top of the web page.

To prepare Indiana for the future, the state will invest $500 million in the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative so communities can work together on innovative policies to spur continued economic development and attract new residents.

Lawmakers allocated $75 million to establish the Career Accelerator Fund for educational programs that train Hoosiers for high-wage, high-demand jobs. Another $34 million goes to the Next Level Jobs program that offers tuition-free training grants for residents with a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as $6 million for Workforce Ready Grants. These strategic investments, while continuing to maintain prudent reserves, keeps Indiana’s economic momentum on the right track. Click here to learn more.

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.

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