The legislative season will officially get underway on Tuesday, November 21 when the Indiana General Assembly convenes at the Statehouse for its annual Organization Day. Two newly elected state representatives will be sworn into office, replacing lawmakers who stepped down during the summer. Dr. Shane Lindauer, a chiropractor from Jasper, fills the seat vacated by Mike Braun, who resigned to run for the U.S. Senate. Stephen Bartels of Eckerty replaces Lloyd Arnold, who was recently appointed director of law enforcement for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Bartels is owner of Patoka Lake Marina, a co-owner of Patoka Lake Winery and president of the Crawford County Council.
Following the one-day organizational session, lawmakers will return to the Statehouse on January 3 for the 2018 session. By law, the “short session” must conclude no later than March 14.
Governor Holcomb Announces 2018 Next Level Agenda
Governor Eric Holcomb has been traveling the state to roll out his 2018 Next Level Agenda, a five-pillar plan that defines focus areas for the upcoming 2018 legislative session. The plan places a strong emphasis on developing Indiana’s workforce and attacking the opioid epidemic. Some of the Governor’s proposals can be implemented by administrative action, while others will need legislative approval.
The five pillars are as follows:
- Cultivate a Strong and Diverse Economy: Creating an environment that attracts research and economic development, growing the tech sector, expanding economic development opportunities, and attracting new talent to the workforce.
- Maintain and Build the State’s Infrastructure: Expanding economic development, managing water resources and infrastructure, increasing the availability of affordable broadband services, and continuing priority infrastructure projects.
- Develop a 21st Century Skilled and Ready Workforce: Aligning workforce and education; ensuring that graduating seniors are prepared for college, career training, or a high quality job; and linking working-age adults to education and training that leads them to employment that matches the needs of the economy.
- Attack the Drug Epidemic: Requiring physicians to use the INSPECT program when writing prescriptions, increasing the number of FSSA-approved opioid treatment locations and improving the state’s reporting of overdose deaths.
- Deliver Great Government Service: Simplifying and streamlining the interaction process for citizens interacting with the government, implementing a new parent leave policy for state government employees to help retain and recruit employees, and continuing strong fiscal management and maintaining reserves at a prudent level.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, House Speaker Brian Bosma, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce have all voiced their support for Governor Holcomb’s agenda. House Speaker Brian Bosma said, “The Governor has put forth a bold agenda, and we look forward to working with him on workforce and other critical issues facing our state and finding the best solutions for all Hoosiers.”
Additional information about the Next Level Agenda is available here.
Interim Study Committees
The 2017 Interim Committees are coming to a close. Most committees will conclude and release their final reports and recommendations before Organization Day. Some committees, including the Alcohol Code Revision Committee, will release final reports and recommendations in late November and December. Here are some highlights:
- The Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code was charged with reviewing the implementation of HEA 1006, a massive 2014 law that overhauled criminal sentencing and aimed to reduce recidivism by using evidence-based best practices to treat the root causes of crime. The panel’s final report found that while HEA 1006 had resulted in savings, additional action is needed. Recommendations include:
- Scaling up substance abuse treatment programs and problem solving courts at the local level to break the cycle of recidivism.
- Establishing secure treatment facilities in different regions of the state for persons who are charged with a crime and are diagnosed with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.
- Extending support services for persons with mental illness and substance abuse disorders who have been charged with a misdemeanor.
- In its final report, the Interim Study Committee on Education urges the Indiana Department of Education to seek a waiver from certain requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in order to avoid a sharp decline in graduation rates.
Under ESSA, a state’s graduation rate is based on the diplomas earned by a “preponderance of students,” which means the Core 40 diploma in Indiana. However, there are currently more than 8,000 Hoosier students – approximately 12 percent of all graduates — who earn a general diploma. If those students are not counted as graduates, high schools throughout Indiana could face consequences under state and federal accountability laws. IDOE has drafted a waiver request, and is currently taking public comment.
- The Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services unanimously approved two draft measures for introduction in the 2018 General Assembly. Under one proposal, the Indiana Department of Health would be required to collaborate with the Family & Social Services Administration to develop a strategic plan to identify and significantly reduce the prevalence of diabetes. The other measure approved by the panel is aimed at alleviating Indiana’s nursing shortage and increasing the number of nursing faculty by establishing a loan repayment program for nurse instructors.
Information about all of the 2017 interim study committees can be found at https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2017/committees/interim.