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home : columnists : columnists July 25, 2017

Legislative session reaches the halfway point

By Kathy Kreag Richardson
Indiana State Representative, District 29

The 2017 legislative session reached the halfway point this week, marking a milestone for legislation as Senate bills move to the House for consideration and House bills crossover to the Senate. House Republicans made progress on our agenda priorities, including passing an honestly balanced budget and a long-term road funding plan. We also successfully moved bills improving Indiana's workforce, attacking the state's drug epidemic and increasing public safety through mental health and addiction treatment services.

Among the House bills the Senate will now be considering is one that works to attract, retain and improve Indiana's workforce. Although Indiana leads the nation for its business climate and regulatory environment, the state currently has a shortage of highly trained and skilled workers to fill the positions being created.

To prepare more Hoosiers to meet the needs of our employers, policymakers are working on a new measure that would create a Workforce Ready Grant for high-value certificates from either Ivy Tech Community College or Vincennes University. These grants would cover any remaining costs after state and federal financial aid is applied for students pursuing certification in high-demand, high-wage fields. The bill also seeks to increase enrollment in the Adult Student Grant, which encourages and helps adults go back to college to complete their degree requirements. A comprehensive workforce development plan will be established to restructure state programs specializing in this area, as well as a uniform metrics system gauging the state's return-on-investment for these programs. This will help the state determine which programs are effective and help identify areas that need improvements.

Senate members will also be examining a House bill that works to find new ways to address mental health and addiction issues. Sadly, newborns are victims of the growing drug epidemic. In fact, a hospital in Richmond reported that last year, three in 10 new mothers who gave birth there tested positive for illegal drugs. To help these young, innocent victims, we are working to include neonatal abstinence syndrome as a factor for determining if a child is in need of service. This would encourage the court system and the Department of Child Services to enroll more newborns in medication-assisted treatment, which uses a combination of medicine and behavioral therapy to treat addiction.

Expanding mental health and addiction treatment options to individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses is an important part of the state's effort to reduce recidivism and improve Hoosier lives. In Indiana, the Recovery Works program provides mental health and addiction treatment services to felons currently in the criminal justice system or at risk of being incarcerated for a felony. Since it began in 2015, the program has served over 6,400 Hoosiers, helping connect them with addiction treatment providers.

In order to continue decreasing the number of offenders who return to prison, our bill looks to provide these services through a pilot program to individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses. Connecting low-level offenders with Recovery Works earlier could prevent more serious offenses from occurring in the future.

These proposals are among the 164 House bills sent to the Senate for consideration. In the coming weeks, House members will also be examining 199 Senate bills. As the 2017 legislative session moves into its second half, be sure to visit iga.in.gov to watch committee hearings and session meetings. This is also a great site to visit to learn about all of the bills being discussed this session and see how members voted on proposals. For those who haven't signed up to receive my e-newsletters keeping constituents informed about what is going on in the General Assembly, visit www.in.gov/h29 or email h29@iga.in.gov.

Kathy Kreag Richardson is a Republican State Representative from District 29, which includes Noblesville, and has served in the legislature since 1992. She also is the elections administrator for Hamilton County. You may contact her at h29@in.gov.

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