By RON GROOMS
The 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly has come to a close and several newly enacted laws will take effect in the coming months. True to our Hoosier priorities, lawmakers advanced measures to keep taxes low for Indiana families and small businesses, strengthen our work force and promote safe, healthy communities.
It was certainly a productive session — the hallmark of which was the final passage of our state’s next two-year budget. While fully funding vital state services like road infrastructure and education, the budget returns hundreds of millions of dollars in tax relief to Indiana residents. This includes a 5 percent income tax cut and the immediate elimination of the inheritance tax.
These tax cuts will give families some breathing room, put hard-earned Hoosier dollars back into the economy and allow employers to grow and hire. I believe the budget will have far-reaching benefits not only for our state and local economies, but for every Hoosier household.
From July 2011 through the first quarter of 2012, Clark and Floyd counties both enjoyed significant net job growth. I only expect these numbers to increase as new low-tax, job-friendly policies take effect.
To promote job growth in Southern Indiana, I authored Senate Enrolled Act 535 this session enabling Clark County to establish a South Central Regional Airport Authority and giving local redevelopment commissions the opportunity to provide revenue to the authority for economic development purposes, if approved by commission members.
Such an authority will help the airport remain a vital component of Southeast Indiana’s transportation network and attract new business development to our growing Port of Indiana Jeffersonville and River Ridge Commerce Center. Additionally, I hope this new law will pave the way for a partnership among the airport, River Ridge and the State of Indiana to provide a road directly connecting the airport with this important industry hub.
The legislature took other steps this session to promote job creation at the state level by addressing the skills gap that many employers cite as a barrier to growth. Any Indiana employer can now apply for a state grant from the Skills Enhancement Fund to train employees with the most up-to-date job skills.
Of course, the most fundamental job skills are taught in our K-12 schools. That’s why I supported Senate Enrolled Act 465 to establish regional Indiana Works Councils designed to oversee career and vocational education programs in high schools. These councils will help connect employers and industry professionals with educators to make sure our students are graduating with the skills required to fill a 21st-century job. Among the councils’ goals will be providing more students with internship opportunities and classes taught by job-certified instructors.
As always, educating our children is one of our state’s primary focus points, and as such, education funding accounts for more than half of all General Fund spending in the budget. Lawmakers increased funding for remediation programs to make sure students aren’t falling through the cracks, established a $4 million grant program for Pre-K education and restored cuts made to education during the worst of the recession.
Alongside tax cuts and education advancements, one of my goals this session was to tackle drug abuse and other health concerns that threaten our communities.
I’m particularly grateful for the passage of my legislation to provide oversight for prescribers of controlled substances, like hydrocodone and oxycodone. These prescription drugs are being overprescribed, abused and sold illegally at ever-increasing rates. According to a survey conducted by the federal government, Indiana is one of the higher rated states for prescription drug abuse.
These drugs are highly addictive and can lead to fatal overdose when taken unnecessarily. To curb this epidemic, Senate Enrolled Act 246 calls on Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board to develop statewide standards and protocol for the prescribing of these drugs. SEA 246 also gives Indiana’s Attorney General more tools to investigate clinics that are suspected of overprescribing controlled substances and fueling addictions.
I worked on many other health-related bills this session — several of which were designed to promote affordability and greater access to health-care services. One such initiative, House Enrolled Act 1464, gives pharmacists the authority to administer four new immunizations: pneumonia (for individuals at least 65 years of age); tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap); meningitis and human papillomavirus (HPV). This new law gives Hoosiers the flexibility to visit a local pharmacy for physician-ordered immunizations while ensuring that all procedures are carried out under strong standards and protocol.
Hoosiers have a great deal to look forward to in the coming years — lower taxes, a state government that continues to operate within its means and stronger, more vibrant communities. As we head into the summer months, please stay in contact and let me know your ideas for how to improve our state and community. You can contact me by email at Senator.Grooms@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467. It was an honor to represent you in the Senate this year.
— Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, is an Indiana state senator in District 46.