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.