TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Governor Eric Holcomb unveiled his 2020 Next Level Agenda today during a trip to Terre Haute. Among the governor’s priorities are enacting legislation to curb distracted driving, raising the age requirement for buying tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21, and redesigning the state’s prison education system.
In a news release, Holcomb said Indiana has become a “destination of certainty and stability,” however more work needs to be done.
“As I travel the state, I hear people concerned about rising health care costs, the increase in youth vaping, and our education and training systems,” Holcomb said. “My goal is to listen and lead by finding solutions to build a bolder, brighter future. These aren’t just lofty goals – they are obtainable solutions to improve the lives of Hoosiers around Indiana. We are on course, full steam ahead, for our state to become the absolute best place in America to grow as an individual, a family, a business and as a community.”
The Next Level Agenda includes five “pillars” that lay out the governor’s legislative and administrative priorities for 2020.
Cultivate a strong and diverse economy
- Transforming how Indiana tells its story with the launch of the newly-established Indiana Destination Development Corp. to attract more jobs, talent and tourism.
- Build a 21st Century defense innovation ecosystem, which the governor says will triple federal defense investment in Indiana by 2025.
Maintain and build the state’s infrastructure
Connect Hoosiers with reliable, safe and swift infrastructure connectivity through the $1 billion Next Level Connections program by:
- Expanding broadband service to unserved areas in Indiana
- Grow the state’s system of trails
- Create more nonstop international flights
The governor says his agenda also focuses on preserving Indiana’s highways and decreasing distracted driving. The latter, Holcomb says, will be accomplished by enacting a hands-free device driving law.
Develop a 21st century skilled and ready workforce
- Continue to make finding long-term sustainable solutions to improve teacher compensation a top priority by supporting the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission.
- Identifying unfunded mandates and unnecessary requirements in K-12 education for elimination in 2021
- Holding schools harmless for ILEARN scores
- Changing career-related teacher professional growth points from required to optional
- Redesigning our prison education system to better prepare Department of Correction offenders to re-enter society.
Public health and the drug epidemic
- Raising the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 and enhancing enforcement to prevent underage buyers.
- Providing healthcare price transparency for consumers via an “All-Payer Claims Database,” protecting consumers from surprise medical bills, improving mental health services at schools and hospitals, and incentivizing more community paramedicine programs.
- Adding more recovery housing for Hoosiers coping with substance use disorder.
- Protecting pregnant workers by providing more workplace accommodations, in an effort to become the best state in the Midwest for infant mortality by 2024
Deliver great government service
- Simplifying how Hoosiers reach out for health and human services assistance by integrating the 2-1-1 helpline into FSSA call centers.
Holcomb’s office says the 2020 agenda saves Hoosiers more than $125 million in borrowing costs by using $300 million in cash now to fund capital projects. You can learn more about the 2020 Next Level Agenda by clicking here.
Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) released a statement after the agenda was unveiled:
“There is much here that deserves full consideration by the General Assembly in the 2020 session. Improving mental health services at our schools and providing health care transparency are issues that House Democrats have supported in the past and will continue to support into the future.
“However, as teachers across Indiana made clear on Organization Day, we cannot afford to wait on issues that seriously impact the quality of education provided to young people across Indiana. Yes, we should pursue ‘hold harmless’ legislation, but we also must explore the obsession with testing pursued by this Governor and the Republicans that has led us into this mess. Yes, we should scale back excessive training that hinders a teacher’s ability to do his or her job, but we must also scale back on the Republican obsession with putting unnecessary roadblocks in front of those teachers.
“While the governor and the Republicans may want to wait yet another year on raising teacher pay, the teachers who came here on Organization Day and House Democrats believe we cannot wait one more day to do what’s right. House Democrats believe paying teachers a fair and decent wage is more important than building a hog barn, and we intend to take every chance to debate and vote on this issue in 2020.
“Indiana House Democrats intend to pursue a Hoosiers First agenda that includes making health care more accessible and affordable, providing children with quality care that their parents can afford, investing in public education, giving teachers the pay raise they deserve, and ensuring that our children can go to school to learn in a safe environment. We will pursue this agenda throughout the 2020 session.”
Indiana Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Kevin Brinegar released the following statement on Holcomb’s agenda:
“The Governor is focused on the policies that will have the greatest impact on Hoosiers and their employers. You can’t ask for more than that.
“We are encouraged by the forward-looking approaches Gov. Holcomb has put forth to keep our economy strong and grow talent.
“We are especially pleased that the Governor has continued to make the health of Hoosiers a priority. Raising the smoking and vaping age to 21 is one important step we can do to combat the recent vaping illnesses and deaths, as well as the state’s high smoking rate. With the Governor championing this policy, in addition to all the other groups, it strengthens the effort and should move us across the finish line.
“The Governor’s push for better broadband connectivity statewide is critical; this is a big issue for businesses and communities wanting to attract talent. We’ve made strides in getting broadband to all corners but in many places the speed of use still needs to greatly improve. The infrastructure focus from Governor Holcomb is a welcome sign that this, as well as our highways, will get more attention.”