Many of us begin the year by setting goals and work to achieve them in the following months. House Republicans used the same concept when we outlined our 2015 legislative goals focusing on the state’s budget, education, ethics and public safety. Now that the legislative session has come to a close, I am proud to say these goals have been accomplished.
The most important bill that affects all Hoosiers is our state’s biennial budget. House Republicans crafted an honestly balanced budget that does not increase taxes on Hoosiers or place an unsustainable financial burden on future generations. Additionally, the budget maintains our state’s healthy reserves and protects Indiana’s triple-A credit rating.
The 2016-2017 biennial budget appropriates $8 million to the University of Southern Indiana for classroom renovation and expansion and dedicates $25.2 million for the Indiana University School of Medicine, Evansville-Institutional Health and Sciences Center. Our focus to funding higher education is a top priority to ensure that all Hoosiers have the opportunity to further their education.
The state’s budget also funds a variety of public safety initiatives including domestic violence, infant mortality and prison overcrowding. Domestic violence is an issue affecting Hoosiers from across the state. House Republicans teamed up with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence to raise awareness and support for this devastating issue. I am proud that we are able to support this cause and help victims by allocating $10 million to the funding of domestic violence treatment and prevention over the biennium.
This session we also worked to combat the issue of infant mortality. Studies show that lack of prenatal care and smoking during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and preterm labor. Indiana ranks 45th in the nation for highest infant mortality and this session the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) Grant Program was established to address that statistic. The program will incentivize individuals and organizations to develop innovative plans to reduce Indiana’s infant mortality rate. Additionally, the grant program will give preference to proposals that target those causes in an effort to combat this problem in the most effective way possible.
We consider many different pieces of legislation throughout session, and unfortunately not all of them become law. One such example is House Bill 1206, a bill I authored to open Wyandotte Cave to the general public during the summer months of 2016. The bill was introduced in the House and was assigned to the Natural Resources Committee. The bill then was sent to the Ways and Means Committee where language from the bill was inserted into the biennial budget. I am pleased that Wyandotte Cave has received $1.7 million for facility upgrades. I hope that this funding will lead to the reopening of the national landmark in the near future.
It is work like this that makes me proud not only to be a Hoosier, but to represent our community. For more information on the legislation that was passed this session, please visit iga.in.gov.