Lawmakers to Reconvene, Battles Begin

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The 2018 General Assembly will begin today with Organization Day at the Statehouse and the workforce remains a common talking point among influential members of both parties. Aside from Governor Eric Holcomb, only Senate Democrats have formally released their legislative agenda. Republicans, who again hold a super-majority in the House and Senate, and Democrats, who will soon have a new House Minority Leader with incumbent Scott Pelath (D-9) stepping down from the role, have used the days leading up to the first gavel to sound off on topics like jobs, education, voting rights and health care.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Senate Majority Floor Leader Brandt Hershman (R-7) said Indiana will use its fiscal position to its advantage in the legislative session. "I believe a lot of what we will look at will likely be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary," Hershman said. "We have made such positive progress in our business and tax climate. We have made such progress in our infrastructure, there are a couple of areas in which we obviously want to continue to improve and compete -- workforce being the number one of those issues as the governor has correctly pointed out."

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-16) says efforts to bolster the state's workforce need to go beyond efforts by legislators. "For a number of years now, we've been hearing from prospective employers in the state of Indiana that they need folks who have workforce skills and that just doesn't mean technical skills, too, it means those soft skills in terms of showing up for the job every day, being ready to work when they get there, passing drug screenings. So, I still think a lot of this goes back to education," he said. "I think the state's going to have to participate in that. I also think that the business community has to step forward, too, and be willing to make a commitment."

Holcomb's framework for the session discussed issues including "pillars" that address economic strength and diversity, infrastructure, "21st Century" job skills, attacking the state's drug epidemic and more emphasis on building the workforce pipeline. The Senate Democrats' INvision 20/20 plan focuses on goals the caucus hopes to accomplish by 2020, such as improving voter access and independent redistricting, adjusting to potential health care policy changes, implementing a bias crimes law and increasing the minimum wage.

Another topic expected to attract the public's attention is state alcohol sales regulations. Two of the state's most high-profile industry lobbying groups, the Indiana Retail Council and the Indiana Beverage Retailers Association, are now backing some form of Sunday alcohol sales, a stance echoed by the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, which is providing guidance to the General Assembly. The organizations still oppose expanded cold beer sales, an issue on which the commission did not reach a conclusion.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-16) says efforts to bolster the state's workforce need to go beyond efforts by legislators.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Senate Majority Floor Leader Brandt Hershman (R-7) said Indiana will use its fiscal position to its advantage in the legislative session.
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