Opioids, Alcohol, Training on Legislative Slate

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(Image courtesy of the State of Indiana.) (Image courtesy of the State of Indiana.)

A political observer says, while this year's Indiana legislative session could be more routine than past years, some major issues will be on the table. WIBC/Network Indiana Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman says workforce development, alcohol laws and the battle against the opioid epidemic will be among the top topics on the legislative agenda. The session gets underway Wednesday with some notable absences, including State Senator Brandt Hershman (R-7), who is resigning after 18 years and Rep. Mike Braun (R-63), who is running for U.S. Senate.

A successful session for legislators, he says, will take a "do no harm" approach. "In 2018, if they get out of there without anything blowing up that they would have to explain between then and election day, I think they'll be happy," Berman told Inside INdiana Business Multimedia Journalist Mary-Rachel Redman.

Workforce development has long been an issue in Indiana, with some companies reporting challenges finding qualified employees for available openings. It has not gone unnoticed by Governor Eric Holcomb, who in July hired former La Porte Mayor Blair Milo as Indiana's first secretary of career connections and talent. She is tasked with working with businesses, trade associations and colleges and universities to identify employer needs and help connect workers with training opportunities to meet those needs. In August, Holcomb and Milo unveiled the $20 million Next Level Jobs program to support training efforts.

Indiana's alcohol laws took the statewide spotlight once again in November when the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers and the Indiana Retail Council agreed to support legalizing carry-out Sunday alcohol sales, while opposing the expansion of the sale of cold beer. Days before, Ball State University released results of a survey suggesting a majority of Hoosiers support both Sunday and expanded cold beer sales.

Opioid misuse, as is the case nationally, has become an epidemic in Indiana. In addition to the human toll, the 2018 Indiana University Kelley School of Business pegged the issue's economic cost at more than $1 billion per year. One of Governor Holcomb's first acts in office was to task former Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana Chief Executive Officer Jim McClelland with leading the state's fight against drug abuse. In October, Indiana University announced its third $50 million Grand Challenges initiative would focus on the addiction crisis.

WIBC/Network Indiana Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman says a successful session for legislators will take a "do no harm" approach.
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