November signals the start of Indiana's next legislative session. On November 19, lawmakers will convene at the Statehouse for "Organization Day" to kick off the 2014 General Assembly.
Though largely ceremonial, Organization Day provides legislators an opportunity to meet with fellow lawmakers and staff, bring their families to the capitol, and begin preparatory work for session such as filing bills. It's an important time to get together before the holiday season is in full swing.
Come January 6, the Senate and House of Representatives will begin official legislative business. This includes hearing bills proposed by General Assembly members, vetting issues in committee, and voting on potential new laws.
It's certain to be another noteworthy year for the Indiana legislature and I will continue to focus on job growth, strengthening our state and local economies, improving our schools and protecting taxpayers.
A number of issues are already on the docket for the upcoming session.
Weighing heavily on everyone's minds is how the federal Affordable Care Act is affecting Hoosiers. We have all seen the news reports describing the damaging effects of the Obamacare roll out. Perhaps you've witnessed them firsthand.
The insurance-exchange website has been simply unusable. People have been finding out they cannot keep their old insurance plans, even if they want to. Some Hoosiers have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket. What's more, faced with immense new taxes to help pay for Obamacare, health-care systems like Indiana University Health and Franciscan Alliance have announced layoffs or reduced workers' hours. It's been a huge disaster to say the least.
During the summer and fall months, legislators have been studying what flexibility Indiana has under Obamacare to advance our own health-care policies that protect Hoosier pocketbooks, promote fiscal responsibility and don't inflict damaging taxes upon job creators. Ultimately, we hope to put patients in charge of their options instead of encouraging more government intervention.
During the 2014 session, my colleagues and I remain committed to offsetting Obamacare's harm as best we can while advancing policies that actually improve health-care access and affordability for Hoosiers.
Lawmakers are also gearing up to discuss ways to improve Indiana's education system.
In the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly halted the state's implementation of the nationally created Common Core State Standards to allow for more input from parents, students, teachers, administrators and other experts. Public hearings were conducted over the past few months to help us decide if Common Core advances the best educational standards for our students, or if state-created standards would be better for Hoosier classrooms.
Under Indiana law, the State Board of Education has the ultimate authority to decide what standards Indiana schools will implement going forward, although the legislature may weigh in on this issue.
In addition, Governor Mike Pence has made workforce training and vocational education a key part of his executive agenda to help prepare Hoosiers for employment. I would expect the General Assembly to consider new initiatives during the 2014 session that focus on making sure Indiana has a highly skilled and trained workforce that is ready to fill the jobs of the future.
The General Assembly is sure to address several other topics impacting Hoosier businesses, workers and families. We will continue to support policies that reduce red tape for small businesses, encourage employer expansion, help returning veterans, promote a world-class transportation system and more.
I'm confident that we are in the right path to improving our communities and grow Indiana's economy.