(NETWORK INDIANA)– Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb focused on Hoosiers’ job skills and turning back the opioid epidemic, in his State of the State address.
Holcomb boasts Indiana is “on a roll,” but says increasing the number of skilled workers will be “the defining issue of the decade.” He’s setting goals to increase the number of college dropouts, high school dropouts, and prison inmates gaining skills, and says the state is shopping military bases to lure troops approaching discharge. Holcomb says more job skills will not only increase Hoosiers’ earning power, but fill a desperate need among employers. He says employers have 85-thousand jobs they can’t fill, and notes the wave of retiring baby boomers means the number of openings will continue to swell.
Holcomb’s address tracked closely with the priorities he laid out in November, with job training and the opioid epidemic at the top of the list. House and Senate Republicans have split up some of those specific steps on their own legislative agendas, with the Senate taking on Holcomb’s call to require doctors and hospitals to check a statewide prescription database before prescribing opioid painkillers. The House is advancing Holcomb’s bill to add nine new drug treatment centers. And a Senate committee will hold its first hearing Wednesday on Holcomb’s call to require Indiana schools to offer computer science classes. Only about three in seven schools offer those courses now.
The governor is also calling for tougher sentences for dealing drugs that lead directly to a user’s death. renewing proposals he laid out in November to keep a closer eye on opioid prescriptions, get better data on overdoses, and add more drug treatment centers.
Holcomb acknowledged the controversy surrounding the Department of Child Services following the angry resignation of director Mary Beth Bonaventura. He’s pledging to keep legislators informed about the findings of an Alabama child-welfare organization hired to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency, and says he’ll “do whatever is necessary to ensure the success” of the agency.
Holcomb’s speech was full of numbers. He says he wants 35-thousand new job commitments this year, 25-thousand college dropouts reenrolling, and 30-thousand high school dropouts getting job skills. And he’s set a goal of moving Indiana from the worst infant death rate in the Midwest to the best within six years.
And the governor again made a pitch to declare the Say’s firefly Indiana’s official state insect. The firefly campaign has been a long-running project for several classes of students at a West Lafayette elementary school. Holcomb says the effort is a great way to involve students in the civic process, and “will bring attention to science and the outdoors.” He invited several of those students to watch the speech from his office.