Indiana House Republicans plan to focus on remaking high school education, trying to lower health care costs and creating affordable housing in the 2023 session.
The proposed high school changes in HB 1002 would put a greater emphasis on work-based learning – things like apprenticeships and internships. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) also stressed the need for flexibility.
“Whether they’re going to go into a post-secondary workforce program, whether they’re going to go to a 2- or 4-year college, that we can get them the skills that they need to begin to be impactful in the workforce,” Huston said.
The caucus plan would allow more work-based learning to count towards a student's graduation requirements.
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The House GOP will also take aim at high health care costs, an area where Indiana continues to lag. Huston says HB 1003 and HB 1004 will try to increase competition in both the provider and insurance marketplace, as well as force more transparency in prices charged by non-profit hospitals.
“You know, if you’re above a certain price, that there be penalties,” Huston said.
Republicans will also prioritize putting money into communities to increase affordable housing. HB 1005 would build on some of the recommendations from last year's housing task force.
Under the bill, communities with 50,000 people or less would get 70 percent of the funding the state puts into a new affordable housing fund. And money from the fund would be prioritized for communities that relax zoning standards on things such as higher density developments, garage size, off street parking and design standards.
The House Republicans' agenda also includes a shift in mental health care treatment and expansion of the state’s private school voucher program.
Improving mental health care is a priority for both chambers this year. The House GOP’s angle will focus on the criminal justice system. Huston said HB 1006 will aim to divert people with mental health issues away from jails and into local treatment facilities.
“There’ll be additional cost, but we think the cost of treating somebody is far better than the cost of incarcerating somebody,” Huston said.
House Republicans will also continue a more than decade-long effort to continue providing more families with public dollars to attend private schools. The current income limit is about $83,000 a year for a family of four. Huston said that could increase.
“We believe – and I’ve always been, I think, consistent in that ... that parents should have an opportunity to send their kids to a school that best meets their needs,” Huston said.
Spending on school vouchers has grown from $16 million in the 2011-2012 school year, the program's first, to more than $240 million in the last school year.