Indiana Chamber CEO and Noblesville resident Kevin Brinegar braved knee surgery recovery to present the 2018 Legislative Session Dec. 8 at Conner Prairie in Fishers.
Brinegar addressed the upcoming legislative session, but said he expected the 2018 session to be relatively quiet. He opened the event with results from a statewide poll of Indiana voters regarding business, government and more. The poll was completed last month.
One of the poll questions was: What is the most important issue facing Indiana?
“We wanted to see what was on voters’ minds,” Brinegar said of the survey.
In response, 15 percent of Hoosiers claimed the most important issues facing Indiana was education/schools, 14 percent voted economy/jobs, 8 percent said health and welfare and 6 percent said transportation growth.
Other poll questions showed the majority of Hoosiers supported a fuel tax increase for road funding, alcohol sales on Sunday and cold beer sales and raising the cigarette tax to discourage smoking.
2018 Legislative Session:
Brinegar outlined the major highlights for the upcoming 2018 Legislative Session, which included the topic of placing more focus on K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses statewide.
“We are pleased the governor is talking about computer training courses for K-12, and we would like to openly see a course requirement in high school (for computer training),” Brinegar said. “We don’t take course requirements lightly because we know there are enough of them already and time is the most valuable resource in the K-12 setting. We are not talking a high level, but introducing kids to coding, introducing how to use Microsoft office products, like PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets. I know many, if not all, schools in Hamilton County have those courses already available, but that’s not the case in many places around the state.”
During a question-and-answer period, Westfield Chamber of Commerce President Jack Russell asked Brinegar where he saw agricultural courses integrating with STEM programs, providing Beck’s Hybrids as an example of county agriculture ties. Beck’s Hybrids is a seed company based in Atlanta, Ind.
“It definitely needs to be a part of (STEM),” Brinegar said. “Indiana is an agricultural state, and Beck’s Hybrids is an amazing facility with incredible technology and research going on in the agricultural field, and it’s a great place for young people who are achieving STEM degrees to go into. It’s not your grandfather’s farm anymore for sure.”
Another topic included increasing the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 to discourage smoking amongst high school students and to reduce the number of lifelong smokers.
“The vast majority of people who smoke throughout their lifetimes start before age 21,” Brinegar said. “If (the requirement) is 21, you won’t have 18-year-old (students) in high schools hanging out with 15-, 16-, 17-year-old (students). We will reduce our smoking rate. We want the cigarette tax to increase, but that is more likely to happen in 2019 than 2018.”
Other 2018 Legislative Session items Brinegar previewed include civil justice regarding transparency in asbestos claims, better planning for a statewide water and wastewater plan and offering a workshare program to employers.
For more, visit iga.in.gov.