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Weekly Statehouse Update: Syringe Exchange Extension Possible, State Of Higher Education


Accommodations for pregnant employees are unlikely to be restored. A one-year extension for Indiana’s syringe exchange programs is possible. And a bill to eliminate the state’s remaining township assessors is dead.

Here’s what you might have missed this week at the Statehouse.

Pregnancy Accommodations

There’s a patchwork of state and federal laws that govern how pregnant women are treated in the workplace. Legislation to help ensure accommodations for pregnant employees was gutted in the Senate this session. And House leaders this week indicated they’re unwilling to do more than study the issue this summer.

Syringe Exchange Program Extension

House leadership does want to restore, at least in part, legislation that would have extended Indiana’s syringe exchange programs. State law eliminates the programs – in nine counties – in July, 2021. A Senate bill would have extended them indefinitely but 27 Senate Republicans rejected it. House leaders say they’ll look for a compromise – likely a one-year extension – to keep the programs alive.

Township Assessor Elimination Halted

And a Senate committee halted a bill to eliminate the state’s 13 remaining township assessors. Most of those local positions were removed more than a decade ago by the General Assembly. But voters in 13 of the largest townships in the state voted to keep theirs. The Senate committee didn’t even take a vote on the bill, with its chair indicating there simply wasn’t support for it.

Indiana Commission for Higher Education “State of Higher Education”

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education unveiled its latest strategic plan Tuesday during the annual State of Higher Education address. 

Commissioner for Higher Education, Teresa Lubbers, has long highlighted higher education's role in addressing Indiana's workforce needs, and at this year's annual address, her message focused on how higher education has to change with an increasingly diverse state to accomplish some lofty goals. 

Two Bills Aim To Tackle Dicamba Misuse

Two bills working their way through the Indiana legislature would increase penalties for farmers and others who misuse pesticides. One aim of the legislation is to stop a controversial weed killer from drifting off of fields and killing neighboring crops. 

The state has gotten so many complaints about dicamba drift that farmers must stop applying certain dicamba products on soybeans starting June 20.

bill in the House would also set up a point system that would increase fines for repeat offenders. The companion bill in the Senate doesn't have this provision.

NAACP Weighs In On Coal Closure Bill

The Indiana NAACP says keeping coal plants open longer would negatively affect the health of low-income and minority communities in the state. The group has asked lawmakers to vote down a House billthat could delay coal plant closures. 

The bill would require the state to review a plant closure, hold a public hearing, and issue a report on whether or not the closure is reasonable. Lawmakers also added a provision that would help former coal miners in Indiana find jobs.

But La'Tonya Troutman with the LaPorte County branch of the NAACP, says low-income and minority groups that live near these coal plants are often neglected.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.