The 2013 legislative session is heading into the final stretch. It is encouraging to see what legislation has passed through the General Assembly, especially bills promoting jobs and support for our veterans. One of our top priorities will continue to be our focus on bridging the skills gap in Indiana.
The federal government has continually mismanaged its budget, and that has affected many sectors, including the National Guard. Our National Guard is the fourth-largest in the United States, and we continually look out for our men and women who are selflessly serving in the Guard through legislation that will provide better training and job opportunities to assist Hoosier veterans in finding their career after service.
The federal budget, or lack of one, has put our National Guard’s funds in danger, and we must take notice. We have asked Hoosiers to serve our state and our country, but when they do the federal government has not held up its end of the agreement. The Army has reported that due to the national sequester the Indiana National Guard will have massive reductions. The impact will be seen through the loss of 227 jobs, $1.7 million in base operations reduction, $63 million in investment reduction and $3 million in project cancellations. Jobs are on the line here; 1,001 jobs will be furloughed, resulting in a loss of $6 million in pay.
This is wrong, and I am working to make sure our National Guard is secure during times of need. I am exploring Indiana’s financial options when it comes to National Guard funds, looking for ways to responsibly support their needs. The brave men and women serving our country deserve to feel a sense of financial security, knowing that they will be properly compensated and rewarded for their efforts. The Indiana House is actively working to pass legislation that will benefit our veterans.
A great piece of legislation designed to help veterans’ transition to civilian life is House Bill 1002, which creates the Indiana Career Council (ICC). The ICC is designed to increase coordinated efforts between the state’s education, job skills development and career training systems. The council will keep the Legislature updated throughout the year on ways to improve Indiana’s job skills training system.
A key seat at the table was created for the input and knowledge of veterans. The council will benefit from their perspective and guidance on how to bridge the divide from service to the private sector, expanding employment and training opportunities for current military service members and veterans. Indiana’s unemployment rate is double the national average for veterans. The bill received unanimous support from the House and was carried by all four leaders of the General Assembly.
Another piece of legislation that passed through the House with unanimous support was House Bill 1170, a bill promoting training for job skill advancement. The legislation focuses on expanding training assistance, giving more Hoosiers access to the training necessary for high quality jobs. HB 1170 will work with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to utilize training assistance for new or expanding businesses to train or retrain incumbent employees.
House Bill 1486 works to place veterans in an employment area with very high demand, emergency medical technicians. The bill would waive the application fee to the Emergency Medical Services Commission if a veteran has already met the requirements. Giving this access to veterans, many of whom are veterans of the medical field, will allow the state to properly utilize their skills.
These are just a few of the bills authored to assist Indiana’s National Guard and veterans. They have paid the price for our freedom, and we must honor that by helping them to land honest, high quality jobs when they leave the service. Indiana continues to post job growth that outpaces the national average.
We must take that job growth, learn from our success and transfer those results to create more veteran employment opportunities. I will continue to fight for Hoosier jobs and Hoosier veterans