Workforce, Liquor Laws May Dominate 2018 Session, Local Lawmakers Say
By Mike Perleberg
(Left to right) State representatives Randy Frye, Randy Lyness, State Senator Chip Perfect, and Steve Wolff with Barnes and Thornburg LLP. Photo by Mike Perleberg, Eagle Country 99.3.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Road infrastructure funding was resolved last year. Casino gaming revenue was put to bed for a while, too. So what issues will local lawmakers take up when the Indiana General Assembly meets for its 2018 session?
Plenty, lawmakers told attendees at the Dearborn County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Pre-Legislative Luncheon presented by CalComm Indiana. The conversation with southeastern Indiana’s state representatives and senator was held Wednesday at Ivy Tech Community College’s Lawrenceburg Riverfront campus.
State Sen. Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) reviewed Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s Next Level legislative agenda, focusing his attention on the governor’s desire to see the improved development of a 21st century skilled and ready workforce.
“The main thing, in my opinion, moving forward the next number of years is workforce development and how we sort of swing the pendulum back to saying there are really good careers that young people can move into with some technical education like you might receive at Ivy Tech,” said Perfect, adding that four-year degrees don’t suit everyone.
According to the governor’s office, by 2025 there will be 1 million job openings in Indiana due to retirements and the creation of new jobs. State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) said workforce development is a huge issue that must be tackled now.
“One of the things we don’t do well is move fast. We don’t do anything quickly in the general assembly… …We have to be looking down the road five, six, 10 years because it takes us a long time to get something solved,” Frye said.
State Rep. Randy Lyness (R-West Harrison) explained that he’s been a so-called “silent partner” with other area lawmakers while working in Indianapolis.
“There are 270 companies coming to Indiana which are going to create 27,000-plus jobs. That’s what they’re estimating, so finding the workforce is a challenge,” Lyness said.
Lawmakers are also likely to continue approving measures to help address the state’s opioid epidemic. If that problem can be solved, it may help meet Indiana’s workforce needs.
“We’ve got to get everybody back pulling the wagon,” Perfect added.
State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) highlighted his work at the statehouse during the 2017 session. The Indiana Community Crossing Grant Program awarded $150 million to local governments statewide for road and transportation improvements. As a co-author of the legislation and a member of the House Roads and Transportation Committee, Frye said he was able to help secure $7.4 million from the program for his district, House District 67 – a statement which drew applause from the room.
Frye highlighted a local infrastructure and job-creation project that appears in Holcomb’s agenda: the proposed fourth port on the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg. He spoke about Ports of Indiana’s pending acquisition of 725 acres eyed for the port facility for $8 million.
“Moving along, we’re going just like we want to go. Right on target,” said Frye, adding that he contacts Gov. Holcomb almost daily about the proposed port.
The legislators fielded questions from the audience. One of the first questions went to the possible legalization of retail alcohol sales. An interim study committee has been meeting this year, with two more meetings scheduled before the 2018 session starts, and has recommended Indiana dump the Prohibition-era law banning Sunday alcohol sales. State Senator Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, plans to introduce legislation in 2018 doing just that.
Frye said Indiana’s liquor law has not been overhauled since the 1930s. As lawmakers did with the state’s criminal code a few years ago, he believes lawmakers should remake the alcohol code from the bottom up.
“We got here by putting band-aid on band-aid,” said Perfect.
One attendee was Dan Valas from Great Crescent Brewery, a small craft brewer in Aurora. He spoke about his frustrations with being unable to compete with Ohio and Kentucky breweries on promotions. He blamed lobbyists from major distillers like Anheuser-Busch for keeping antiquated liquor laws in place.
“We bring tourism and jobs. It’s just silly,” Valas said.
Frye suggested Valas come to Indianapolis during hearings on the proposed Sunday sales bill and provide testimony about his frustration with the current alcohol code.
Lawrenceburg Mayor Kelly Mollaun asked about legislation on the casino gaming front. Steve Wolff, a lobbyist with Barnes and Thornburg LLP used by the City of Lawrenceburg and Dearborn County, said any proposals will likely be focused on an Indian reservation casino in northern Indiana.
State Sen. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) plans to file a bill to remove a requirement for Hoosier gun owners to receive a concealed carry permit. Each of the three local legislators reserved their thoughts on the bill until they see what language the bill contains once, and if, it passes committee.
Frye and Perfect said they have bills they expect to file at the start of the 2018 session. Frye, a retired firefighter and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee, said he will introduce a bill to encourage first responder agencies to evaluate the cancer risk and mental health of firefighters.
Perfect, owner of Perfect North Slopes, said he may file a bill to remove the requirement for a work permit for children under the age of 18.
“One thing I’ve found frustrating as a person who employs a lot of minors, is that we have rules and regulations that send the wrong message to our kids that absolutely serve no purpose whatsoever, that are rooted in the ‘30s much like our alcohol laws and today it makes no sense,” Perfect explained.
“We should send the message that it’s a good thing if you go to work.”
Lyness said he does not feel pressured to put his name on a piece of legislation.
The 2018 legislative session will begin at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday, January 2. Lawmakers must adjourn by March 15. It is being called a “short session” because lawmakers do not have to pass a new biennial state budget.