Panel of Indiana representatives participate in legislative update | Local News


The Hendricks County Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee recently offered a virtual legislative update.

“We want to educate our community about current public policy and we’ll continue to follow up, with a second legislative update on Feb. 17,” said Jean Renk, chair of the Public Policy Committee.

The host of the session was Caryl Auslander of Torch Bearer Public Affairs and the panel included State Representative Craig Haggard, State Representative Becky Cash and Senator Brian Buchanan.

Haggard represents District 57, including areas of Plainfield, Mooresville and Camby.

Cash represents District 25, including the north part of Brownsburg and a portion of Boone County, and Buchanan represents district seven, including Lizton, Pittsboro, a portion of Brownsburg and a large portion of Zionsville.

Main topics included healthcare, education and childcare issues.

“Mental health is a big priority,” Cash said. “Rep. (Greg) Steuerwald has a bill dealing with the fact that we closed these mental hospitals many years ago and rightfully so, however a large portion of our jails … hold people with mental health issues. This bill will open mental health regional centers and provide healthcare evaluations so people can get treatment when needed.”

Cash has another bill regarding mental health that would allow private mental health organizations to apply for the same grants as public organizations.

Buchanan said Indiana is among the top ranked in the U.S. for economic opportunities but among the bottom when it comes to healthcare.

“We have several bills revolving around the cost and access of mental healthcare,” Buchanan said.

When it comes to education, the panel had several bills pending.

“There are specialist shortages in trade labor and not just any one specific industry,” Haggard said. “We want to look at retention and bringing people back to Indiana. We’re looking at some of the ways our kids are taught in the classroom and opportunities for training and internships so we can funnel them into the workforce and they’ll have a job when they get out of school.”

Cash is working on several bills, including a relationship with the Arc of Indiana.

“We’re looking at tax credits for those businesses that hire people with special needs. Another one involves high school students able to obtain scholarships, certifications and apprenticeships out in the field. Statistics show that if students had more hands-on experience, they may have not dropped out of higher education courses,” Cash said.

Childcare issues have recently risen to the top of the agenda, particularly since the pandemic, and Auslander asked each member of the panel to share their response to solutions.

“I think one thing we can all agree on is that quality pre-K education and childcare is very important,” Buchanan said. “Just talking to employers, it can be hard to get people to work because if you have a couple of kids in daycare, there’s not much left at the end of the week in your paycheck. We need to look at how to make it more accessible but also ask what the state’s role is in this. We need to find a middle ground.”

Cash said she can see the correlation between employment and childcare needs as well.

“Clearly, the supply isn’t there to support the need,” she said. “We have a huge workforce issue and we talk about transportation and workforce development but childcare is going to be a big issue there as well. Maybe we should look at incentivizing child care credits. We could potentially see high school students graduate with a childhood education certification. If we increase the competitiveness in the childcare industry, we will also lower the cost.”

Both Cash and Haggard are new to the delegation and updated listeners with their impressions of their first weeks in session.

“I’ve had two full careers already and this is exciting to me,” Haggard said. “I’m passionate about this and to be a part of the whole process, I think is really important. I’m trying to meet every person I can and so many senior Senators and lobbyists have been very helpful. We have a lot of access to great advice and good direction.”

Cash said the mentorship and help from her peers was immeasurable.

“I’m very blessed. It’s nice to see these smiling faces and colleagues are always checking on us,” she said. “I’m sure we can all say it would be impossible to do this job on your own. The work we’re doing is so important. I wouldn’t say it was ‘fun’ but I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

The next legislative session update will be offered Feb. 17. More information is available on each Hendricks County Chamber website.

To reach representatives, visit the websites at,, or for Indiana senators.

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