Bosma: Major changes to state workforce system likely must wait

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Tuesday that lawmakers, despite proclaiming that revamping the state's workforce development efforts was their major issue this year, wouldn't tackle the majority of needed changes to the system until next year.

His comments came a day after the Indiana House passed a workforce development bill that didn’t go as far as he and other advocates wanted in terms of fully retooling the system.

“I think we’re teeing it up for a major retooling next year,” Bosma told reporters.

That is likely to frustrate some advocates in the business community who believe lawmakers have toiled long enough on the workforce development system, making incremental changes year after year.

But Bosma said lawmakers were making some “effective changes now,” including giving the Indiana Economic Development Corp. more oversight of grants.

House Bill 1002, which passed out of the chamber, 70-24, directs all corporate income tax dollars to workforce training, a tenet that may face some scrutiny in the Indiana Senate, where the bill heads next.

The bill's author, Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said the bill “seeks to begin … bridging the gap of students, employers and workforce programs.”

The bill also requires the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency to "conduct a systematic and comprehensive review, analysis, and evaluation of each workforce related program” over the next the five years, and again for the five years starting after 2023.

He said the goal was to "constantly get feedback on the success of those programs."

Originally, Huston wanted all workforce programs to sunset in 2019, putting in a deadline for the state to review all of them to determine what was working and what wasn't.

But Huston faced pushback from the people in charge of and benefiting from some of those programs, including the apprenticeship and adult basic education programs.

"We're not going to start with as clean a sheet of paper from statute as maybe we intended," Huston.

The major negotiations over the currently proposed changes for the workforce system are still to come. Bosma told reporters last week that he anticipates discussions on workforce coming down to the wire as lawmakers continue to hash out their differences.

On the other side of the Legislature, the Senate has passed Senate Bill 50, which will now head to the House.

That bill, passed Tuesday, 45-3, contains major differences from the House bill.

Among other changes, it requires Gov. Holcomb to appoint a new “secretary of workforce training,” allows the IEDC to give relocation tax credits to employees who relocate to Indiana to take jobs “not likely to be filled by current Indiana resident,” and establishes a bill that could allow some students to take a fifth year of high school in order to obtain a credential or post-secondary degree.

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