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4/15 Torchbearer Weekly Policy Update

Thank you letting us be your trusted source for local, state, and federal policy updates. Let’s dig in …

  • Biden’s Student-Loan Plan Seeks to Slash Debt for 30 Million Americans
  • New Statewide Testing is Coming for Some Indiana Babies and Toddlers
  • Central Indiana Receives $45 Million in READI Grants
  • Holcomb to Lead Six-Day Trade Trip to Brazil, Mexico
  • Indiana AG Files Lawsuit Against 22 Companies Over ‘Forever Chemicals’
  • SkyWater Backs Out of $1.8 Billion West Lafayette Project
  • Share the Torchbearer Newsletter with Your Network!
  • Important Dates

Let’s dive in.

Biden’s Student-Loan Plan Seeks to Slash Debt for 30 Million Americans


The Biden administration announced its plans this morning to forgive more student loans.

Who will benefit?:

  • Borrowers who have been paying their loans for 20 years.
  • Borrowers with “runaway interest.”
  • Borrowers experiencing hardship.
  • Borrowers who attended schools deemed low value by the Department of Education.

How broad is this?: Biden’s plan could cut debt for roughly 30 million Americans, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Any expected hiccups?: Yes, the plans will almost certainly be challenged in court if finalized.

New Statewide Testing is Coming for Some Indiana Babies and Toddlers


Indiana is expanding access to early learning assessments to measure students' skills before kindergarten and provide interventions if necessary. All schools and early learning providers will administer the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and the Indiana Student Performance of Readiness and Observation of Understanding Tool. These tests aim to not only evaluate skills but also provide support when needed. The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment will be given in the first six weeks of kindergarten and will be featured on the Indiana GPS Dashboard. The ISPROUT assessment, based on educator observations, will be administered to preschoolers and babies/toddlers. The assessments will be provided at no cost on an opt-in basis.

Why it matters: The expanded assessments play a crucial role in ensuring that children are adequately prepared for kindergarten. They help identify areas where intervention is necessary and guide early support measures. This information matters to all stakeholders involved in early childhood education, including teachers, parents, and policymakers, as it helps create targeted interventions and improve outcomes for children.

The big picture: The assessments contribute to a broader understanding of children's readiness for kindergarten and early learning. By measuring skills and evaluating progress, education officials can identify trends, allocate resources effectively, and implement evidence-based strategies to improve educational outcomes for young children.

The bottom line: Indiana's expansion of early learning assessments signifies a commitment to ensuring that children have a strong foundation before entering kindergarten. The assessments provide valuable data to inform educational practices, support individual student needs, and improve overall outcomes in early childhood education. (Chalkbeat)

Central Indiana Receives $45 Million in READI Grants


State officials on Thursday awarded $500 million in grants to support community projects, including $45 million for central Indiana.

Why it matters: Though our region was one of six that received the top award tier, leaders called it a "drop in the bucket."

Driving the news: Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. released the second round of READI grants Thursday — a highly anticipated announcement from a popular government program.

  • All 15 regions received an award, ranging from $10 million to $45 million.

Friction point: When state leaders announced there would be a second round of the program, they said the maximum grant would be $75 million — an increase over the $50 million ceiling in round one.

  • All 15 regions requested the maximum award.
  • "We set a very high bar and every region cleared it," Holcomb told reporters after the announcement, which made it hard to stretch the $500 million across the state.

What they're saying: "We represent a third of the population in Indiana and 39% of the GDP in Indiana," said Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, who chairs the Central Indiana Regional Development Authority board. "We're up to 25 cities. So, the challenge we have now is going back and saying, 'OK, $45 million across millions of people … How are we going to accomplish that?'"

The big picture: The universally liked program started with $500 million in 2021, which required the same 4:1 dollar match as the latest round, and has led to more than $10 billion in investment.

  • It's similar to the state's Regional Cities Initiative from 2015, which awarded three regions $42 million each for economic development projects and was also widely considered successful.

How it works: Each region submitted a proposal that the IEDC evaluated for regional collaboration, economic development potential, the degree to which applications focused on rural communities and alignment with the state's economic development priorities.

  • Central Indiana's proposal was a framework built around the theme "Main Street Matters," to promote the development of walkable and connected districts to attract talent, create "hubs of innovation" and link arts, culture and recreation.

Reality check: While working on the application, CIRDA received pitches for more than 120 projects from member communities.

The other side: What may be more exciting than the grant itself, regional leaders said, is the relationship that's been built among central Indiana communities.

  • "We're exploring all kinds of opportunities and we're not going to be defined by one grant cycle," Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen said, "but rather this collective effort."

What's next: Another $250 million in associated grant dollars, provided by the Lilly Endowment, has yet to be awarded.

  • David Rosenberg, Indiana's commerce secretary, said the IEDC will meet with regions soon to discuss what projects might fit the focus of the Lilly grants, which aim to reduce blight and promote the arts. (Axios)

Holcomb to Lead Six-Day Trade Trip to Brazil, Mexico


Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb will lead a delegation to Mexico and Brazil for an economic development trip next week. The delegation will focus on building relationships in agriculture and biosciences.

Why it matters: This trip is important for the state's economy and highlights the potential for collaboration and trade opportunities. It is especially relevant for the agriculture and agbiosciences sector, which contribute significantly to Indiana's economy.

The big picture: Trade between Indiana and Brazil reached $1.7 billion in 2023, with strong economic ties. The relationship with Mexico is even larger, with $13.4 billion in trade last year. Exploring further trade and investment opportunities is crucial for both countries.

The bottom line: Gov. Holcomb's trip aims to strengthen economic ties, promote innovation, and encourage mutual investment. It highlights the significance of agriculture and agbiosciences for Indiana's economy and the global economy as a whole. (IBJ)

Indiana AG Files Lawsuit Against 22 Companies Over ‘Forever Chemicals’


The Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against 22 companies for manufacturing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that pose a toxic threat to Indiana’s water and resources. These chemicals are used in non-stick cookware, carpets, clothing, and firefighting foam. The lawsuit alleges that the companies knowingly ignored the health risks and continued to sell PFAS products. Attorney General Todd Rokita emphasized the need to raise awareness and combat the spread of these harmful chemicals.

Why it matters: The information is crucial for all Hoosiers to understand the risks associated with PFAS contamination in their drinking water and the environment. This lawsuit aims to hold the companies accountable and secure compensation for affected individuals. It serves as a reminder of the importance of regulating and reducing harmful chemicals that can have long-lasting effects on public health and natural resources.

The big picture: PFAS contamination is a widespread environmental issue, affecting various locations in Indiana and beyond. The lawsuit highlights the broader concern of companies prioritizing profit over public safety and environmental responsibility. It brings attention to the need for stricter regulations and better safeguards to protect communities from hazardous substances.

The bottom line: The Indiana Attorney General is seeking damages, investigation, and remediation of PFAS-contaminated sites, as well as an injunction against future use of PFAS. This lawsuit sends a strong message that companies must be held accountable for the environmental impact of their products, and is a step towards ensuring the safety and well-being of Indiana residents. (IBJ)

SkyWater Backs Out of $1.8 Billion West Lafayette Project


SkyWater has released its option on land planned for a $1.8 billion research and development facility at Purdue University. However, the company will maintain a partnership with research opportunities at Purdue. SkyWater decided to reassess its plans for new fab construction in Indiana, while the state's microelectronics industry continues to grow. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation expressed its commitment to SkyWater's growth once the federal process is finalized. SkyWater remains focused on growing the microelectronics ecosystem in the U.S., including Indiana.

Why it matters: The revised plans for SkyWater's facility impact the microelectronics industry in West Lafayette. The decision to reassess construction plans indicates a shift in priorities for the company. This information is important for the microelectronics industry and regional economic development. (WTHR)

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Important Dates:


Wednesday, April 17 - State and Local Tax Review Task Force @ 10am

Tuesday, May 14th - Technical Corrections Day