Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's priorities for the 2018 legislative session aren't what you might hear from the legislators and lobbyists.
Holcomb said he would defer to legislators on whether to legalize Sunday retail alcohol sales, permit cold beer sales at locations besides package liquor stores, and allow Hoosiers to carry handguns without a state license.
Alcohol issues like these have been contentious ever since the repeal of Prohibition came on Dec. 5, 1933.
And even though Indiana might end state licenses for carrying handguns, federal laws would still apply.
Instead, Holcomb's priorities are, for the most part, on game-changing efforts. His focus is right where it should be, primarily on strengthening the economy.
DRUG EPIDEMIC: The state's opioid abuse crisis requires quick, effective action. Holcomb is proposing both tougher criminal penalties and increased opportunities for drug treatment, depending on the situation. He wants prosecutors to be able to file murder charges against indidividuals who manufacture illicit drugs that result in a user's death. He wants coroners to broaden drug screening on overdose victims to get a better grasp of Indiana's drug problem. He also wants treatment to be available within an hour's drive of all Hoosiers.
RAIL PROJECTS: Holcomb has long been a supporter of the two big passenger rail projects in Northwest Indiana — double-tracking, so trains can move quicker between Gary and South Bend, and extending rail service to Dyer in the West Lake Corridor project. As The Times reported Sunday, traffic on Region roads has increased 40 percent in the past decade. Part of easing gridlock, and growing population here, is improving commuter rail service. Holcomb wants to continue the commitment to state funding as a part of the mix for the projects' costs.
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, has been a champion of improving the state's water resources and infrastructure. Holcomb is solidly on board, urging the creation of a multiagency working group to develop asset management plans for high-need water and wastewater utilities.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: Recognizing the need to better prepare young people from future jobs, Holcomb named former LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo his first secretary of career connections and talent. Indiana's low educational attainment level has long been a drag on economic development and per-capita personal income. Preparing working age adults as well as students for industry needs will be key. Among specific targets for Holcomb are requring schools to offer at least one computer science course and strengthening STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — curriculum.
There are other details in Holcomb's agenda, but the aim is right where it should be — on improving the economy, shoring up infrastructure and making government responsive, efficient and effective. That should be the General Assembly's aim as well.