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Third District Legislative Session held

By JENNIFER PERYAM - jperyam@h-ponline.com

Local and state officials addressed issues such as work force development and education during a Third House legislative session Saturday in Huntington. 

Huntington County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event at Huntington City-Township Public Library attended by 50 people.

Speakers were Mayor Brooks Fetters, State Senator Andy Zay (R-Dist. 17), State Representative Dan Leonard (R-Dist.50) and Huntington County Board of Commissioners President Larry Buzzard.

John Niederman, president and CEO of Pathfinder Services, Inc., served as moderator for the event.

Leonard said the state is at its halfway point in the session with 435 bills filed in the House and 450 filed in the Senate.

Accomplishments included the development of a funding formula for schools.

He said there is a workforce development bill that will attempt to reorganize the Department of Workforce Development and organize training programs.

“The state annually invests $1 billion in 30 different workforce development programs across nine separate agencies,” Leonard said.

Fetters said there is a strong and robust manufacturing base in Huntington.

“We work to make sure there are meaningful jobs for people who call this place home,” Fetters said.

Fetters observed that companies that come to Huntington County don’t come to pay taxes or to be philanthropic or to provide jobs -  they come to make a profit.

“Job one is to find meaningful jobs for our residents,” Fetters said.

John Niederman, moderator, asked the panelists their thoughts on Senate Bill 50 that would expand financial aid for job training programs.

Zay said workforce development is K-12 education.

“If we don’t have the buy-in working with our youth, we are slipping over helping them,” Zay said.

He said the Pathways to Education program needs to be figured out before moving on to the workforce development bill.

Buzzard said workforce development is critical to the growth of the county’s future.

“The Learning Center has been a phenomenal asset for those not seeking a college degree,” Buzzard said.

Fetters said schools are a big part of why people want to live in Huntington.

“Our public schools are a big part of people wanting to live here and in northeast Indiana. I want to see schools receiving the funds they need,” Buzzard said.

Leonard said 53 percent of the state budget goes to public education.

“People look at Indiana as being progressive and educating their young people,” Leonard said.

He said the state has a surplus of jobs and a low unemployment rate.