Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb looks ahead as he faces his final year in office

NOW: Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb looks ahead as he faces his final year in office

Facing a term limit barring him from re-election, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb will leave the statehouse at the end of 2024 after eight years in office.

Looking back at his accomplishments in a sit-down interview with ABC57 News, it’s no surprise the first thing he wanted to talk about was the monumental investment coming to the Hoosier State.

“I think we've taken the state to the next level in many different respects,” Gov. Holcomb said.

Over the last two years, Indiana has attracted more than $50 billion of economic development, with $28.7 billion in 2023. It’s a 29% increase from the previous $22.2 billion record set in 2022.

“We're now punching way above our weight class in terms of state competition,” Holcomb said.

The Governor believes the state is primed for more major announcements over the next few months. Much of the money from these investments, Holcomb says, is being dedicated to improving health care.

In 2023, the $7 million state spending jumped to $225 million over the next two years.

St Joseph County alone will receive roughly $3.3 million dollars in health funding in 2024, and as much as $8.4 million if the county opts in for funding in 2025.

“When you stop and think about it, we'll be investing more in a county as we did the whole state,” Holcomb said.

According to the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana has an infant mortality rate 20% higher than the national average. And currently has the third-highest maternal mortality rate.

Critics believe the near-total abortion ban Governor Holcomb signed into law, which is being contested in court, will only hurt the Hoosier States' struggling health rankings, despite the new funding.

It prohibits abortion care except in limited cases of rape, incest, or when there’s a fatal fetal anomaly.

“This will be challenged through the courts, rightly so. And as personal and painful as those [cases] may be for those individuals, they will have long-lasting obvious effects on the citizens of each of those different states where this is now being decided,” Holcomb said.

When asked whether the legislature should clarify the exemptions, Holcomb said, “we have a judiciary for a reason”.

“We’ll let the process play out.”

To address infant and maternal mortality rates, the Governor said part of his job this year is educating Hoosiers on health programs for new and expecting mothers.

But the legislature's impact on healthcare extended past abortion restrictions.

Hoosier lawmakers introduced two dozen bills in 2023 targeting LGBTQ youth, teens, and adults.

The ACLU of Indiana called it the “Slate of Hate”.

Legislation that Governor Holcomb signed into law includes a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, and a ban on gender-affirming surgery in prisons.

When asked whether the government should be making health care decisions, Holcomb said yes.

“We elect representatives to reflect those not just opinions, but in, in some cases, convictions,” Holcomb said. “And that's the beauty of our process is having elections right after… a lot of these big decisions are being made and votes are cast.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, gender affirming care can range from counseling, to changes in social expression, to medications like hormone therapy. While actual surgery is rare for people under the age of 18.

It's supported by the overwhelming majority of mainstream medical organizations including the American Medical Association, The Endocrine Society, and American Academy of Pediatrics, as a relatively safe, effective, and medically established standard of care.

“We have all kinds of laws that apply to minors and adults that are different from one another,” Holcomb said. “And in this example, the legislature and I signed into law, [we said] wait till you're an adult before you make a permanent decision like that.

“All sides were heard. Votes were cast. Law was made. And now, if you want to take a different approach, come back again this session."

The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit in 2023, which has at least temporarily stopped the ban on puberty blockers and hormones for transgender minors while the case goes through court.

Restrictions on gender-affirming surgery have gone into effect.

With a shortened legislative session, Indiana Republicans haven’t signaled any new legislation targeting the pride community in 2024.

Looking ahead, Holcomb wants to focus on quality-of-life investments that keep Hoosiers in the state and attract future residents to Indiana.

“I hope we continue to invest in local communities in creative ways, developing partnerships with locals and regions,” Holcomb said. “[2024] will be a year of land and launch. that means finish what we've started.”

Governor Holcomb says he has not decided what’s next in his career, or whether he’ll even stay in politics.

The Indiana legislative session starts January 8th.

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