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STATE HOUSE–It’s not very often you hear where state lawmakers could save a life with what they do in their legislative session. But, Gov. Eric Holcomb hopes to accomplish that with some possible new laws on screening for lead poisoning and digging into the causes of why some babies die in their first year.

For kids in some parts of northwest Indiana, lead poisoning is a fact of life. Some of them live on superfund sites, where huge factories ended up putting dangerous chemicals and metals into the ground before projects were built on top.

“We want to require those health providers to offer blood lead screening for those individuals who are 9 to 72 months old,” said Holcomb.

The hope is that finding lead poisoning early will help doctors treat it earlier and prevent problems for those kids.

“We’re in a bit of a hit and miss approach right now,” he said. Under the plan, parents would be able to opt out, but the option would be there, required by law.

State Rep. Eddie Melton, a Democrat, praised Holcomb, a Republican, particularly for some of the health measures that are proposed. Melton represents part of the area where superfund sites have caused problems.

“I’m glad to see that the Governor made it a priority to strengthen early learning opportunities, connect educators with available jobs and implement universal lead testing for students,” said Melton, of Gary. “I was also pleased to see his goals to attract more remote jobs to Indiana and to bolster our tax credit incentive programs by making them more flexible. These are all items that will help our state, and they also align with legislation I will be introducing on behalf of my district.”

The governor is also proposing that the state take a more aggressive approach to finding the causes of the deaths of some infants and babies “by requiring a more comprehensive autopsy process for sudden unexplained infant death investigations”.

“This is going to make a difference,” said Holcomb. “It may seem like a small item. But, any time you’re talking about saving one life it’s a huge, huge difference maker.”

Holcomb’s agenda for the General Assembly focused more on the economy and wellness than some of the bills that have been proposed by the Republican supermajority, which include blocking the Biden administrations vaccine mandates and its effects, and preventing discrimination on the basis of whether a person has had the COVID shot.

That got Holcomb praise from Democrats like Melton and House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, of Ft. Wayne.

“Governor Holcomb’s legislative agenda is a refreshing divergence from the priorities we’ve seen from legislative Republicans, rather than the divisive, culture war type of bills we’ve seen filed, he seems keen on improving early learning and public health outcomes for Hoosiers,” said GiaQuinta.

Still, Melton criticized Holcomb, though not robustly, for not mentioning more child care options.