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EDWHIT1MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (3/26/13) – On Monday, March 25, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R), of Kentucky's First District, spent a busy day starting with a Town Hall Meeting in Powderly before visiting the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center, and meeting with Todd County Economic Development officials in Elkton.

It was cold outside, but a wide range of hot topics were covered by Whitfield and the audience during his stop at the Senior Citizens Center in Powderly.

Whitfield began his remarks focusing on one of the big concerns here in the heart of the Western Kentucky coal fields.

"When we talk about creating jobs, we have to have affordable, reliable energy. And one of the things I'm concerned about with the present administration is that they have made it abundantly clear they do not like fossil fuels. I'll admit that one of the reasons we now use less coal is the low price of natural gas.

But another reason we use less coal is because of the number of new regulations this administration has issued. In America today, you cannot build a new coal power plant. That's because of new regulations coming from Washington." Whitfield told the crowd.

On the Affordable Care Act, Whitfield said "This whole area of health care is really up in the air. There are so many unknowns involved; we really don't know what the impact is going to be. We're talking about 20 million more people on Medicaid. There's really not that much more money to take care of them, even though there are 21 new taxes involved in it. The new regulations are still being written, thousands and thousands of pages. If we ask any questions about it, the members of congress just don't know any one person to go to for clear answers."

Turning to gun control, one audience member asked Whitfield about the current effort to pass bills regarding gun owner background checks, and other gun-related issues.

"Since I've been in Congress I have always voted consistently for Second Amendment rights, and I'm not going to support any legislation to change it any way. I have talked with Rep. Massie, who has put forward legislation to block any new laws on gun ownership. He agrees. No one will be able to get a bill through the House to change it, or even the Senate for that matter. If someone has bad intent and wants to kill somebody, they are going to do it." Whitfield said.

One former coal miner voiced his support of coal while voicing concern about nuclear energy, saying, "I think we're better off with the Paradise coal power plant in our backyard than we would be with a nuclear plant that might destroy half of Kentucky if it had a disastrous accident."

Whitfield noted that even though the Paducah Uranium Enrichment Plant produces fuel for nuclear plants, the present regulations are so prohibitive that you really couldn't build one in Kentucky if you wanted to.

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One man stood to voice his support of shopping local when it comes to healthcare.

"Go to your local drugstore and pay a double co-pay." he said, noting it’s at least one way to counteract what he considered a push by government to force Medicare recipients to use large chain stores.

Ron Poole, co-owner of Poole's Pharmacy Care was in the audience as well, noting the problem local pharmacies have in dealing with the present way regulations basically dictate where consumers purchase their needed medication.

"All I do is wind up getting egg on my face when I try to talk to the people in charge of Medicare." Poole said. "My buying group purchases more than a billion dollars’ worth of drugs a year. We are 425 stores strong. We can compete with the 'big box stores'. But the preferred network system creates a lot of confusion, a lot of heartache, because I've got long time customers who just can't afford it, when it's 30 or 40 dollars with me, and they can go to the big box stores and pay 5 dollars or 2 dollars." Poole added that his buying group was not even allowed to bid for contracts to compete with the large national chains.

Whitfield promised he plans to meet with Poole and other independent pharmacy owners in May when they go to Washington to present alternatives to the current program.

Whitfield told SurfKY News, before leaving for his stop at Muhlenberg Job Corps, that earlier this year "thirty million more dollars were put in the continuing resolution because the Department of Labor was complaining about a 61 million dollar shortage. There have been hearings in Congress and there looks like there has been mismanagement at the Department of Labor, and the Director of the Job Corps seems to have a bias against the larger centers."

The Muhlenberg Job Corps is one of the largest in the nation.

Whitfield said he "sees evidence of mismanagement of money. This is still up in the air, but a group of members of Congress are going back to talk the Department of Labor after the recess to have another meeting with them to see what we can do."

This issue is one of the few where both Republicans and Democrats agree, with a group of more than 70 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signing a letter of complaint sent to President Obama in February.

“We are deeply troubled by the Department of Labor’s disregard of our concerns over what we see as their gross mismanagement of the Job Corps program,” the letter said.

Paul McRee
SurfKY News
Photos provided by Paul McRee

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