MADISONVILLE, Ky. (4/21/14) - The Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce held a “Legislative Wrap-Up” Monday featuring state representatives Ben Waide, Brent Yonts, Jim Gooch, Myron Dossett and state Sen. Jerry Rhoads.
The politicians spoke on several legislative priorities of concern to Hopkins County and also shared their views on the latest legislative session.
Waide congratulated Madisonville and Hopkins County local government for good communication with their local legislators.
"It starts with the judge-executive and mayor saying 'this is what we want the most,'" said Waide.
Funding for the Center Street-Island Ford Road Connector Road was discussed at the luncheon, and Rhoads said the topic was the subject of much debate at the legislative session.
According to Rhoads, the final version of the road plan is broken into two parts ― a two-year plan and a four-year plan ― as a projection after the build. The road is projected to be finished in 2015, costing approximately $3 million. The first portion of the plan will take the road from Center Street to where it crosses the railroad tracks. The design for the northern portion of the road was knocked down by the Senate, and did not survive in the legislative session. However, Rhoads hopes to get $1.3 million in additional funding soon.
The legislators also discussed funding for the Murray State University-Madisonville Post-Secondary Education Building saying that the project was "good to go", subject to the college being able to raise $5 million. Funding for post-secondary school projects is the same for all of the 16 KCTCS schools across the state.
HB 2 was passed in the session, which will give post-secondary schools in coal counties ― such as Madisonville Community College in Hopkins County ― $150,000 in grants to award $3,500 to $6,800 scholarships to improve outreach to students in the area. The scholarships would keep students close to home, according to the legislators.
"It gives kids the ability and better access right here in their county," said Waide.
In other education news, the session brought about a mandatory pay raise for teachers: 1 percent in the 2015 fiscal year and 2 percent in 2016. In addition to a pay increase, Kentucky schools will receive funding increases in many areas such as technology and textbooks.
HB 388 was passed giving the state the ability to create environmental standards for coal production. The legislators explained that they would abide by EPA rules yet do anything they could to "keep jobs here".
"We will do it in a way that will meet the EPA and not totally damage the economy," said Gooch.
Tax reform was a major issue in the legislative session, according to the panel. The Local Investment for Transformation or LIFT plan was discussed, which would enable cities, states and counties to add a one cent additional sales tax to vote up or down on a special project. It was voted down on Monday with 50 votes.
"It's unfair" to brand the plan as a tax, and said that he was "disappointed" that the "Louisville-type" measure was not passed, said Rhoads.
"It could do some big things we couldn't do otherwise," he said.
In states that have passed LIFT, cities have gained hospitals and NBA teams, said Rhoads. He said he believes that voters, not legislators, should decide on more serious items.
Waide said he believes that it's not the last time legislators will discuss LIFT in the General Assembly.
"We can't wait for the state to help us, because they won't," he said.
For more information on all the House Bills passed at this session, go to: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/capitol_notes.htm.
SurfKY News Photo/Taylor Riley
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