By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
Three state legislators representing Madison County discussed a variety of topics that affect the area Friday at a joint Berea/Richmond chambers of commerce luncheon.
Sen. Jared Carpenter (R-Berea) and Reps. Donna Mayfield (R-Winchester) and Rita Smart (D-Richmond) attended the event. Jonathan Shell (R-Lancaster) was unable to attend.
Carpenter focused on infrastructure in and around Madison County that he said will help promote industry and jobs.
Carpenter said work on US 25 near the Eastern Bypass should be completed by the end of November.
“This project (on US 25) hasn’t been an inconvenience to anyone,” Carpenter joked, receiving some chuckles from the crowd.
However, Carpenter added the widened roadway and extra turn lanes are “really going to make a big difference.”
The road project on Menelaus Road in southern Madison County near Farristown Middle School will start in November, Carpenter said. A railroad crossing gate will be added to the road as well.
The second phase of the Berea Bypass, which will tie the road to Hwy. 21, should get underway soon since the funds were approved in the last budget, the state senator said.
Finally, work on the connector between Interstate 75 Exit 83 (Duncannon Lane) in Madison County and Hwy. 52 from Lancaster should start in 2014, Carpenter said.
Donna Mayfield discussed several issues and bills that will come up during the next meeting of the General Assembly in January.
City officials in Lexington and Louisville are pushing for local-option sale taxes. In other states, cities have the ability to ask their residents to vote on levying taxes for special projects, like new schools or recreational complexes. Once the the funding has been raised, the tax is removed.
“There is a lot of concern in the General Assembly over this idea,” Mayfield said.
One worry is that residents will continue to be taxed after a specific project has been funded, she said.
Bills concerning state pension system reform, imminent domain, the use of drones within Kentucky, industrial hemp and a legalization of medical marijuana also will come up, Mayfield said.
Drafting the next state budget will be challenging as many people struggle to recover from the economic downturn, Mayfield said. The decrease in coal production in eastern Kentucky, due “in part” to Washington, D.C., officials’ “demonizing” of the industry, has hurt all Kentuckians, she added.
“When (eastern Kentuckians) hurt, we all hurt here in Kentucky,” Mayfield said.
Smart said one of the biggest challenges in her three years in Frankfort was last year’s redistricting, which led to Madison County being split into five House districts, rather than three.
The state constitution, written more than 120 years ago, dictates how the General Assembly apportions legislative representation, and smaller counties aren’t allowed to be split, Smart said.
This leads to larger counties like Madison being split into several House districts.
During the redistricting vote, Smart threatened to bring a bill for a constitutional amendment to the floor that changes how redistricting is done. She acknowledged that passing a constitutional amendment, which must be done by popular vote, is a major challenge, but it is something that she may still consider in the future.
Smart said she is often asked what she does when the General Assembly is not in session. A big part of her job is attending committee meetings, touring various areas and facilities and studying state issues, and she goes to Frankfort about two or three times a week.
Finally, Smart told Madison Countians to contact their legislators before January if they have have concerns or ideas about proposed legislation.
“Don’t wait until we get in session to contact us,” Smart said.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.