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Taxes and education top Cracker Barrel list

Monday, March 21, 2005

Taxes and schools were on the minds of about 50 people gathered at the Cory Fire Station Saturday to exchange information with state legislators at the Clay County Cracker Barrel Meeting. Sen. John Waterman (R-39), Rep. Clyde Kersey (D-43), Rep. Andrew Thomas (R-44) and Rep. Vern Tincher (D-46) attended the event co-hosted by Clay County Farm Bureau and the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.

While the legislators offered updates from their work at the Indiana Statehouse, citizens also had the opportunity to voice their own concerns and ask questions. Points of discussion included requiring identification to vote to prevent fraudulent voting practices, property tax assessment, school funding, CORE 40 and ISTEP requirements, methamphetamine, farm truck licensing, financing for a new professional sports facility and the duties of the State Inspector General's Office.

Question topics ranged from living wills to cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers.

"The focus of it was about taxes and schools and the voting I.D. requirements," said Steve Kidwell, President of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. "I thought it was a nice session. It was nice to have the legislators in Clay County, and for people to have the chance to meet with them one on one and ask questions.

"People seemed appreciative of the legislators coming out," he said. "(The legislators) thanked Clay County, the Chamber of Commerce and Farm Bureau for the opportunity to be there."

Some questions and discussion were continued from the first Cracker Barrel Meeting of the year, said Jack Knust, Clay County Farm Bureau President. Waterman indicated he was working to bring bio-diesel companies to Indiana, while Tincher is working on an amendment to allow persons to purchase individual cold medicine tablets at convenience stores.

"They said the time bill was dead, so I don't think it will be brought up again," Knust said.

As far as financing a new dome in Indianapolis, Knust said the legislators indicated they wanted Marion County to finance the project, rather than pushing the financial burden onto the rest of the state. Knust also said he would like to see more ethanol and bio-diesel options for the state, as Waterman suggested, particularly at the local level.

"It would just be a boost to the community. It would bring a lot of jobs to Indiana. We need one here in Clay County to boost our employment," he said, adding it would also stabilize corn and soybean prices. "It's just a win-win situation."

With an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. time slot, Knust said he thought attendance would be a problem, but noted "it didn't seem to bother anybody."

He thought hosting the meeting at a different location was also a positive change. While plans for another Cracker Barrel are not definite, he said there may be another after the legislative session ends in early April.

"They can kind of just review the bills that did pass and what didn't. We'll just see how the rest of the session goes and go from there," he said.

While Knust was pleased with the number of Clay County residents who attended, he was also appreciative that four of the five legislators invited were able to be there.

"I really think the legislators like to come to Clay County because we treat them respectfully. They're not treated all that great sometimes in other places," said Knust, who believes that is the reason that, in spite of numerous invitations to other events, four or five legislators can usually make it to a local Cracker Barrel meeting.

"When they tell you that, it makes you feel good. Everyone was courteous. It was just a really good meeting. Everyone went away more informed on our government."

While local citizens enjoy learning more about government happenings, he said he believes the legislators also appreciate feedback from their constituents.

"If they're not real busy, they like to stick around and hear people's concerns. They like the input and they write it down, so you know they use it," he said. "Andy (Thomas) and I were the last ones to leave."

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