Two regular contributors, District 37 Senator Richard Bray and District 37 State Representative Vern Tincher were both absent for the event. The two officials missed one of the more lively discussions that had taken place at a Cracker Barrel in recent months.
The meeting began with a general recap and updates of topics discussed at previous meetings. District 43 State Representative Clyde Kersey said the Kernan-Shepard Report, which would create a streamlining of local government, was killed and would stay dead unless brought back by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Kersey said it "won't hurt to wait," on voting on a bill to cut property taxes, saying the current set-up could lead to a decrease in public services. Kersey cited the recent closing of three branches of the Vigo County Library as an example.
He said placing these caps could lead to a reduction or loss of important services such as the fire and police departments and public schools.
Kersey also said Indiana could get between $4-6 billion in the recently passed stimulus package. He said he hoped to see the money divided evenly to all those who need it.
"I want to see that this money is sent to all 92 counties," Kersey said. "I hope this reaches beyond Marion (County)."
One concern expressed is the money was going to go into repairs of Interstate-69. Kersey said the money needed to be put into the economy immediately and that placing it for this project would take time.
Things got heated in the small community room when the topic was changed to illegal immigration.
Several attendees were outraged that American businesses were using cheap immigrant labor, creating even greater unemployment rates under current economic conditions. Kersey said Indiana's 9 percent unemployment rate is the highest in the U.S.
District 39 State Senator John Waterman announced House Bill 1272, an illegal immigration bill, was currently in the works, which would use the E-verify program to search if workers are in the country legally.
Despite the procedures being taken, some felt it wasn't enough. Local resident Martha Stout expressed concern that certain workers would slip through the cracks and said more severe action needed to be taken.
While many people were in favor of a more strenuous search, one local resident felt they were being too general in their classifications of illegal aliens and expressed his displeasure vocally.
"Just because someone talks with a funny accent doesn't mean he's an illegal alien," resident Dan Moore said. "I think it is 100 percent against everything we stand for. We have to be careful."
Robert Devor, another resident who had been arguing for stricter laws against illegal aliens, said he had no problem with people coming to America from other nations, but the argument they were trying to make was it was crucial to keep tabs on the ones who were not taking the proper steps to citizenship and were costing legal citizens their right to earn a living.
District 44 State Representative Nancy Michael said while she doesn't like to see confrontation, she felt the situation that occurred Saturday could serve as a positive step in the months to come as the legal process on the bill continues.
"It's important to have these debates," she said. "If we can create an open dialogue, then hopefully we can use them as a way to educate and show both sides of the issue."
Another lively debate was raised by an area politician. Center Point Town Board President Roy Smith was there on behalf of his town to discuss a recent 167 percent increase in the town's water cost. Smith said his town did not have the customer base to support this. However, much of his displeasure seemed not to come from the increase as much as it was being enforced by officials who were completely unaware of the needs of a small town resident.
"By the time these bills filter down to us, there is so much paperwork that it's impossible to understand," Smith said. "Something has to be done and (officials) need to think about people in small towns."
Smith also said the Cracker Barrel meetings were the only chance he has had to speak with high-ranking state officials.
Michael said she understood why Smith was so frustrated. She said she spoke with him after the meeting and discussed the possibility of setting up a meeting to discuss ways to help Center Point with its water and sewer increase. One suggestion was a system of grants. Michael also said that it was "very important" to make sure a small town representative was in on the meeting as to give a first-hand opinion of how the town could be better served.
Saturday was the last scheduled Cracker Barrel in the county for the year though there was expressed interest in conducting another special session to hear of the advancement of state issues.
If a meeting is set up, it will be announced at a later date.
Kersey said even if another meeting doesn't happen, he strongly encouraged citizens to continue to voice their concerns and let their elected officials know what is on their mind.
"We work for you," Kersey said. "If there's an issue with a bill, don't hesitate to give us a call, send us an e-mail or tell us how you feel."