CORY -- More than 50 Clay County residents gathered at the Cory Firehouse on Saturday for the year's first Cracker Barrel.
The event, co-sponsored by the Clay County Farm Bureau and the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, gave residents an opportunity to hear from state representatives and ask them questions.
Present were State Representatives Bob Heaton (House District 46), Jim Baird (House District 44), Alan Morrison (House District 42), Senator Tim Skinner (District 38) and Senator John Waterman (District 39).
Before answering questions from the crowd, the representatives and senators spoke to the crowd about their responsibilities, what committees they are on and what bills they are currently working on.
Waterman spoke first and said he is working on getting bills passed concerning natural gas and methane gas. Waterman said the state is working on creating fuel stations throughout the state, which will help create jobs in the area.
Waterman said he has also been working on focusing on 'super cells,' or predator zones in big cities such as Indianapolis around schools, day cares, churches, playgrounds, etc., where known predators are not allowed to reside. Waterman said there are so many super cells in Indianapolis, that predators from those zones are being pushed into smaller, rural areas like Clay County.
"We've had a major increase in recent years of these predators moving out to rural areas," Waterman said. "It's creating a major problem and it's hard for legislators to vote to shrink those super cells down. They're talking about shrinking them down to 500 feet. We're trying to keep them in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Gary, and not in our area."
Finally, Waterman also said he's concerned with the Healthcare Reform Act, known more commonly as Obamacare, and it's effects on local companies. Waterman said he is trying to keep Indiana businesses rolling, but the federal government is making it hard.
Next, Representative Morrison addressed the crowd.
Morrison said he is working on the Agricultural and Rural Development, Natural Resources and Utilities and Energy committees where he is authoring and co-authoring a soil productivity factors bill. Morrison said he is working on taking the soil testing factors set up by the government in March of 2011 and freezing those standards.
"We want to try to give a break to the farmers as much as we can," Morrison said.
Morrison is also working on an agro-tourism bill, which will protect farmers and landowners in the event that someone is harmed while hunting on their land.
"This gives them a chance to open up their land for hunting, but not worry about lawsuits," Morrison said.
Finally, Morrison said he is concerned with the infrastructure, including roads and bridges, in his district.
"Our infrastructure is crumbling," Morrison said. "We're working on a road transportation and construction bill. Without raising taxes at all, we're working on a way for counties and cities to maintain their roads."
Next, Baird spoke about his responsibilities on the ways and means committee. Baird said he is interested in where the state's money goes.
Baird explained the sources of revenue for the state, saying 53 percent of the budget comes from sales tax, federal funds make up 34 percent and the remaining 13 percent comes from miscellaneous fees. Baird said the state's budget stands at roughly $27-28 billion.
"We as a society have to decide where we'll take our funds," Baird said, who said he hopes the state utilizes the $2 billion set in the budget for roads.
Baird is also a member of the Interstate and International Relations committee.
Next, Skinner, the only Democratic representative, addressed the crowd.
Skinner first said he is very optimistic about Governor Mike Pence's agenda for the state.
Skinner serves on the Natural Resources and Agriculture, Appropriations, Budget, Pensions and Labor and Tax and Finance committees.
Skinner said he is working to find where money can be used to repair roads and bridges.
"I've been introducing bills that would give money back to local governments to repair roads, streets and bridges," Skinner said. "But no one wants to see a tax increase. We're trying to find where we can squeeze money out of other places or from taxes we're already receiving and put that money toward road funds.
"Another idea we have," Skinner continued, "is that when the price of a gallon of gas goes above $3, to take the sales tax from gas sales and, instead of putting the sales tax into the general fund, put it into a special fund for roads and bridges."
Similar to Waterman, Skinner said he, too, is focusing on Obamacare and what its policies will mean for the state in coming years.
Finally, Heaton discussed his responsibilities and hopes for the future.
"I appreciate each and every one of you," Heaton told the crowd. "I thank you for spending money that goes to the state. That's your money, and I am trying to be a good steward of that. Everything we talk about always boils down to money."
Heaton said he serves on three committees: The Financial Institutions committee (which deals with banks, credit unions and pawn shops), the Insurance committee and the Natural Resources committee.
Heaton is working on Bill 11-81, which would see the addition of a second court in Owen County. Heaton is also working on a Bill 11-79, which would protect seniors from being scammed out of their retirement savings. A scam recently occurred in Ohio in which someone stole more than $200 million in retirement monies.
Heaton said he is also working with INDOT to repair or replace the 80-year-old Eel River bridge in Bowling Green.
"Their plans are to, very soon, begin replacing that bridge," Heaton said. "They're going to have to do an analysis first. It will be a hardship for a lot of people getting that replaced, but that's something that we're working on."