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Right to life, smoking ban hot topics at legislative forum

BY CORIANNE EGANcegan@paducahsun.com

Five of McCracken County's legislators took to the floor of the Commerce Center Saturday morning to update their constituents on the state of this year's legislative session.

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, Rep. Will Coursey, D-Benton, Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, Rep. Steven Rudy, R-West McCracken and Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah attended the briefing sponsored by the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. The 90-minute meeting included comments from all five, along with a question-and-answer session with the audience, which included about 75 community members.

The legislators are about halfway through a General Assembly session dealing with proposals such as pro-life legislation and  education spending. 

"Over 600 pieces of legislation have been filed from the 168 of us," Rudy said. "That's a lot of proposals to be dealt with in a three-month period. A lot of them won't make it, and only two have gotten through so far."

The assembly's greatest task is to complete a two-year working budget, but constituents in the audience had different concerns. Questions and heated debate arose over a right-to-life bill, and a second bill on the House floor that requires doctors to perform ultrasounds before abortions. The Republicans agreed that the quickest way to deal with Democratic backlash of the bill was to vote a Republican majority into the House in November's election.

Other controversial topics tackled by the lawmakers Saturday included reforms to the state's tax code, changes to the state's nuclear moratorium and medical marijuana. Constituents were also concerned over smoke-free legislation that could ban smoking statewide in public places.

All of the lawmakers announced support for the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's priority projects. The capital project supported by the Chamber, the $7.5 million in funding needed to kick off the Paducah School of Art and Design's Lower Town campus, was overwhelmingly supported. Roads projects like the proposed inner loop and widening of U.S. 60 and Olivet Church Road were also mentioned.

"I think the majority of those in Frankfort forget there's a Central time zone," Bechler said. "But it's our job to show people up there that there is, and to make them accept the fact that there is a western Kentucky and we deserve the same consideration as other areas."

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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