Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers focused on the “fiscal cliff” our nation faces and the ongoing “war on coal” during his tour across the region Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.
Rogers also celebrated local progress and strong leadership in southern and eastern Kentucky.
In Harlan County, Rogers visited with students, faculty and staff at the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College who participate in the Accelerating Opportunities program on the Harlan Campus. The program offers expedited education and training for adults without a high school diploma or GED. College officials told Rogers that a growing number of laid off coal miners have applied for the program. Rogers commended the students for their perseverance.
Rogers also joined Kentucky National Guard Adj. Gen. Edward Tonini for a tour of the new Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy (ACA) at Grays Knob with Executive Director Croley Forester. Rogers visited with the cadets and encouraged them to study hard and maintain self-discipline. More than 60 young men and women ages 16-18 are currently enrolled at the academy.
On Nov. 1, Rogers traveled to the Cumberland Valley region, making his first stop in Bell County to tour the Middlesboro Bottling Company and to meet with members of the Kentucky Beverage Association.
Rogers then joined local leaders and 100 community members for a legislative update at the Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Pineville. Rogers shared his concerns for the coal industry and the state of the national economy. He also praised local efforts in the war on drugs and the PRIDE cleanup campaign.
On Oct.29, Rogers kicked off the regional tour with Operation UNITE, AmeriCorps and Remix Education for a drug-free rally at Highland Elementary School in Johnson County. Students from each grade created a “Hal Rogers Hallway” to welcome him to the school, commemorating his 32-years of service to the region.
During the rally, Rogers commended UNITE Service Corps members who tutor students in math and reading, while incorporating drug-free education. Thanks to AmeriCorps, 44 UNITE Service Corps members are working in 11 southern and eastern Kentucky schools.
Rogers applauded Wendy Spencer, executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based organization that directs the AmeriCorps initiative for her leadership in the program.
On Monday evening, more than 400 people braved the snow storm resulting from Hurricane Sandy for the the UNITE Bluegrass Policy Forum on Substance Abuse at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, raising more than $75,000 for the treatment and prevention efforts of Operation UNITE and Recovery Kentucky.
Rogers joined panelists Gov. Steve Beshear, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, State Sen. Robert Stivers, State Rep. Rocky Adkins, and State Sen. Brandon Smith.
KET’s Renee Shaw moderated the discussion on federal, state and local efforts in the war on drugs.
The leaders praised Kentucky House Bill 1, as well as national efforts to interconnect state-based prescription drug monitoring programs. However, they also acknowledged the need for long-term solutions, more access to treatment and continuous tracking of drug trends.
“The Centers for Disease Control calls it a national epidemic. We have got more people dying of prescription drug overdoses than car wrecks,” said Rogers. “It doesn’t seem to me the public is alarmed enough about the problem.”
On Oct. 30, Rogers joined the Jenny Wiley Drama Association and city of Pikeville commissioners to break ground for an indoor theatre in downtown Pikeville. The facility will be an extension of the Jenny Wiley amphitheatre in Prestonsburg where outdoor dramas will continue during the warmer months.
“The people of eastern Kentucky have talent in their genes,” said Rogers. “I hope this is a facility becomes a place where our stars can realize their dreams here at home.”
Also on Tuesday, Rogers shared a legislative update during a Martin County Community Luncheon at Miss Ida’s Tea Room in Inez. With the country’s debt totaling $16 trillion, combined with the looming potential for sequestration, large tax increases and the expiration of tax cuts for small businesses, Rogers warned that the government faces a “fiscal cliff” in January 2013.
During the meeting, the Roy F. Collier Martin County Community Center board members presented Rogers with an award of appreciation for his support of the facility.
Afterwards, Rogers visited the Booth Energy Center in Martin County to discuss the state of the coal mining industry with President and CEO Jim Booth and his staff.
More than 2,000 coal miners have been laid off in Kentucky this year alone. Only two individual surface mining permits have been approved in the last three years. Rogers vowed to continue his steadfast support of the industry.
On Oct. 31, Rogers helped Operation UNITE deliver a Med Return Box to the Somerset Police Department’s Substation at the Somerset Mall. The box provides a secure way for residents to clean out their medicine cabinets and get rid of old or unwanted prescription medications.
Once collected, the prescription drugs will be destroyed by the UNITE Pill Dragon, which has incinerated more than 1 million pills in two years.
“Studies show that most teenagers admitted they first abused prescription drugs from a parent or friend’s medicine cabinet without permission,” said Rogers. “We need to do our part to fight drug abuse, by cleaning out those old prescriptions we have stored in our own homes. Now, you can conveniently and safely get rid of them at the Somerset Police Department’s Substation at the Somerset Mall.”
Also on Wednesday, Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation members presented Rogers with the “Friend of Farm Bureau” award at the Haney Appledale Farm in Nancy. Rogers has won the award eight times in honor of his support for the industry.