This April, I spent the two-week district work period in several counties throughout the 1st District. We’re off to a busy start in Washington this year, and district work periods afford me the important opportunity to hear about how Washington can better serve our citizens. As I travel throughout the district, I am reminded of the important perspectives of those in Western and Central Kentucky which help shape policy in agriculture, healthcare, energy, education and so much more.
One of my first stops was in Eddyville at the Lake Barkley Chamber of Commerce. I provided an update on events in Washington, especially highlighting recent action on Asian carp. In March I testified before the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies about the need to increase funding to combat the Asian carp population in Western Kentucky waterways. I've made it a top priority to help get this issue under control, as Asian carp pose a major threat to our regional economy. Judge Wade White has also been instrumental in making this issue a top priority and I thank him for helping lead these important efforts to thwart this invasive species.
During my travels, I met with representatives from five different distilleries across the district at MB Rowland Distillery in Pembroke. I learned how these distilleries have reinvested their savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act back into their businesses. On this front, I’m especially proud to co-sponsor the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2019, a bill that will help foster new investment for small brewers in this critical Kentucky industry.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals at Jennie Stuart Hospital in Hopkinsville provided me with an update on the needs of rural hospitals and briefed me on the issues Washington needs to know about the state of healthcare. Importantly, they shared with me their concerns with congressional Democrats’ “Medicare For All” proposal, an extremely expensive plan that would upend healthcare in the U.S. as we know it. Many health professionals I spoke with warned about the proposal’s impracticality and fear that it would prompt rural hospital closures.
Later while in Murray, I spoke to the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce where we discussed the emerging hemp industry in Western Kentucky. During the last session of Congress, I served on the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Committee and rallied alongside Senator McConnell for removing hemp from the controlled substances list. I am encouraged by the new Murray State Center for Agricultural Hemp, which will be critical in bolstering research and education in the hemp industry. I have no doubt this state-of-the-art center will generate countless opportunities and innovation in this quickly-growing market.
In Madisonville I spoke to the Lions Club as well as local leaders like Judge Executive Jack Whitfield and Mayor Kevin Cotton. During our conversation we touched on several important issues, including the significant construction of the I69 bridge – a top infrastructure priority of mine. And in Paducah, I spoke at the Workforce and Business Symposium at West Kentucky Community and Technical College where community leaders highlighted the dire need for a skilled and trained workforce. Improving our workforce community always remains a high priority of mine, especially as I continue my work on the House Education and Labor Committee.
At Graves County High School in Mayfield, I had the honor of presenting senior Torii Doran of Hickory with a certificate of congressional recognition for her appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. As a Member of Congress, it is one of my greatest privileges to nominate outstanding young men and women like Torii to U.S. Military Academies. Notably, in Torii’s application essay, she wrote, “In my JROTC cadet classroom, we have pictures of cadets who have joined the military. Currently, there are no females on the wall, and I want to be the first.” I congratulate Torii on this tremendous accomplishment and wish her all the best in her future endeavors in the U.S. Air Force.
Finally, I made my way to Fulton County to visit with hard-working business owners and local leaders. From Fulton’s Food Rite to the Coast Guard Cutter CHENA tour in Hickman, I continue to gain new insight each time I travel to these communities. I paid a visit to the Stella-Jones Treated Wood Plant, a great facility operated by 70 employees which processes more than 1 million railroad ties annually. In addition, I visited the CN Railyard in Fulton and learned more about their investment in Fulton County. Investing in the future of our railways is a crucial component of spurring economic development in this area.
Although the 1st district spans a vast portion of our state, I make it my top priority to visit as many counties as I can when I return home for a district work period. From Fulton to Tompkinsville, I enjoyed each of my stops during this great spring recess. I look forward to future district travel this year.
Rep. James Comer is a United States Congressman for the 1st Congressional District, which spans from south central Kentucky to the river counties of far western Kentucky. Contact him with any questions or concerns in his Washington D.C. office at (202) 225-3115, and in the Tompkinsville Office at (270) 487-9509.