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McConnell touts potential benefits of infrastructure bill

RUSSELLVILLE – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will never be mistaken for a big spender, but Tuesday he sang the praises of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that has passed both houses of Congress and is awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature to become law.

During a visit with business leaders at Russellville’s Logan Economic Alliance for Development offices, the seven-term senator touted the legislation pushed by the Biden administration as a bipartisan bill “passed without a tax increase” that could help his home state.

McConnell is clearly sold on a bill that is expected to use money from unspent pandemic relief funds and other savings plus an anticipated tax revenue boost from economic growth to pay for a smorgasbord of infrastructure items ranging from roads, bridges and railways to electric vehicles and broadband internet.

The senator, though, hardly heaped praise on the Biden administration, saying: “Every step we’ve taken (under Biden) except infrastructure is in the wrong direction.”

He said Kentucky should receive more than $5 billion from the legislation, although White House estimates put that number even higher, at $6.5 billion.

Those dollars are expected to be the solution for a couple of high-profile projects: upgrades and repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Cincinnati to northern Kentucky and to the Interstate 69 Ohio River bridge connecting Henderson to Evansville, Ind.

Although such projects will dominate the spending, McConnell believes there’s enough money to go around for smaller projects.

“Cities and counties in Kentucky are going to get $700 million for infrastructure projects,” he said. “That money will be dispersed from Frankfort.”

After listening to the concerns of local business leaders, McConnell took time to voice his opposition to what he sees as business-hampering policies started during the coronavirus pandemic that he believes are a continuing drag on the economy.

“We have raging inflation and workforce problems,” he said. “The new administration is still looking backward instead of forward.”

Although the enhanced unemployment benefits enacted during the pandemic have expired, McConnell pointed to that policy as a reason for plummeting labor force participation rates nationally and in Kentucky.

“We’ve made it so lucrative (to not work) that people can make a rational decision that they can make more money by staying home,” he said.

McConnell also took aim at the Biden-backed Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion social spending package that includes investments to expand social programs and address climate change.

“The Democratic administration is trying to pass another major bill replete with spending and taxes,” McConnell said, arguing that such legislation would only add to escalating inflation that saw consumer prices rise by 6.2% from October 2020 to October 2021.

As he has during other stops around the state, McConnell blamed Democrats’ policies for contributing to that inflation. He held out hope that those policies will be rejected by the electorate in 2022.

McConnell called a Republican victory in this month’s Virginia governor’s race and other strong showings by the GOP “a referendum on the popularity of the Biden administration.”

“The president’s approval rating is now down below 40%,” McConnell said. “I don’t see it improving much. I think it’s going to be a very good year for Republicans in 2022.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

Veterans celebrated in Glasgow

GLASGOW – A crowd of people cheered and held patriotic signs showcasing their support while a procession of local veterans passed by during South Central Bank’s Veterans Celebration on Wednesday morning.

The annual celebration has previously been held as a breakfast in the community room at South Central Bank’s Operations Center in Glasgow.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, bank officials moved the event outside and made it a parade for the safety and well-being of older veterans who wished to participate.

The parade was preceded by a presentation of colors, a flag raising by the Glasgow Police Department color guard and playing of the national anthem and taps.

“We didn’t want to discontinue it, so we brainstormed and came up with this drive-through event and involved the first responders,” said Tommy Ross, chief executive of South Central Bank. “It’s been tremendous. It’s always been a big event to honor the veterans here in Glasgow.”

Ross said the bank’s celebration is always held the day before Veterans Day, when Glasgow hosts its annual Veterans Day parade.

“We are the largest community bank here in Barren County, and we wanted to do something as a bank to honor our veterans,” Ross said. “We have several who work for us. It started out small and it grew into a huge event.

“We have roughly 300 employees, and we have probably 50 here today that get here at 6 a.m. and start doing all this stuff before the bank opens,” he said. “ ... It’s very important to the employees, it’s really important to the community and it’s really important to us.”

Ross said South Central Bank Glasgow President Owen Lambert came up with the idea for the celebration 20 years ago, and the event continues to garner support from local residents.

“We are extremely grateful for the service of our veterans,” Lambert said in a statement. “Without their sacrifice, none of us would have the freedom and liberties we enjoy every day. We owe these courageous men and women a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Veterans who participated in the parade were given a free to-go breakfast.

Jeremy Zulz, a commercial lender at the Scottsville South Central Bank, helped hand out breakfast to veterans.

Zulz, who served 21 years of active duty in the Navy, said the event was a great way to give back.

“Those are my brothers and sisters for years to come, and that’s how it’s always been and always will be,” Zulz said. “It’s great seeing their faces and how appreciative they are of what we are doing here at South Central Bank. It’s great to be able to give back to those who served – especially the ones that served before me and paved the way for us for years to come.”

Zulz said the support from the bank and the community means a lot to him as well.

“We enjoy the feedback because it’s not always been like that,” Zulz said. “Back as far as when they (veterans) came back from the Vietnam War, it wasn’t always so welcoming. To be able to give back to those that came back from Vietnam, we can accept them and give them the appreciation they deserved at the time.”

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Minter, Guthrie, Wilson file for reelection

State Rep. Patti Minter, a Bowling Green Democrat who was first elected to the Kentucky House in 2018 and reelected in 2020, will seek a third term representing House District 20 after filing for reelection Tuesday.

If given a third term by voters, Minter said she will continue to “stand up and show up” for House District 20. Minter said she has a proven track record of delivering results and has demonstrated she can work across the aisle with Republicans to pass legislation.

She described health care, education, pandemic relief and public health as her key priorities in office.

If reelected, “I’ll continue to listen and learn from my constituents,” Minter said, vowing to ensure that Kentucky and “the voices of all its people are heard.”

In 2018, Minter won the seat with 54% of the vote. She was reelected in 2020, garnering 70% of the vote, a news release announcing her bid for a third term said.

One of Minter’s legislative accomplishments includes working to pass House Bill 95 this year, which will limit copays for prescription insulin each month, effective January 2022. As the parent of a son with type I diabetes, Minter has made lowering prescription insulin costs one of her key issues.

Specifically, the legislation provides that “cost sharing for a covered prescription insulin drug shall not exceed $30 per 30-day supply of each prescription insulin drug, regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to meet the covered person’s insulin needs,” according to the bill’s text.

Ahead of the 2022 regular legislative session, Minter has introduced Bill Request 53, which would create the Urgent-Need Insulin Program and the Continuing Access to Insulin Program. The Urgent-Need Insulin Program would ensure affordable access to insulin to eligible individuals who are in urgent need of it, and the Continuing Access to Insulin Program would guarantee affordable access to insulin to eligible individuals who have an ongoing need for the drug.

Additionally, Minter has pre-filed Bill Request 125. The draft legislation includes broader language to expand that copay cap to cover “medication” and not just a “covered prescription insulin drug.”

Specifically, it would add equipment and supplies, including blood glucose monitors, monitor supplies, medication injection aids, syringes, medication infusion devices, pharmacological agents for controlling blood sugar and orthotics, according to the bill request’s text.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie announced he had filed for reelection, seeking another term to “fight against the socialist agenda of (President) Joe Biden and (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, which is hurting Kentucky families and encroaching on our personal freedoms,” a news release said.

“The Biden/Pelosi agenda is sending America down a path that we simply can’t afford or abide, and I won’t stand for it,” the Bowling Green Republican said. “Kentucky values are being degraded, personal freedoms are under attack and their reckless tax-and-spend policies are impacting Kentuckians at the gas pump and grocery store. My priorities include standing up for pro-life values, holding Dr. (Anthony) Fauci accountable, protecting the Second Amendment, stopping critical race theory and combating the Democrats ‘war on work.’ ”

Guthrie has represented Kentucky’s 2nd Congressional District since January 2009. He raised a campaign chest of more than $2 million to run a “positive, future-focused campaign that draws a clear line between socialism and freedom, and why conservatives must fight harder than ever to preserve the American dream,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Warren East High School music teacher is running to challenge Guthrie, advocating policies like Medicare for All, investments in infrastructure and public education and criminal justice reform, among other policies supported by progressives.

Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday, William Compton said “nothing has changed” for working-class families in the Warren East High School feeder system he knows so well. Compton is a graduate of WEHS and Western Kentucky University.

As director of the WEHS string orchestra program, Compton said he regularly encounters parents who must work two or three jobs to make ends meet and said that families in the area often struggle to pay for health care, forcing them to put off necessary procedures.

Over the last decade or so, Compton said he’s seen “nobody fighting for those families” in Congress, prompting him to throw his own hat into the ring in 2022.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Mike Wilson announced Monday his plans to seek reelection in 2022. If reelected, it would be the Bowling Green Republican’s fourth term representing Kentucky’s 32nd state Senate district.

Wilson did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Billing himself as a “strong advocate for Warren County values in Frankfort,” Wilson will continue working to grow Kentucky’s economy, put more people to work, strengthen the state’s families and “get government out of the way of small businesses and job creators,” a news release announcing his reelection bid said.

“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life serving the citizens of Warren County,” Wilson said in the news release posted on his Facebook page. “I look forward to serving another four years in the Kentucky State Senate.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Kentucky Museum’s ‘Christmas in Kentucky’ set to return

After last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19, Western Kentucky University’s Kentucky Museum will host its 15th “Christmas in Kentucky” celebration.

Scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 2, a number of attractions will be available such as ornament making, a magic show, a performance by the WKU Treblemakers and a chance to meet Big Red and Santa & Mrs. Claus.

Museum Education Curator Christy Spurlock said the free event brings in 600 to 1,200 people who often visit after the downtown Christmas parade.

“We are so excited, of course, to be able to host it,” Spurlock said. “It is always every year our largest event. It’s become a holiday tradition for many families. It also gives people an opportunity to see the new exhibits that we have.”

While most of the day’s offerings will be inside the museum, the Treblemakers will sing Christmas carols at the outside entrance at the beginning of the event, and gingerbread and cider will be available at the nearby Felts Log House at noon.

Spurlock said an “army of volunteers” makes the celebration possible. WKU’s Delta Zeta sorority will assist with ornament making.

“It’s just a great group effort, and we are so happy to bring this to the community,” Spurlock said. “We literally have children in our community who have grown up during this. People will stop me and tell me that they really look forward to it. ‘Christmas in Kentucky’ is really a love fest between the museum and the community.”

She said the museum encourages all visitors to wear masks, and all events are free. Atmos Energy is the event’s title sponsor.

New exhibits that are available for visitors to view include “Gazing Deeply: The Art & Science of Mammoth Cave” and “Styles &the gistofit.”

“Gazing Deeply” showcases how Mammoth Cave is being studied, interpreted and is inspiring action on environmental change. The other exhibit spotlights the many garments of former Bowling Green dressmaker Carrie Taylor, who began her business, the Mrs. A.H. Taylor Co., in 1878.

A detailed schedule of the museum’s Christmas celebration along with details on other exhibits can be found at www.wku.edu/kentucky museum/.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Jack Whitehall, from left, Darby Camp and Izaac Wang appear in a scene from "Clifford the Big Red Dog."