ADDRESSING THE ISSUES: State representative Terry Goodin, left,  addresses about 50 people at the Third House legislative forum Saturday at Ivy Tech Community College. Also attending were, seated, left to right: U.S. Rep. Luke Messer; state Rep. Jim Lucas; state Sen. Jim Smith; and state Rep. Randy Frye. The forum is sponsored by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
ADDRESSING THE ISSUES: State representative Terry Goodin, left, addresses about 50 people at the Third House legislative forum Saturday at Ivy Tech Community College. Also attending were, seated, left to right: U.S. Rep. Luke Messer; state Rep. Jim Lucas; state Sen. Jim Smith; and state Rep. Randy Frye. The forum is sponsored by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
State and national representatives discussed infrastructure, job creation, health care and reducing the national deficit during a Third House legislative session Saturday.

State representatives Randy Frye, Jim Lucas and Terry Goodin; state Sen. Jim Smith; and U.S. Rep. Luke Messer met with about 50 people - many of whom were city, county and school officials - for an hour and a half at Ivy Tech Community College.

The event was sponsored by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.   

Messer, the 6th Congressional District's newly elected representative, said he hears two main concerns from his constituents: reducing the deficit and the Second Amendment.

"I think there is a growing concern in this country that we can't keep spending money that we don't have," he said.

And while Messer said he is "crestfallen" by the Newtown, Conn., shooting that left 26 students and teachers dead, he opposes a push for an assault weapons ban proposed by President Barack Obama's administration.

Goodin, D-Austin, told the audience that current issues in the Indiana Legislature include gay marriage, Sunday alcohol sales and job creation. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee and gave details on Gov. Mike Pence's proposed budget, which includes a 10 percent income tax cut.

On the topic of job creation, Goodin said Madison and Hanover will struggle to attract future industry without a true corridor to I-65.

"We have to invest in our infrastructure in this area if we want to get good-paying jobs here," he said.

Local resident Robin Henderson noted that plans to build a four-lane highway on State Road 256 were in the works but were suddenly stopped. He asked the panel where the project stands.

Goodin, a longtime advocate of the expanding the highway, said because virtually every community in Indiana is looking for economic development, "there's nothing more political than trying to get road projects."

But in the case of State Road 256, Goodin said the state already has spent $5 million on necessary environmental studies, which do have a shelf life. He said he has asked with Indiana Department of Transportation to pick up the project again.

"As we move forward, we're going to talk about this," he said.

Frye said that representatives need to look at other forms of infrastructure in addition to roads.

Also at the meeting, the representatives discussed the local and state impact of the new health care law.

Goodin said while he doesn't agree with all of the components of the law, "it is the law of the land," and he believed that the states should look at ways to utilize the mandate.

"We need to find a way to leverage it, not refute it," he said.

Smith disagreed and said the impact the law and the expansion of programs such as Medicaid will cost Indiana "many, many billions of dollars."

During the session, Frye also presented the audience with a few of the bills he is working on, which include creating an Indiana Career Council to increase coordination between the state's education, job skills and career-training systems (House Bill 1002), providing tax credits for natural gas powered vehicles weighing at least 33,000 pounds (House Bill 1324) and changing student transfer requirements (House Bill 1478).

"I've got several bills that I'm intimately working with," he said.

Before the meeting ended, Darrell Smith, a retired Madison teacher, said he would like to see a bigger showing from the community when representatives are present.

"I think it's a shame that we do not care enough to fill this room," he said.

The next Third House session will be held on March 9 at Ivy Tech.