Community members and officials received updates on bills being considered during this year's Kentucky General Assembly and voiced concerns during a legislative forum in Carrollton on Saturday morning.

Nearly 50 people attended the forum with state Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, at the Carroll County Courthouse to discuss issues from education and the possibility of a new community college campus to agriculture and the future of industrial hemp production to drug issues throughout the state.

Hornback also discussed Kentucky's financial standing as legislators shape the biennial budget during the session.

"The state, like the last three biennials, is very short on funds," Hornback said. Still, he said, legislators plan to focus on funding state workers' retirements and education in the budget.

As Gov. Steve Beshear outlined in his budget address in January, funding for community college projects could be in the budget for the first time in six years.

A priority for the Jefferson Community and Technical College system would be the Carrollton campus, which would be located across from the entrance to the General Butler State Resort Park on KY 227.

"It's not just a priority for Carroll County," Hornback said of the community college campus. He has also heard the college is a priority from several surrounding county officials.

"We all know the future of the Commonwealth lies in the hands of our youth," he said.

Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold "Shorty" Tomlinson said local industries are concerned about not being able to fill jobs without proper training in the area. He also said county officials within the six-county Kentucky Connected organization along Interstate 71 see the benefit of a new college campus to the area.

Tomlinson did note the county might have an issue with the governor's proposal of 75 percent of the project funded by bonding with 25 percent of project funding coming from the local community. Local funding for the Carrollton campus would total about $4 million for the $16 million project.

Hornback recognized the difficulty that funding 25 percent of the project could bring for smaller communities. He said he hoped to decrease the percentage during budget discussions.

If not, county and college officials still plan to find a way to make it work if the projects receive approval from the General Assembly this year, Tomlinson said.

"I feel very confident of it staying in the budget," Hornback said of the building projects.

The state senator also discussed the heroin problem and drug issues throughout the Commonwealth.

"It's a huge problem," Hornback said of heroin, "And it's not just confined to one area."

The state's drug issues began years ago with prescription drug abuse and methamphetamine production. After stricter regulations on prescription drugs, drug users turned to a much cheaper and much stronger drug - heroin, he said.

"It's a scrooge on our society," he said, yet legislators are at a loss of what to do. "If we get it stopped, they'll turn to something else."

Penalties aren't strong enough for drug traffickers, Hornback said, and jails are too accommodating today with cable television and exercise rooms.

"That's not really a penalty for a lot of people," he said.

Hornback also discussed the issue of legalizing marijuana in Kentucky. He isn't in favor of legalization because he sees marijuana as a "pathway drug."

"I think the negatives outweigh the positives," he said.

Yet Hornback hopes to see the first crops of industrial hemp grown in the Bluegrass State this year. The hemp industry could bring new jobs and new businesses to the area.

"The opportunities out there are just unbelievable," Hornback said.

Several products are made from the fibers of the plant, including rope, paper, concrete and hemp plastics often used to create Mercedes Benz dashboards.

Each farmer hoping to grow the industrial hemp would need to apply, undergo a background check, provide exact coordinates for the fields where the industrial hemp would be grown and be near a production facility, Hornback said.

Constituents also questioned the state senator about his opinions on the possible increases to the state's minimum wage. Hornback said the topic seems to be in question wherever he goes - including a Waffle House in his district where a worker asked why he was against the increase.

Minimum wage was always meant to help teens and young adults first beginning to work, he said. Minimum wages weren't ever supposed to be used to be a family's main form of financial support.

 "It's not a living wage," he said, "but it was never meant to be."

Hornback said an increase of minimum wage to $10.10 per hour just means an increase in inflation across the board.

"The cost of everything you buy is going to go up," he said. "You're going to spend every bit of that (increase) on goods and services."

Hornback plans a return visit to Carroll County in April to update constituents on the legislative process and other ongoing issues in Frankfort.