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Both candidates for the 24th District seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives are Lebanon residents, fathers, and grandfathers. They both have experience in government, and they're both hoping to serve in the state legislature in 2013.
Terry Mills, 62, is the Democratic incumbent for the district that includes Casey and Marion counties and part of Pulaski County.
"It sounds corny, but I just want to serve," Mills said. "I just want to give back. I've had a good life, a lot given to me. I just want to give back."
Bill Pickerill, 50, is the Republican challenger, and he also would like to make a difference.
"There's a lot of waste going on in Frankfort, waste of tax dollar money," Pickerill said. "I feel like being a business owner that I can help control some of the spending up there."
Both candidates sat down for interviews with the Enterprise last week. Tanscript of those interviews are available here http://www.lebanonenterprise.com/content/state-representative-candidate-... and here http://www.lebanonenterprise.com/content/state-representative-candidate-....
Mills has served the 24th District since early 2010. He acknowledged that he didn't know much during his first year in office, but he now believes that it takes time to get things accomplished in Frankfort.
"Some of these interests that I have, like making life better for those of us who can't help themselves, it's more of a long-term process," Mills said. "The battle against drugs is more of a long-term process."
Mills remains a supporter of expanded gaming as a revenue source for the state.
"The revenue we could get from gaming wouldn't solve all our problems, I definitely recognize that, but it would help," Mills said.
He also acknowledges there is a "dark side" to gambling, and he has proposed legislation previously to set aside a portion of gaming revenue to assist individuals with gambling addictions.
On another budget matter, Mills said he is waiting to see the report from the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. He added that he's been monitoring information from the commission.
"I'm interested in preserving the sales tax exemption for agricultural products," Mills said. "I'm interested in some taxes on some services. I don't know what the two somes are."
Mills said during a recent commission meeting, a couple that receives $120,000 a year in pensions reported that they paid no state taxes on that income.
"For one couple, retired, to get $120,000 and pay no taxes, and for another couple, young and working, to make $25,000 and pay $1200-something, there is something wrong with that picture," Mills said.
Mills receives a pension from his time working for the Social Security Administration, although he does pay state and federal taxes on that income. (A reporter's error in last week's edition incorrectly stated that Mills did not pay taxes on his pension.)
On the matter of unemployment, Mills noted that national conditions have affected Kentucky. He did say that the state did the right thing in 2009 when it passed legislation that allowed existing businesses to receive incentives similar to those offered to new businesses. He added that Kentucky's utility rates and its workforce make it an attractive location for businesses.
For Mills, the most important issue facing Kentucky is drugs, and he stands by his vote in support of House Bill 1, the pill mill bill, which was aimed at curbing prescription pill problems. He would consider changes, however.
"If I think it makes it better from a standpoint of solving the drug problem, then I'll support it," Mills said. "But if I think it's better for just one faction or one group, then I'm not sure that I could support that."
House Bill 463 allowed for early release of thousands of prisoners statewide and is projected to save Kentucky tens of millions of dollars. At the time it was approved, it had support across the state, but since it's been implemented, HB 463 has been heavily criticized. Mills said he wants to hear from law enforcement about the law's effects.
"Everybody agrees that we want to make our people better, but when it comes down to doing it, there may be some practical issues that we need to take a look at," he said.
After the Supreme Court ruled that Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, was Constitutional, Gov. Steve Beshear moved forward to create a health care exchange. Mills supports the governor's action, noting that the federal government will manage the exchange if the state doesn't have one in place by 2014. Mills also encouraged people to give the law a few years to work before deciding if it is beneficial or not. If the law is repealed, then he said the state will look at what it should do, too.
The state Supreme Court ruled the state legislative districts approved last year were not legal. Mills said he'd like the redistricting process to be done "with peace and love" but he doesn't think that will happen.
Mills added that he would like to see similar communities grouped together in the district. Having grown up in Marion County, he said it has much in common with Washington County. Regardless of what his district looks like, he said he just wants to serve the people. He also added that the legislative leaders play a big role in redistricting.
Mills said he does not know yet if he'll introduce any bills in 2013, but he does support a bill prefiled by Rep. Steve Riggs that would change how legislative pensions are paid.
Mills concluded by saying he is grateful for the support he has received in his previous runs for state representative.
"I just ask [voters] to give me another term this time so that I can continue to work on some of the things we've talked about," he said.
Pickerill served for 10 years on the Lebanon City Council and is a businessman. He believes that experience can help address what he called a spending problem in state government.
"With last year's income to the state of $9 billion, it's not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem," Pickerill said. "Frankfort needs to cut back, just like most Kentuckians have cut back for the past few years."
Pickerill would prefer to let the people of Kentucky vote on the expanded gaming issue. He knows voters in the 24th District are divided on the issue.
On a personal level, Pickerill expressed some reservations, having seen where people have lost their homes and businesses as a result of gambling problems.
"I think if you could stop a few people from just walking across the street to a casino, it might just save their family," Pickerill said.
Like Mills, Pickerill said he is also waiting to see the tax commission's report. He said the state needs to take a serious look at several things, including loopholes in tax laws.
Pickerill also believes reforming the tax structure could make it easier for business owners to employ more people. He also stressed the importance of education in helping people find work. In particular, he said the state needs to support education for students who intend to enter the workforce rather than go to college. He said the state needs to "get them better trained so they'll know a trade so they'll be a better employee, whether that's manufacturing or services."
One area where Pickerill and Mills agree is that the pill mill bill was a good piece of legislation because of the effect it has had on prescription pills.
Pickerill said he's heard some criticisms of the bill from doctors, but he said he spoke with a physician in Casey County who told him it's not a big deal.
"It actually helps him to not prescribe a lot of other medication that people don't need, they just think they need," Pickerill said.
With regard to HB 463 (which granted early release for prisoners), Pickerill thinks it has been a horrible policy for the state.
"I've spoken to several police officers who said we've got to change this legislation," he said.
Pickerill also believes Gov. Beshear jumped the gun in pushing to create the health care exchange required under Obamacare. That legislation could change depending on the outcome of the national elections.
"We should wait and see before we rent office space in Frankfort and hire approximately 200 people to do this health care exchange ...," Pickerill said. "We don't know what it's going to cost the taxpayers of Kentucky, and we probably won't know that until 2014."
Pickerill isn't as sure that the legislature will take up the redistricting during the 30-day session in 2013, but when they do, he said they should be able to take the politics out of it.
"It needs to be looked at in a nonpartisan way," he said.
Pickerill added that a lot of legislation introduced in Frankfort is time-consuming, but doesn't provide much good for the state.
"We need to take a look at other avenues that will save money in Frankfort without adding a whole lot of legislation to the books in Kentucky," he said.
He closed by emphasizing the need to curb spending, noting that 80 percent of the state budget goes to education, medication and incarceration.
He added that he is a conservative and he wants the state to spend tax dollars wisely.
"Kentucky's a great place to live," Pickerill said. "We need to keep it that way for people that want to move here for retirement, coming here to start their career, start a family."