Community priorities for upcoming legislative session outlined

Community priorities for upcoming legislative session outlined

Permanent funding for all-day kindergarten, a second Family Court judge, the implementation of broadband service throughout Daviess County and beginning construction on the Kentucky 54 widening project are some of the highlights of the official 2022-23 Greater Owensboro Community Priorities list released Tuesday morning.

“The Chamber and the (Economic Development Corporation) and the city and county officials have worked together to put together a list of priorities we think are very important for our community to rally around and for our leaders in Frankfort to understand what our priorities are,” Chamber Board Director Clay Ford said.

Every two years, prior to the General Assembly’s long session, the Owensboro/Daviess County community creates a list of priorities to work towards in Frankfort. The partners that come together to form the list are the City of Owensboro, Daviess County Fiscal Court, the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp. and the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.

According to a statement by the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, the process originated more than 20 years ago in response to state legislators saying Owensboro was “tough to help,” due to mixed messages coming from community stakeholders.

The list for the upcoming legislative session is significant in that for the first time, it includes an education item that is not related to a community college. Local stakeholders are seeking permanent all-day kindergarten for all state residents.

“Right now the state is kind of funding the all-day kindergarten, and we are asking them to codify that, meaning to put it in the code, and then that way our local superintendents will be able to use the money that they had allocated for the other half a day to fund preschool for kids all through Owensboro and Daviess County,” Chamber President and CEO Candance Castlen Brake said.

The move would be significant, because it would make all-day kindergarten available to more children throughout the state.

“A lot of children go to school to kindergarten, and they have never had anybody read to them, and they are not prepared,” Brake said.

Mayor Tom Watson said that the ability for children to be able to start the earliest years of their education on the right track is something that should not only be available to the affluent.

“They shouldn’t have to overcome that problem that has been created,” Watson said. “There are a lot of people who are overcomers in this world, but there are a lot of people who are not overcomers, and they shouldn’t have to overcome this.”

Other legislative priorities included on the list are Home Rule for local government taxing options, funding for youth employment programs and the construction of a new judicial center in Owensboro.

Infrastructure items included on the list are county-wide broadband, starting the Kentucky 54 widening project to Jack Hinton Road, extending Interstate Spur 165 to U.S. 60 at the William H. Natcher Bridge, a Daviess County interchange on the I-165-I-69 bridge and the completion of an upgrade to I-69 and an upgrade to the interstate spur.

By Nathan Havenner Messenger-Inquirer