By GARY POPP
GEORGETOWN — Area state legislators held a town-hall meeting at Georgetown Elementary School Saturday morning.
Nearly 30 constituents came to the event to listen and ask questions from their representatives.
The legislators included Senator Ron Grooms (R-Jeffersonville), Representative Ed Clere (R-New Albany) and Representative Rhonda Rhoads (R-Corydon).
The meeting began with each of the politicians individually speaking about about the bills that have been introduced in the current legislative session, which began Jan. 7 and will end in late April.
Perhaps the most dominant issue in the current session is the mandated passage of the state budget, but a long question-and-answer session during the meeting revealed that area residents are more concerned about specific issues, rather than the massive budget.
“There was a varied background of topics heard today,” Grooms said of the public's questions. “Their concern over some local issues that they are frustrated with and that they are basically asking for some interpretation to help support their local concerns.”
Grooms said public meetings, such as the event held Saturday, help him as a representative identify what issues people want raised in Indianapolis and if there is anything he can do to address those issues.
He said many of the concerns he heard are dealt with on local levels, not by state representatives.
“But it is an issue for me because if there is legislation there that impacts that, then that is going to trickle down to the local level,” he said.
Among the legislators, Grooms has spearheaded the event for the past three years. He said he has organized the public meetings because it is there he finds the most beneficial interaction with the public.
“The best way to get information from people is to talk to them face-to-face, one-on-one in a group where everyone has a chance to talk,” Grooms said. “A lot times in a group like this, one thought will trigger another thought. One question will bring up a follow-up question so that you get an interaction, not only with me and the folks here, but also interaction among them to possibly better understand issues they have concerns with.”
Grooms prefers town-hall events over phone calls or emails because he can better understand the concerns behind constituents’ questions and provide more satisfactory responses.
Clere called town hall meetings “the essence of representative democracy.” He said he enjoys the public interaction and always leaves with a better understanding of the concerns of his electorate.
“I truly value the participation of the discussion and I take a lot back with me to the state house,” Clere said.
He said more than 600 bills from both state houses have been introduced during the current session, and that hearing personally from people during town hall meetings helps him serve their needs while reviewing bills on their long journeys to becoming laws.
“It is essential for the folks we seek to represent to have access to us in this type of setting where we can have an open conversation about issues important to people in the community,” Clere said.