With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there’s no one more worthy of our gratitude than our veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Monday was Veterans Day and I encourage you to honor the men and women, our neighbors and friends, who bravely served our country. Time and again, when the bugle sounded to go to war and protect our flag, men and women from across southern and eastern Kentucky responded, drove to enlistment stations and went to the battlefields. Our flag still stands for freedom and our nation still stands firm on the foundation of liberty thanks to them. Thousands never returned home, while even more returned with life-changing injuries and trauma. We owe a great debt of gratitude for their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their loved ones. I salute each and every veteran from Kentucky, and pray for our active military members still serving today. Thank you for your service.
I also want to express my appreciation for the people of southern and eastern Kentucky, along with leaders from across the commonwealth who are preparing for the SOAR initiative, “Shaping Our Appalachian Region.” On Oct. 28, Gov. Beshear and I announced that SOAR will kick off with a summit on Dec.9 at the East Kentucky Expo Center at 9 a.m. We need input from everyone, but especially our entrepreneurs, successful job creators and innovators. We’ve lost more than 6,000 coal mining jobs in our region over the last two years, but if we work together, we will overcome. The Planning Committee provided a lot of innovative ideas for the summit in our planning session on Nov. 7. Reserve your free spot at the SOAR Summit at https://kydlgweb.ky.gov/FederalGrants/SOAR.cfm or call the Kentucky Department for Local Government at 1-502-573-2382.
On Oct. 29, I joined thousands of coal miners in Washington, D.C. for the “Rally for American Energy Jobs.” It was great to see folks from Kentucky standing strong for our region, including Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock. Judge-Executive Brock also gave a compelling testimony before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee detailing the impact of stringent regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on rural coal-reliant communities, like Middlesboro and Pineville.
One of our region’s hardest hit coal counties, Pike County, was the site of a major announcement on Nov. 6. Gov. Beshear and I joined the City of Pikeville to announce commercial air service at the Pikeville-Pike County Regional Airport. The airline is called “Appalachian Air” and flights to Nashville International Airport will be available in March 2014.
Last month, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the inauguration of the 20th President of the University of Pikeville, Dr. James Hurley. The University of Pikeville serves as a flagship of hope for Central Appalachia, empowering the future leaders of our region to face the economic and societal challenges around us. Dr. Hurley is the first alumnus to take the helm and I wish him Godspeed.
I’m pleased to announce that Mill Springs Battlefield passed another preservation hurdle. On Oct. 30, the Natural Resources Committee passed H.R. 298 requesting a feasibility study for the Mill Springs Battlefield to be adopted into the National Park Service. The legislation now heads on to the full House for consideration. This news comes on the heels of two successful key land acquisitions by the Civil War Trust and the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, protecting these hallowed grounds as part of our nation’s Civil War history.
On Tuesday, I was honored to join God’s Pantry Food Bank for a ribbon-cutting celebration for the new southeast regional distribution center expansion in Laurel County. The new 10,000 square-foot facility will be able to store up to 90,000 pounds of food in its new freezer. The distribution center is expected to be in full swing by December.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a major step forward last month. I recently applauded the FDA’s decision to tighten restrictions on America’s most abused painkillers, hydrocodone combination drugs, like Vicodin and Lortab. As a Schedule II medication, a written prescription is required in order to receive hydrocodone painkillers except in cases of emergency. Pharmacists must require patients to present an original prescription for refills, and traffickers are be subject to harsher fines and penalties.