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Meet the Candidates: Bowling unopposed in his return to 87th District

(Note: This concludes the Meet the Candidates series. Go online at www.harlanenterprise.net to read parts one and two.)

Running unopposed for State Representative, 87th District, Adam Bowling (R) was the last candidate to take the podium at the Sept. 17 Meet the Candidates forum hosted by the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce.

Although he did not have to take the stand to make arguments against the opposing party, Bowling wanted to be present to speak with voters directly about what he is doing as State Representative and to give his answers to the challenging topics Harlan County and others are facing.

Bowling said he has spent a lot of time in Harlan County while he was growing up, and even worked at Save-A-Lot in Harlan and Evarts during high school.

“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to be able to serve the 87th District in Frankfort, and I look forward to continuing that work,” he said.

Robinson began the questions, asking Bowling what he feels is Harlan County’s biggest obstacle in economic development and how he can help overcome it while in office.

Bowling said there are a lot of different things that can be done to help combat Harlan’s obstacles, including focusing on the areas in which the county lacks most, like broadband.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get high-speed internet into our counties and our rural places,” he said.

Bowling added urban areas are “well served” by their providers, helping their economic development, but it isn’t always the same in southeastern Kentucky, so “rural legislators” must demand the same in their districts and continue to work toward building the infrastructure for it.

“We have to continue to update our infrastructure,” Bowling said. “I know it’s been spoken about quite a bit that Harlan County got $27 million in a two-year road plan, and I was thrilled to get to play a small role in getting that, but we’ve got to continue to push for those upgrades in infrastructure — roads, water systems, other utilities and internet.”

Bowling said he and other legislators also need to look into pro-business and pro-growth policies in Frankfort.

“When businesses look to move somewhere, they look at a whole region, and in our whole region, we have the state of Virginia and the state of Tennessee, so we must put in place good tax policies and pro-growth policies so that Kentucky’s competitive with those states,” he said.

The drug and opioid crisis was the next topic up for discussion to see what plans Bowling has to combat drug abuse that impacts local children, schools, workforce, economy and law enforcement.

Bowling said Robinson was “exactly right,” adding drug abuse impacts the healthcare system, overwhelms jails and prisons and takes away resources that are “badly needed in our communities and puts them all in that problem.”

“I’m actually working on a piece of legislation right now with the Kentucky Association of Counties, the Kentucky League of Cities, the Office of Drug Policy, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is on board, and I will file that bill later this year for a recovery ready community,” Bowling said. “It is a designation that communities can go for that will, basically, look at recovery on all different levels. It will look at prevention, it will look at treatment and it will look at longterm, like recovery and getting back into the workforce.”

Bowling said he wants to ensure communities have programs and resources in place to help beat the opioid epidemic.

Tackling the next question regarding plans to help increase coal severance revenue for local governments, Bowling said local governments are “handicapped right now by how they’re allowed to tax their citizens.”

“There was a movement last session to kind of address that, but they need to be able to do it in a way that is more competitive with our neighboring states,” he said. “We keep putting more and more responsibility back on local governments and there’s more pressure on it because coal severance revenue is no longer what it once was and pension costs have continued to skyrocket.”

Bowling said the government needs to look at options to give local communities so they can be competitive with surrounding communities and other states, adding it would be good “pro-growth tax reform.”

At the top of the list for many Harlan Countians, critical highway infrastructure was another hard-hitting question for the candidates to express what their top priorities were for transportation.

“The first thing I learned when I decided to run was that we’ve got to finish U.S. 421 to the Virginia line,” he said. “That’s been my number one priority.”

Bowling said he knows there are other needs to address, but when it comes to road projects, he says there are more needs than can go around.

“I’m so excited to be able to work to help get $15 million on the budget for it this year. A lot more is needed, but we’re just getting started. We’re going to keep pushing that project, and we will get it finished,” he said.

With COVID-19 adversely impacting communities throughout the world, Bowling was asked what steps need to be taken to make Harlan County more resilient to economic shocks like what the pandemic has brought on in the future.

Bowling said he and other officials still have a lot to learn, especially since locals are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and are continuing to navigate its waters.

“Once this passes and we get back to life as normal, we’ve got to sit down and learn as much as we can learn and come up with a plan that makes sense. For me, what makes sense, is we’ve kind of figured out what products are essential and what products are not,” Bowling said. “Well, if we make a lot of the products we’ve learned are essential, whether its medicines personal protective equipment, that were being produced in Asian-Indian countries, let’s bring those back to the United States. That’s something that needs to be worked on on the federal level and on the state level.”

Bowling said by bringing back industries to the United States, and hopefully to southeastern Kentucky, communities will be prepared for another pandemic if and when they face another like the COVID-19 outbreak.

In his closing remarks, Bowling said, “I’ve hit the ground running, and I’m committed to staying the course and continuing my work in Frankfort for as long as the good people in Harlan County will have me.”

You can go to www.govoteky.com for more information on the November General Election.

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