GREENVILLE — The annual State of the State luncheon was held under the helm of the Darke County Chamber of Commerce at Romer’s Catering on Friday. The guest speaker panel included State Representatives Jena Powell and Susan Manchester, and State Senators Matt Huffman and Stephen Huffman.
The state representatives and senators were on hand to answer a few questions in regards to mental health, education, and what we may expect on down the road.
The event began with the priorities in the General Assembly this fall or particular legislation the representatives and senators were campaigning on or sponsoring.
For Representative Powell, her office is currently focused on technical and corrective changes to tax law, or House Bill 197. The bill is to ensure the tax code is accurate, clear, and free of errors.
According to Representative Powell, 125 errors were identified in the code.
Representative Manchester cited House Bill 8, Foster Caregiver Training legislation that would see reform for requirements around foster care training. She emphasized the opioid crisis has increased the need for foster caregivers in the system. Her office is also working on House Bill 183, in regards to the aging farmer population. The bill would reward a tax credit to beginning farmers.
Senator Matt Huffman has prioritized Senate Bill 89, a reform bill for joint-vocational schools and Senator Stephen a health transparency bill. One that would essentially allow patients to make informed decisions related to their health care and to eliminate “surprise” billing.
Mental health was a significant topic starting with Representative Powell, who cited concerns surrounding farmers and school children. She stated, “I don’t think we have a good grasp of what we are defining as mental health.”
Representative Manchester noted the increase in suicide rates “across the board” and through all sectors of society with the drug epidemic opening eyes on mental health.
“Keep in mind, there’s only so much government can do,” said Senator Matt Huffman on the topic of mental health. He explained a disconnect from society in “many ways” that did not exist when he was growing up, how individuals need to be more proactive in their community, and to have human interactions.
Senator Stephen Huffman concurred with the statement saying it is all about the family.
On education, the panel agreed on the need for more options for employers and employees beyond the four-year degree.
“The community colleges are really the future for workforce training,” said Senator Matt Huffman. “Today’s college product for many people is not worth the cost.”
As a solid millennial, Representative Manchester said the overwhelming message when growing up was to obtain a four-year college degree.
“I’m so thankful to see that conversation is changing everywhere I go,” said Representative Manchester. She was a participant earlier that morning in Manufacturing Day, a national event that invites high school sophomore students to tour area manufactures. It is an opportunity to see firsthand the many career options available in the industry.
“Community colleges, the vocational schools, all of those programs have seen a tremendous amount of support,” continued Manchester. “There are so many opportunities available to them.”