Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Report from Jean Schmidt's Town Hall Meeting

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt held another Coffee and Conversation Town Hall Meeting yesterday.

Porkopolis will cover issues unique to this meeting not covered in previous reports. (See: Madeira Meeting and South Lebanon Meeting)

A quick note about the venue for the meeting, Mason Christian Village. This is one classy retirement community. The facility certainly does live up to its billing as "one of the finest retirement communities in the country". The audience was predominantly made up of residents and it was good to hear them share a lot of 'wisdom' with their representative.
  • Ms. Schmidt noted that she strongly supported the recently passed Budget Resolution (actually this is carry over legislation from last year: 'The Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005'). She claimed that there are $41 billion in budget cuts in the bill.

  • Ms. Schmidt brought up her support for H.R.4437: Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 which authorized the "construction of a fence along most of the border in Arizona, and parts of the California, New Mexico and Texas borders with Mexico."

  • Lobbying reform appears to be high on Congresswoman Schmdit's agenda. She noted that the recently passed resolution (H.Res.648) eliminates floor privileges and access to Member exercise facilities for registered lobbyists who are former Members or officers of the House. Schmidt recenly introduced H.R.4679 which seeks to make public disclosure of lobbyists for foreign nationals more readily avaialble. Her goal is to have the registration information be just one mouse-click away for anyone to see.

    Hmmm....lobbyist for foreign nationals...Is it just a coincidence that Ms. Schmidt's bill will affect a lobbyist like Advantage Associates, Inc. (AAI) on which fellow S.O.B Alliance member BizzyBlog detailed Republican primary challenger Bob McEwen's relationship with? Porkopolis reports...you decide.

  • Schmidt gave a detailed account of her recent trip to Bulgaria, Afghanistan and Kuwait as part of a Congressional Delegation. She noted that several soldiers commented to her that the continual state-side debate over the mission in Iraq can be demoralizing. Note that the debate is demoralizing, not the mission in and of itself.

After her 45 minute overview, Ms. Schmidt started taking questions from the audience:

  • First question was on her stance to fund more medical research. She did not address the specific question, but instead started discussing a tangential topic on the debate over stem cell research. Ms. Schmidt noted that she is supports adult and umbilical-cord stem cell research as opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

  • A senior in the audience asked about the mess over Medicare Part D, the new drug benefit. (See: Medicare: Part D Stands for Disaster from Citizens Against Government Waste for a good primer on the issues.)

    The senior's concerns dealt specifically with signing up for a plan only to learn that the drugs covered on the plan had changed after sign-up...or so she claimed. (Frankly if that's what insurers are actually doing, one would think there would be grounds for suing on breach of contract.) Ms. Schmidt pointed out that legislative aids in the local office are available to help with this.

    A personal note...Medicare Part D was one of the contributing factors to the start of Porkopolis as a blog...Specifically learning that Budget Committee member Rob Portman was totally clueless on the budget figures associate with the new entitlement.

    Remember that back in Janary of 2004 Republicans controlled all three branches of government when this new entitlement was enacted. Estimates of the cost of part D quickly went from $400 billion for 10 years to $540 billion, just after the law went into effect. Current CBO official estimates on the cost are at $558 billion. (Update: Reports from last year around the same time as the CBO report said this number may be between $784 billion and $1.2 trillion.)

    Ms. Schmidt was not in Congress at the time of this mess, something she repeatedly reminded the audience of during the meeting, but she sure has a responsibility in fixing it and getting it right.
  • A well reasoned senior in the audience brought up the issue of energy policy and specifically nuclear power. He made an excellent point that Europe, in particular France, gets a good part of their electricity from Nuclear power (75% according to one report) and that the Navy utilizes it in aircraft carriers and submarines.

    Ms. Schmidt noted that she is like-minded. She shared that she once lead the protest against the Zimmer Nuclear facility in Moscow, Ohio as a college student. Ms. Schmit proudly noted that she is older and wiser now.



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