U.S. Sen. Allard solicits citizen concerns
SILVERTHORNE – A standing-room only crowd of citizens filled the Silverthorne town council chambers to outline concerns and ask questions of U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard.
Allard, R-Colo., was on a seven-county tour of town meetings to update citizens on the first five months of the session. Allard cited numerous accomplishments legislators have made this session, including a reduction in the capital gains tax, an accelerated rate in the child tax credit and an energy bill senators will hear next week.
Like at U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s town meeting Tuesday evening, citizens at Wednesday’s meeting asked an array of questions ranging from how to make the best use of special education funding to how to fix the nation’s health care system.
One woman cited her daughter’s dilemma as a classic problem in the country’s medical system. Her daughter has diabetes, is insured in Colorado and plans to attend college in Oregon. If she drops her insurance, it would be difficult for her to get new coverage because of her existing medical condition. So she has to return to Colorado to obtain medical help.
Allard said debate is centered around whether the federal government should pass down more mandates to the states, which he opposes.
Most issues related directly to the nation’s budget, a tax cut recently approved in the House that Republicans say will stimulate the national economy, and advances to encourage people to use renewable or alternative energy sources.
Allard said the war in Iraq, the accountability of corporations and a normal business cycle are among the reasons the economy hasn’t rebounded as quickly as many would like. He also said some economists disregard the stock market when they evaluate economic recoveries, and that they should place more emphasis on the market because people are increasingly investing in it.
“The more people feel confident that their nest egg will be there or will be worth more, the more willing they’ll be to buy that new car or expand their business,” Allard said. “That’s why we decreased the capital gains tax. We need to reestablish more confidence in the stock market.”
Senators will consider a bill next week that would require communities to use some renewable energy sources. Allard said he prefers incentives to mandates but will probably vote for the bill in hopes of expanding the use of renewable and alternative energy.
Many citizens at the meeting expressed concern about rising prescription drug costs and the subsequent exodus to the Canada border to get the same drugs for less money.
“In America, the consumer pays for the research costs of drugs,” Allard said. “Canada has capped the cost of drugs. If we did that, the availability would go down. I think the solution is to … reallocate research costs worldwide.”
Allard said the Senate will review a prescription drug bill in June.
As at Udall’s town meeting Tuesday night, citizens at Allard’s meeting wanted to know what legislators are doing to protect veterans benefits, particularly since survivor benefit plans have been cut.
“We have provided relief, but the funding isn’t there,” Allard said. “If benefits are too generous, that means there is less money available for guns and support troops on the battlefield. That’s what appropriators wrestle with.”
Allard said he also wrestles with the Patriot Act, which broadens the rules by which the federal government can obtain private information about people, particularly people they suspect might be terrorists. He voted for the act because it was supposed to be temporary, but now there is talk on the Hill that a second Patriot Act might still be needed.
There’s a lot of material on senators’ desks, however, which could result in some bills delayed until the next session. One of those is the Healthy Forests Act, sponsored by Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., that addresses forest thinning to decrease the chance of wildfires.
“It is under serious consideration,” Allard said. “I think it has a fairly good chance that something will come out of it, but we may not get to it until the end of September.”
Some citizens urged Allard to consider increasing the punishments doled out to company leaders who has misappropriated funds and misled consumers, encouraging companies to make products in America rather than abroad and getting promised Homeland Defense funds to firefighters and law enforcement officials at the local level.
They also thanked him for his work addressing the sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy and encouraged him to work against a bill that would loosen Federal Communications Commission requirements regarding how many media outlets a company can own.
“This has been one of the most productive Congresses I can recall in recent history,” Allard said. “We always wish we could have done more, but we got a lot accomplished. “
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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