Congresswoman Ashley Hinson holds Town Hall meeting at Allamakee County Veterans Museum

Congresswoman Hinson hosts Town Hall meeting at Veterans Museum... U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson spoke to a nearly capacity crowd during her Town Hall visit to the Allamakee County Veterans Museum in Waukon Wednesday, August 16. During her Town Hall session, she answered questions from those in attendance and also took a tour of the museum. Photo by Joe Moses.

by Joe Moses

U.S. Representative Ashley Hinson of Iowa’s Second Congressional District held a Town Hall meeting and Question & Answer (Q&A) session Wednesday, August 16 at the Allamakee County Veterans Museum in Waukon.

The Town Hall meeting in Waukon began with an introduction by Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick with Hinson touching on several topics prior to responding to questions from the near-capacity crowd of approximately 20 area residents present in the program room at the Allamakee County Veterans Museum. Hinson noted her tour of the County Veterans Museum prior to the Town Hall/Q&A meeting and discussed the importance of recognizing the sacrifices made by military veterans in protecting this nation’s freedoms.

Hinson noted that this is her eighth in-person town hall meeting during this session, 28th town hall meeting in total, with transparency and accessibility being important in hearing concerns directly from constituents, with that feedback and information then taken back to Washington D.C. Hinson further said that her policy agenda is driven by those she represents, with many of the bills she has introduced being the result of conversations like those taking place at meetings such as this.

Hinson advised that fiscal responsibility, a concern she has heard throughout the district, is something that this nation’s government needs to focus upon with current spending policies not being sustainable. Hinson further advised, “It’s clear that people want to live their lives without the government getting in the way. The big government and big spending policies in Washington D.C. are hurting everyday Iowans and everyday Americans.”

Hinson discussed backing legislation to make the 2017 tax cuts permanent for small businesses and working families. In addition, Hinson noted the Providing for Life Act, legislation that includes a section expanding the Child Tax Credit for working families, with details available on her website. She indicated that her economic policy is simple, “It’s your money, not the government’s money.”

Hinson discussed government overreach including the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) which she described as a regulatory overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in addition to the administration’s proposals relating to canceling student debt. She transitioned into discussion of China, which she noted is a national security threat on many levels and has continued to steal intellectual property, which has cost jobs and opportunities while driving up costs for farmers down the line. Hinson discussed an incident that took place in Tama County where the theft of genetically modified seeds out of a plot was attempted with the intent to reverse engineer in China. She noted the importance of being competitive with China, both a Republican and Democratic issue, relating to the economy and military.

Government waste was next discussed, with Hinson providing an overview of a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) which indicates that 17 out of 24 Federal agency headquarters in Washington D.C. are using just 25 percent of their office space. Hinson added, “The lights are on and nobody is home. Who is paying for those lights? You are. We all are, to the tune of $7 billion per year to lease that office space.”

Hinson noted that one of the worst offenders in the report is the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is only using 7-12 percent of its office space in a massive building. She discussed constituent casework through OPM with one open case a year old not receiving any response in the last six months, indicating that they are not fully back to work. Hinson said that she will continue to call out governmental waste which continues at several agencies.

Hinson suggested that the U.S. needs to prioritize energy and increase domestic energy production to prevent energy shortages with spiking fuel prices being a factor that is driving inflation. She further advised that an “all of the above” energy strategy to maximize domestic resources, including fossil fuels, renewables and more ethanol will ensure access to all. Hinson noted that she is advocating for an all-of-the-above energy strategy to include innovation and consumer choice options and that a one-size-fits-all mandate will not work for rural America.

Before moving into the Q&A portion of the meeting, Hinson discussed the casework team and customer service role of her offices in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo and encouraged anyone needing assistance or dealing with challenges relating to a variety of federal agencies, including the I.R.S., V.A., among others, to contact one of these offices for follow-up.

Bruce Palmer of Waukon questioned Hinson about proposed legislation allowing undocumented or illegal immigrants to have access to Social Security benefits. Palmer noted his opposition to this proposal. Hinson advised that she would not be in support of policies that incentivize illegal immigration, stating, “I am a proponent of legal channels to come into this country. My sister is married to an immigrant. So is my cousin. I fundamentally disagree with the way the Biden Administration has handled the southern border.”

Hinson discussed feedback received from law enforcement at another recent town hall meeting relating to an increase in fentanyl and methamphetamine as a direct result of what is happening at the southern border.

Joe Emerson of Waukon questioned Hinson about the government’s accountability in spending taxpayer money. Hinson discussed her role on the Appropriations Committee and further advised that bills written under the Republican House majority are providing oversight and accountability for each dollar. She said that Congress has ceded too much power to the Executive Branch over several administrations. Hinson provided examples of several agencies, including ICE, TSA, Secret Service, Coast Guard, among others, who are answering budget-related questions during the appropriations process.

Ann Hart of Waukon noted her concerns about the environment, climate and water quality. Hart questioned, “What do you want to do about the climate? Water quality in Iowa is not great.” Hinson noted that water quality and soil health are both improving and then provided an overview of specific initiatives supported by Congress and the Iowa House relating to flood and water management and resiliency.

Hinson added, “I have supported renewable energy. When I talk about the all-of-the-above energy strategy, that includes our renewables here in Iowa but that also includes nuclear and natural gas, things that we have in abundant supply in this country. What I’m concerned about, when we take off a coal-fired power plant, for example, and you don’t have resources to back that up. It shouldn’t take ten years to build a new plant. We can’t be doing that when it leaves us with glaring vulnerabilities. Climate policy comes down to water management, soil management and fuel management.” Hinson further noted that until the U.S. stands up to other countries like China relating to their climate policy, the U.S. could spend trillions of dollars and only make incremental gains.

Leslie Sand of Decorah, a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby - a non-partisan organization, discussed a climate action program in Canada that has benefited citizens in the form of an incentive payment funded through a fee charged to fossil fuel producers. Hinson noted her concerns relating to this type of program describing it as “asset reallocation” and further noting that innovation drives competition.

Hinson also responded to other questions during the hour-long Q&A in Waukon. The Allamakee County Town Hall was one of three stops for Hinson that Wednesday, with tours of the Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Hospital in West Union and MercyOne Medical Center in Elkader taking place later that day.