KILMER TOWN HALL

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

North Kitsap High School Auditorium

Intro by Robert Gelder, District 1 Commissioner, North Kitsap

PRESENTATION

Two Priorities:

  1. Get government back on track
  2. Get economy back on track

We should strengthen our nation’s ethics laws

  • Congress should have strict ethics rules.
  • Proposed mandatory ethics training
  • Executive branch should also avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Co-sponsoring Presidential Tax Transparency Act
  • Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act

We should protect our democracy from foreign intervention

  • Supports special counsel
  • Supports Protecting our Decomcracy Act
  • Prevent pass-through of foreign money into political campaigns through 501(c)3 organizations
  • Sponsored Election Protection & Integrity Certification Act to close that loophole

We should empower the American Voter

  • Voting Rights Advancement Act (would put the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act)
  • National Redistricting Reform Act (end gerrymandering)
  • Voter Empowerment Act

Fix broken campaign finance system

  • Democracy for All amendment (end Citizens United)
  • DISCLOSE Act
  • Government by the People Act
  • Lead sponsor for a bi-partisan Federal Election Commission reform bill

We need to end budget gimmicks

  • Congress needs to pass 12 appropriations bills by Sept. 31. They’ve passed zero so far. This means we could face another government shutdown. Congress should have passed a budget this spring.
  • Congress should pass a real budget that eliminates “sequestration”
  • Return to regular budget process
  • “No budget, no pay” bill
  • Problematic spending bills that went through committee:
  • Cuts to public education, financial aid, after school programs
  • Cuts to economic development investments
  • Cuts to protections of clean air and water
  • And more

Many feel they are losing ground

  • American middle class is shrinking
  • Real wages have gone down

Variety of things we need to do to grow economy

  • Support small businesses
  • Education and workforce training (major factor when businesses are considering new locations)
  • Invest in infrastructure (ability to get people/good to market)
  • Reform tax system
  • Enhance research in emerging fields
  • Ensure seniors can retire with dignity
  • And more

Working on bills:

  • Bring broadband to communities left behind
  • Support tech apprenticeships
  • Bring business to distressed communities
  • Boost outdoor economy
  • Help small businesses start and grow
  • And more

Other notes

QUESTION AND ANSWER

Q: (Brandy) Thanks for supporting the ACA. Do you support medicare for all? Buy in for 55+?

A: Repeal and replace has proved to be a sham. Review of GOP bills and their drastic proposed cuts. Worst day in career: the day the healthcare bill passed the House. His offices have received more calls on this issue than any other during his 4 years in office.

Goals when it comes to healthcare:

  • Universality
  • Focus on ensuring everyone has healthcare
  • Quality:
  • Focus on delivering outcomes to patients
  • Affordability
  • Focus on reducing costs to families, individuals, taxpayers
  • Do no harm
  • Focus on interests of patients

ACA has meant progress on several fronts (pre-existing conditions, medicaid expansion, no lifetime caps, ability to stay on parents’ insurance, etc.).

ACA has started to bend the medical cost curve downward. (Costs are increasing at a rate slower than pre-ACA.)

Congress should fix parts of ACA

  • Stabilize individual market
  • Guarantee cost-sharing reductions
  • Create permanent reinsurance program
  • Reduce costs for low-income Americans and small businesses
  • Expand access to primary care
  • Incentives for providers to go into primary care
  • Help ACOs work better (include Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants)
  • Ensure that primary care options exist
  • Enable a “public option” to compete and keep costs down
  • In favor of allowing people to buy into medicaid with no age limit

(He thinks we have a shot at Democrats and Republicans coming together on the first three points above.)

In regards to HB 676 (medicare for all)

  • Embraces ethic of “How do we make sure all have health insurance?”
  • Assesses the bill under criteria: universality, quality, affordability, do no harm
  • Achieves universality
  • But how does this all get paid for and by whom?
  • 156 million Americans get insurance through their employer and like it. It’s higher quality than what they would receive under medicare.
  • 2nd largest employer in his district (after the military) is hospitals. They lose money on medicare and medicaid patients and make it up from private insurance. Would have to alter reimbursements to make up for losses. This is not present in 676.
  • Represents 11 Native American tribes. HB 676 would eliminate Indian Health Service. Becomes a tribal sovereignty issue.
  • Instead wants to focus on protecting progress made under ACA, build on its progress, make its progress permanent

Recommends reading Paul Krugman’s recent column about other models that provide universal healthcare (such as the Dutch model): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/opinion/healthcare-single-payer-children.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

Q: Thanks for joining the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus. What do you think Congress can do around what many would call the biggest public health concern of this century?

A: First of all, wants to make clear: climate change is real, is strongly opposed to pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Climate change is already visibly affecting our district:

  • 4 out of the 11 tribes he represents are currently in the process of moving to higher ground
  • 3200 people whose livelihoods are tied to shellfish
  • Massive wildfires
  • Defense Department has said: climate change is a threat multiplier because of the instability it causes throughout the world

This is an economic opportunity, not an economic threat. We need to invest in renewables, smart grid, market-based solutions to carbon emissions.

Of note: The Climate Solutions Caucus is also nicknamed the “Noah’s Ark Caucus” because Representatives can only join in pairs--one Democrat and one Republican. This is a bi-partisan effort to address climate change. Rep. Kilmer was excited to find a Republican who agreed to join with him.

Q: There are currently 7 million Americans unemployed. It is predicted that ⅓ - ½ of jobs will be replaced by robots and automation in the next decade. How can we justify admitting 1 million immigrants per year to compete with American workers?

A: Acknowledged challenges. Is part of the Future of Work Task Force. Have faced these types of “industrial revolutions” before with similar predictions. We need to plan to make sure economic change is not something we are victims of, but something we shape. Cited examples of businesses now gone (Kit’s Cameras, Tower Records, Borders Books) because of massive technological change and economic change.

Government does an inadequate job of helping those displaced. Current scope of “trade adjustment assistance” is inadequate.

Co-sponsor of bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform bill

  • “We have people that need jobs. We also have jobs that need people.”
  • High tech jobs are not being filled by the domestic workforce
  • Allow bump of H1B visas, but raise fee and dedicate that money toward educating kids in STEM

Q: Works at ICU at Harborview. Works with opioid and heroin addicts (amazing people with a terrible disease). Where do you stand in treating these diseases? (Supporting addicts instead of marginalizing.) Also, patient satisfaction scores impact how hospitals get paid. Scores are lower at hospitals with more difficult clientele. Stance?

A: We need to address substance abuse and mental health issues (often co-occurring).

We have failed to address these issues. We see them manifested in:

  • Many of these folks ending up in jail, which is not the best place to address their issues
  • Homelessness
  • Broken families

Changes to be made

  • In how drugs get approved (look closer at addictiveness)
  • Provide proper guidance to providers in considering treatment options

Introduced bi-partisan bill to expand treatment for substance abuse and mental health.

  • Treatment for these issues is a money loser for providers
  • We need the federal government to step up

In regards to satisfaction scores being tied to money: reform should be done with providers, not to them. It is also hard to ask what patients’ satisfaction with a product is when they have so little choice in what they are buying, how much they are paying.

Q: Kilmer recently voted in favor of sanctions on Russia. “Sanctions are a form of warfare. Do you really want us to go to war with Russia?”

A: Believer in what Obama admin called “smart power”. We have other tools in our foreign policy toolbox than force:

  • Economic
  • we currently have sanctions against N Korea and Iran also
  • Foreign assistance
  • Ex: Have been providing military training to Afghanistan. During this time, though, education and economic opportunities have also increased. Was told by a leader in Afghanistan: when people have economic opportunities, they have hope. When they have hope, they are less likely to strap a bomb to their chest.
  • Diplomacy
  • Particularly when done right. This can’t be done in 140 characters.

Q: Grocery worker with UCFW, which also represents healthcare workers currently working under an expired contract: advocating for safe staffing, concerned by monopoly by CHI. Anything being done at the federal level to regulate monopolies on healthcare?

A: Would love to hear suggestions on how to do that.

Q: “Concerned about the escalating war of words being lobbed across the Pacific Ocean.” Today is the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. We are currently breathing smoke from forest fires hundreds of miles away. Doesn’t think current administration understands the very real consequences of nuclear arms. Would like to see situation de-escalated. Particularly as the representative of Trident submarine base, what are you doing to speak up against the dangerous rhetoric of the Trump administration?

A: Recently had classified briefing on N Korea. Trump’s rhetoric is irresponsible and unscripted. Those at Naval Base Kitsap have less zeal for using those weapons than any.

Solution is to drive to a phased denuclearization of N Korea.

Q: How do we get Trump under control though?

A: Wishes we could take away his twitter (seriously). Had hoped chief of staff would do that.

Q: What is Congress going to do about it?

A: Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything.” Make your voices heard.

Q: Thanks for great, responsive staff. Has been doing counseling, analysis of unemployment situation. Very difficult to realistically get gainful employment in part-time world (especially when dealing with price of commuting, childcare).

A: The nature of work is changing. People are often working multiple part-time jobs. Historically, system of benefits has been tied to employment. Can we set up some sort of system where people can have benefits like childcare, family leave?

Has introduced bills to advocate for these and to raise the minimum wage (“how do we make work pay?”) Unfortunately, not confident these bills will move in Republican Congress.

There is also a geographic element to inequality. In many areas of the state, the top export is young people. We need to provide economic opportunity regardless of where you live.

Q: Concerned with implementation of Sound to Olympic Trail on Bainbridge (a project funded by a federal grant, which the city of Bainbridge Island applied for). Many are concerned: if they cut every tree as they’ve been doing, we will lose that green corridor and animals who call it home. There should be some sort of regulations to hold projects accountable.

A: Agrees local projects should follow federal laws. Will get more info on that specific project.

Q: We “live in an era of politicized intelligence.” Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity claims hack of DNC server could not have been a hack, but had to be an internal leak. Why is there not a more robust debate on whether or not Russian hacking occurred?

A: Introduced Protecting Our Democracy Act to look at exactly what happened, who did what, and how to prevent it from happening again.

There is unanimity among intelligence agencies with regard to Russian involvement (in classified and unclassified settings).

Q: Are you able to have a positive feeling about the future of our country?

A: I couldn’t do this work if I didn’t.

Issues in Congress too often feel like games to be won. There are human beings attached to these issues. (Example: his daughter has had health issues, probably had 52 doctor appointments in first year of life.)

Was very upset after healthcare vote, but it’s not a good use of time to stay dejected. Motto in office: “We don’t agonize; we organize.”

“The American people are so much better than politics right now.”

Q: Concerned that they want to cut education 14% across the board. What can we do to fight against that?

A: We need to more educational opportunities for more people.

  • As educational attainment goes up, so do employment and earnings.
  • Failure to graduate high school dramatically increases probability of going to jail.
  • We need to invest on the front end in education rather than on the back end in prisons and unemployment.

We need to:

  • Make Pre-K available to those who most need it. This investment pays off far down the road.
  • Focus on skills
  • Pass bills that provide educational assistance for servicemembers
  • And more

Higher education:

  • Tuition has skyrocketed. Federal aid (PELL Grant) has not kept up.
  • Higher education gets cut when state budgets are tight.
  • Average college student today graduates with $129,000 of student loan debt.
  • Delays home ownership
  • Delays marriage
  • Delays starting small businesses, limiting career choices

Responses:

  • Sponsored bill to restore PELL Grant
  • Attempted an amendment that would have tied the PELL Grant to inflation
  • Going to introduce bi-partisan bill that would improve work-study program
  • Differentiated work-study subsidy (higher if placed in a job that could lead to a career)

Dead set against cuts to K-12 programs:

  • Title I
  • Title II
  • Professional development
  • After school programs

Education is the greatest investment we make. Will continue to fight against cuts on the Appropriations Committee.

In closing:

  • If your question did not get answered, email. Promises to email you back.
  • Very heartened by people showing up against bad proposals coming out of Washington
  • Like turning a battle ship: “targeted and strategic course corrections over time”