Town hall meetings prove to be fruitful

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, January 27, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

“What are you hearing?”

That is probably the most common question I get whether I’m visiting a local business or just stopping by the grocery store. People want to know what my constituents and their neighbors are worried about.

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One of the best ways I hear the concerns of my constituents is by holding town hall meetings. These meetings aren’t formal events, and they certainly don’t include long speeches. In fact, I don’t even make opening comments. I simply get right into taking questions and listening to concerns from my constituents.

Over the last two year years, I have held over 60 of these town-hall style meetings. From Gulf Shores to Chatom to Monroeville, I’ve held meetings in every corner of the First Congressional District. I’ve also held town hall meetings on Facebook and over the phone in order to connect with people who may not be able to stop by in person.

Just last week, I held town hall meetings in Tillman’s Corner and Magnolia Springs. We had really great turnout for each of the meetings, so I thought I would share some of the top concerns I heard.

The number one topic at both meetings was issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Our area is home to over 52,000 veterans, and far too many of them are being left behind by the VA’s bureaucracy. These concerns just further motivate me to take power away from the VA and instead allow veterans to receive care from doctors and hospitals in their local community.

If you or someone you know is having problems with the VA, my office may be able to help. Please contact my Mobile office by phone at 251-690-2811 or send me an email online at Byrne.House.Gov. My staff and I work for you.

Last week, I also heard from a large number of people who are frustrated with President Obama’s decision to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. This plan is severely flawed and puts the American people at great risk. That’s why I have introduced a bill that would stop the Syrian refugee program altogether by defunding it.

Border security and illegal immigration was another hot topic. People are simply outraged that our nation’s immigration laws are not being enforced, and I am just as frustrated as everyone else. We need to boost border security and start enforcing our immigration laws. People need to know that there are clear consequences to entering our nation illegally.

I also received a lot of questions about the rising costs of healthcare. I hear far too often from individuals who had their health care plans cancelled or have seen their deductibles rise due to Obamacare. This is why I am leading the charge in Congress to repeal Obamacare once and for all. The law is clearly not working because it is actually making health care more expensive. It must go.

As with most of my town hall meetings, I heard a number of concerns about federal spending. We are on a dangerous path if we don’t reform our nation’s spending priorities. We must reform our nation’s welfare programs to cut down on fraud and abuse in the system. The goal of our welfare programs should be to help bring people out of poverty, not to incentivize them to stay there.

So that’s what I’m hearing. A lot of people are simply frustrated with the direction our country is headed. I don’t blame them because I am too. We must restore people’s confidence in America again, and we do that by first listening to their concerns. That has always been and always will be my top priority.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.