Hinson holds Tama County town hall

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA-01) addresses a group during a town hall meeting held at the Tama Civic Center on Aug. 31. There she gave an update about her work in the U.S. House and took questions from the public. Photo by Darvin Graham

Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-01) returned to Tama County this week for a town hall meeting. Around 20 members of the public gathered at the Tama Civic Center Tuesday morning for a question and answer session with Hinson who also gave a legislative update on issues and policies at the federal level.

Hinson was introduced by State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour) who sat in to assist with questions pertaining to the state legislature.

In her opening remarks, Hinson said her three top priorities have remained controlling government spending, safety and security of Iowans and Americans and to spotlight concerns and issues affecting rural Iowans.

Several times Hinson pointed towards bipartisan efforts that she’s engaged in while in office as well as concerns or ideals she believes are jointly held between conservatives and liberals.

“It’s my job, obviously, to bring (rural issues) to the forefront and continue to put spotlights on those very important issues that matter to us in the First District,” Hinson said. “Sometimes that involves pushing back on policies that I don’t think are good for this district, that might do more harm than good. But I also think it’s a great opportunity. And we’ve had many of those occasions, to work together on priorities that are right for this district. So we’ve crossed the aisle to make sure some of those priorities are getting done. Whenever possible, finding that common ground, to make sure again, we’re making sure Iowa has a seat at the table.”

Hinson briefly touched upon a number of national topics including the recent military withdrawal from Afghanistan, concerns of border security with Mexico and criticism of the federal infrastructure bill passed by the Senate earlier this month.

Hinson also highlighted a bill she co-sponsored with Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) and the rest of Iowa’s House delegation called the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act. The bill, which was signed into law this month, seeks to fund and establish three new centers for the VA’s Rural Access Network for Growth Enhancement program, which helps provide access for veterans in rural areas to mental health services. A study will also be done on the VA’s capacity to serve the mental health needs of rural veterans.

After a speech that lasted around 20 minutes, Hinson spent the remaining part of the hour taking questions from the audience.

Several of the issues brought up centered around the economy.

Cordt Holub from Buckingham commented about his concerns that legislative efforts at the federal level may negatively impact the tax relief some families, particularly family farmers, use when inheriting assets between generations.

Jim Little from Tama encouraged Hinson to stand firm in opposing what he believed was wasteful and harmful spending happening in the most recent $3.5 trillion budget bill passed by the U.S. House.

Little said he was concerned that Congress was destroying the dollar by adding personal interest projects or items onto things like the 2021 budget bill while not accounting for the money still owed to pay for Social Security benefits and military pensions.

In response to a comment by Randy Fairchild of Tama about the cost of living increases for Social Security, Hinson said she believed controlling spending would be most important for addressing insolvency within the Social Security program.

“We do need to be cognizant of the Social Security insolvency date,” Hinson said. “This is the first year where we’ve got more going out than payments coming in. So we need to get serious about that. But I think the first step is making sure we get our spending under control so we can actually have that conversation.”

Danielle Hardon of Tama spoke up about ongoing issues her family business is experiencing with hiring and workforce shortages this year.

“Where are the workers? Where are the employees?” Hardon said. “We have business owners taking time away from working on their business so that they can work in the business because there are not enough workers. I don’t know where that went. It’s not because people don’t want to hire them. That is a big concern among local business owners having to close or adjust their hours because they simply don’t have enough staff.”

Hardon suggested the cause of the recent labor shortage was due to federal financial assistance given throughout the pandemic as well as the child tax credit program that began this year.

Hinson agreed that enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government should have been ended sooner and that she felt families may have figured out how to survive on a single income over the past year.

“I think this is a great intersection for looking at immigration reform,” Hinson said “I’ve heard from a lot of people about our visa programs and our skilled worker and guest worker visa programs. That’s what we should be looking at to incentivize legal immigration, not continuing to allow our border to be open, because we have people who want to come here. Let’s get them to work. But let’s do it the right way.”

Hinson also fielded a question from Maurice McWhirter of Traer who asked for an update about the redistricting process.

Hinson suggested the state legislature would be leading that process forward. Rep. Fisher then spoke up and reported State House members were asked to return to the capitol on Sept. 16 for what he expected to be a vote on the new legislative districts.

Other topics discussed during the question and answer sessions included security at the Mexico border, whether the border wall project from the Trump administration would be taken up by the State of Texas and cybersecurity and the effects of hacking on inflation.

Hinson wrapped up the event by encouraging residents to connect with her office for feedback or assistance with federal programs.

Later in the day Hinson also made stops at Lennox International Inc. in Marshalltown, downtown Grinnell for a tour with their Chamber of Commerce and Marengo to meet with Iowa County first responders.

Tuesday’s visit was the fifth stop Hinson has made in the Tama-Toledo area over the past year, visiting twice during her election campaign in the second half of 2020, once in February to the South Tama County Food Pantry and again in April to meet with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association at Murph’s Creamery and Grill in Toledo.