U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan visited Sampson County Monday for her 69th “Conversation with Kay” forum. A varied group of concerned citizens from across the county made up those gathered and eagerly awaited their turn to speak personally with the senator from North Carolina. For over an hour, Hagan moved around the room speaking to each person present.
Hagan is holding these conversations across the state in her attempt to find out and learn the concerns of her constituents and make herself accessible to the citizens of the state. The senator’s staff were also on hand to assist those attending.
Hagan expressed that through the meetings her office, over the last 3 1/2 years, has been able to help people with issues dealing with the IRS, the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs. Her office has assisted over 20,000 individuals through these meetings and through her constituent staff, she said.
The senator spoke briefly regarding the Senate Farm Bill and expressed her disappointment that the House did not take up the bill before they left for the summer.
“This farm bill takes away the direct payments to the farmers replaced by an insurance plan that pays farmers who actually experience loss due to circumstances such as weather and natural disasters. This bill will actually save the U.S. government over $23 billion as a result. I also introduced an amendment to this bill that ensures that the language is such that our farmers can understand it and not be cluttered with political and legal jargon that they cannot understand. Hopefully the House will take this bill up in September when they return,” stressed Hagan.
The senator continued with her Washington update by sharing that President Barack Obama signed into law Monday the Water Bill that will assist those military personnel affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, a bill she said she had worked hard to get passed.
“One of my greatest accomplishments to date is the recognition of the Mumford Point Marines. These were the first African-American Marines that served our country … it was in 1941-42 when President Roosevelt approved integration of the armed forces. There were 19,000 Mumford Point Marines and they were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. It was a great honor to see these surviving marines recognized,” expressed Hagan.
The senator added that the deficit and continued debt that is plaguing the country is a major problem, something she said that had frustrated her from the time she arrived in Washington and saw the problems that are present there.
“Currently there is a bipartisan committee called the Center for Responsible Budget comprised of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans that are working with Bowles/Simpson, who are a part of the group trying to come up with a way for the federal government to make a sensible budget. If we do not do something by 2013, we will be forced to reduce the domestic budget by $500 billion as well as the military budget as required through current legislation,” asserted Hagan.
The last concern before she visited the tables was jobs.
“I am very concerned daily with the job situation. I was meeting with a woman who stated that she had jobs available but they are remaining unfilled due to a miss-match of skills and the requirements of the jobs. I am sponsoring an American Work Act that will assist with this problem and help provide funds for the community colleges to provide the training needed to meet the demands of our work places,” stated the senator.
Before leaving, Hagan addressed the corn ethanol problem, the extreme drought in the middle of the country and its devastating impact upon the pork and poultry producers in the area due to the ever-increasing cost of the food-stock for farmers.
“I am sending a letter tomorrow, (Tuesday), along with Sen. Saxby Chambless, (R.Ga.), to the director of the EPA requesting a temporary waiver of the mandate for corn usage to produce ethanol. Due to the extended and extreme drought that has produced the increased price for corn and the ensuing costs to farmers producing livestock reliant upon corn for feed, this action is needed to provide relief for our farmers,” expressed the senator.
The letter, she said, is a bipartisan one and has at least 20 additional signatures affixed to it that will be going to EPA on Tuesday.
Hagan also stated she was very supportive of biofuels and further expansion of this industry in the U.S. and in North Carolina.
“I am excited and have been working with Chemtex to help them to locate in Sampson County. This would be a great benefit to North Carolina and to our national security in the reduction of our reliance on foreign energy sources,” asserted Hagan.
In regards to senior citizens, Hagan responded stating that the Equal Health Care Act would assist senior citizens by providing annual health assessment and prescription assistance. “The most important thing is we have to protect Social Security for our seniors,” she stressed.
Finally Hagan addressed the economy. She reported that the unemployment rate in North Carolina is much too high. “I wake up each morning focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs. As a whole, the economy is up some but we have to get a handle on debt and the deficit. We have to get our economic house in order and that will spur the economy,” cited the senator.