Stefanik nears 1,000th public event, says Cobb is ‘nowhere’

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville (Official photo)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said she would reach her 1,000th public event sometime in the summer.

Stefanik, who has been in office since 2015, said she is currently at around 950, which does not include meeting with individual constituents.

Stefanik said Congress had some scheduled time for members to work in their districts. She has been very visible in the local area during the last month. On Friday, she was part of a panel discussion on small businesses hosted by the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The previous week, she held four “Coffee with Your Congresswoman” events in the NY-21 Congressional District district, including one at Saratoga Town Hall on April 26. She also toured the Washington County Communications Center on April 12.

“I’m making sure we’re accessible, available,” she said.

When asked to respond to criticism that the event in Schuylerville was held in mid-afternoon on Friday, she said she holds events at all different times.

“I have events constantly. I have evening events. I participate in community dinners, community lunches, community breakfasts, weekend events. This district understands that I am out and about in the community,” she said on Friday, following the small business forum.

Activists have criticized Stefanik for not having many public events. A group of people protested outside a Saratoga Town GOP fundraiser on Saturday that Stefanik attended. The group brought a 20-foot-tall inflatable chicken in the likeness of President Donald Trump. The chicken has made appearances at other events to criticize Trump for not releasing his tax returns.

The organizers sent out a press release, saying that a small stretch of sidewalk in front of the restaurant was closed off and being hosed down for an hour and a half, when the protesters were in attendance.

When asked whether she was increasing the number of her public events in response to criticism, Stefanik attacked Democrat Tedra Cobb, who announced last month that she is challenging Stefanik again in 2020.

“My opponent is nowhere. She has not done a single public event since she has announced and filed for Congress,” Stefanik said.

In response, Cobb’s campaign put out a statement: “Congresswoman Stefanik has made a rare set of public appearances in the district, because she knows that her constituents are fed up with her representation in absentia,” Cobb said in an email. “But let’s be clear, these events were held with very little notice in the middle of a business day, preventing working families and students from being in attendance. During my last campaign I hosted or participated in over 200 public events. Stay tuned for a repeat performance.”

Mueller report

Stefanik said Friday she had not read the less-redacted version of the Mueller report that Attorney General William Barr has made available.

She has read the version that has been made available to members on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I have read the report which found that there was no conspiracy or collusion. However, the report is extremely clear that Russia did attempt to meddle in our elections and that cannot be ignored,” she said in a follow-up email.

She has sponsored legislation that would require digital advertisements to disclose who paid for them and another bill that would require the FBI to notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committee when a counterintelligence investigation is opened into a candidate for federal office.

When asked to comment about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s’ comment that Barr had lied during his testimony to Congress, she said she did not see the testimony because she had committee hearings that day.

Stefanik said she did not reach any conclusions from the report different from what Barr said in his summary letter.

Opioid training

Stefanik is the co-lead sponsor of a bill to provide Medicare funding to train doctors to address the opioid crisis.

The Opioid Workforce Act would fund medical school residency positions, which would allow the hospital to access resources to train doctors more effectively in treating substance abuse and pain management.

“Every single person knows of a family that has been devastated by the opioid crisis, and deaths related to overdoses have outpaced car accidents as the number one killer of young people,” Stefanik said in a news release. “The number of health care professionals focused on the treatment and prevention of opioid abuse directly translates to the number of people who can be saved.”

Infrastructure spending

In a rare sign of bipartisanship in Washington, Democrats and President Donald Trump appeared to come to a consensus on a $2 trillion price tag for an infrastructure package.

Stefanik said she was hopeful that something could get passed in the divided Congress.

“I think any infrastructure package needs to make sure there’s investment in rural communities. In addition to highways, it also needs to include rural broadband,” she said.

‘Victims Justice Agenda’

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, joined her Republican colleagues at a press conference last week to advocate for a package of criminal justice bills that would keep people convicted of first-degree murder behind bars for life and require parole boards to review victim impact statements before a hearing.

Little spoke at a news conference last Tuesday to talk about her “Victims’ Justice Agenda,” Senate Bill 1995, legislation that would require life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murder. Little introduced the legislation in response to the 2017 double murder of Crystal Riley and her daughter, Lilly Frasier, in their Glens Falls home. Their killer, 22-year-old Bryan Redden, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and second-degree murder and will be eligible for parole after 44 years.

“Crystal, 33 years old, and 4-year-old Lilly were intentionally and brutally murdered. There is no second chance for them, but there will be for their killer when he is up for parole. Murder in the first degree does not warrant leniency,” Little said.

It would also impose a life sentence for persistent offenders convicted of multiple violent felonies. Other elements of the legislation would require the parole board to review impact statements and ensure the confidentiality of crime victim statements, according to a news release.

This legislation passed last year in the GOP-controlled Senate. Now, the Democrats control the Senate.

Environmental legislation

The New York State Legislature last week passed a package of bills to protect air, water and the environment.

Some of this legislation had passed the Assembly previously but had not advanced in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The bills include adding an amendment to the state constitution, guaranteeing New Yorkers a right to “clean air and water and a healthful environment.” The Child Safe Products Act would require disclosure and reporting of dangerous chemicals used in children’s goods and give the Department of Environmental Conservation the ability to ban a variety of chemicals, according to a news release from Environmental Advocates of New York.

Other bills would phase out the sale and use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos and would make permanent the Environmental Justice Advisory Group within the Department of Environmental Conservation.