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Health care, environment, bail reform among topics at Stefanik tele-town hall

Rep. Elise Stefanik (Official congressional photo)

Health care, the environment and the state’s controversial laws prohibiting bail for a variety of offenses and allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses were among the topics on the minds of North Country residents during a tele-town hall hosted on Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik.

The telephone call with constituents who had signed up through Stefanik’s Facebook page lasted about one hour.

In her opening remarks, Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, provided an update on the COVID-19 coronavirus, said her office is reaching out to health officials to answer questions and make sure they have the most up-to-date information and paying particular attention to communities along the Canadian border and cross-border traffic and trade.

On health care, Stefanik said she is still hearing from constituents about the high cost of health care with higher deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs.

“We need to make sure we’re focused on access and quality of care, particularly for rural communities,” she said.

Among bills she is supporting is the Lower Cost, More Cures Act. She did not vote in favor of a Democratic bill that would have lowered drug prices, which she said would have imposed a 90 percent excise tax on new life-saving drugs.

Stefanik also supports associated health plans where small businesses can join together to increase their purchasing power.

‘Green Light Law,’

bail reform

Stefanik took the opportunity to again criticize the state’s Green Light Law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. New York is not allowing federal law enforcement agencies to access the Department of Motor Vehicles database to track undocumented immigrants.

“I believe that these policies have been misguided and put our families at risk and they prevent law enforcement from doing their job effectively,” she said.

The questions were from a friendly audience, with several praising Stefanik’s work in Congress.

One constituent said he worries that bail reform is allowing people to be arrested and released, giving them opportunities to commit more crimes.

Stefanik said bail reform is another example of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “ineffective” leadership.

“Whether it’s the SAFE Act, bail reform, Green Light Law, he continues to not listen to the perspective of the constituents that I represent,” she said.

A Queensbury resident asked if the Green Light Law is going to cause voter fraud and whether it would allow undocumented immigrants to vote.

Stefanik said she has been getting a lot of calls on that.

“I think it’s very important to make sure our elections are determined by our citizens in this country and not illegal immigrants. That’s an important part of our democracy,” she said.

A Queensbury business owner asked whether Stefanik could work to speed up the processing of guest worker visas, since he cannot find enough local residents to fill jobs in the landscaping and hospitality industry.

Stefanik said she co-signed letters urging the Trump administration to raise the cap on the number of H-2B visas being offered and will continue lobbying the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Environmental concerns

Stefanik was also asked how she would address climate change in the Adirondacks given the rollback in environmental protections by the Trump administration.

Stefanik said she has opposed the administration’s proposed cuts to the EPA budget and has been able to obtain funding for acid rain monitoring.

She said she also is pushing for developing renewable energy technologies — not just in solar and wind but also in biomass, hydropower and nuclear.

Protecting the environment is an economic issue, given the importance of tourism to regions like Lake George and Lake Champlain, she said.

Growing the economy

In response to a question about what can be done to keep the economy growing, she said the country should benefit from the updated trade agreements. She also cited the lifting of the medical device tax.

“The repeal of that tax has provided certainty to those manufacturers and now they’re able to invest in jobs,” she said.

She also said more money is needed for workforce development, and more work needs to be done to eliminate regulations, particularly at the state level.

“New York state continues to be one of the most unfriendly states to business and has one of the highest tax rates,” she said.

Two constituents asked about the high cost of student loans. Stefanik supports creating incentives for employers to offer student loan repayment assistance for employees. This could be a perk to attract employees in a competitive job market, she said.

Stefanik said she believes the high cost of college needs to be addressed.

“What I don’t think is the right approach is what some of the presidential candidates on the other side of the aisle have proposed to wipe away (debt) with a $1 trillion bailout,” she said.

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