EASTON — U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-1st, held a town hall meeting on Sunday evening at the Talbot County Free Library, Easton branch.
About 45 people attended the hour-long question-and-answer formatted event. Topics of discussion posed by audience members first pertained to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and expanded to national politics and beyond by the end of the night.
One audience member questioned the congressman’s stance on the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which was introduced in House in January 2019. The bill imposes a fee on the carbon content of fuels, including crude oil, natural gas, coal, or any other product derived from those fuels that will be used so as to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Dividend payments from the collected fund would be made to U.S. citizens or lawful residents.
Harris said he liked that the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is revenue neutral.
“Rural Americans tend to use more energy because things are further apart, houses are isolated, (there is a) limited choice a lot of times in what kind of energy you’re using... I’m keeping an open mind to see how it would affect rural people...” Harris said.
A recurring topic throughout the night was gun laws. One audience member voiced her worry in sending her two children to school each day.
“One place they ought to feel safe is in their school,” Harris said. “We have to realize the chance of anything happening is very remote but it is present, they happen.”
Harris said when he checked data four years ago, “Maryland was one of the worst states at reporting mental health disqualifications into the NICS system.” NICS is the FBI’s national system that checks available records on people who may be disqualified from receiving firearms.
He said the state is concerned about the privacy issue of reporting mental health issues to a public database.
“We have to, as a society, find how we’re going to find those people, how we’re going to treat those people, and how we will report those people. Until we have that discussion, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
He also spoke in support of significantly more mental health professionals, which he noted is no short pipeline in itself.
On another note, a question was raised regarding the cost of prescription drugs, and any ideas Harris may have in terms of regulation.
After taking time to explain the pricing of brand name drugs under patent as opposed to generic drugs, Harris said, “I think everyone on Medicare Part B should have access to everything that’s FDA approved.”
He also said he likes the president’s plan of international reference pricing with a premium over it so as not to restrict access.
Harris also detailed a bill disallowing patented companies from refusing to do FDA-required bioequivalency testing in order to sell a drug to generic competitors.
“Those are ways hopefully most of us can agree on to control prescription drug prices,” he said.
Another audience member asked for an update on the offshore wind project in Ocean City.
Ultimately, the Congressman said the Department of Defense will issue a report in 2025 examining the effect such windmills may take on sonar detection off of Maryland’s coast.
While Harris said the wait is long even for the government, he wants to see answers to such an important question.
On another note, one audience member voiced her discern for the congressman’s lack of public response to the president’s dealings with the National Weather Service.
“I am not going to comment on every tweet he makes...I’m not going to comment on every action he makes.”
Next, an audience member said he fears the nation becoming an isolationist and asked Harris for his stance on the president removing troops from Syria.
Harris ultimately said our allies need to step up, and the U.S. needs to remove itself from conflicts that have endured more than 200 years, citing that 4% of the country’s GDP is spent on defense.
“I’m getting tired of it (referencing the war in Afghanistan), I want to hear an exit strategy. We should never commit troops if we don’t have an exit strategy. An exit strategy is resolving these conflicts without the presence of American men and women.”
Lastly, Harris said nothing President Trump has done rises to the level of impeachment, and he believes an impeachment would deprive Americans of making that choice for themselves.