ENFIELD, N.Y. — During a packed town hall in Enfield on Thursday, Congressman Tom Reed addressed questions on healthcare, arming teachers, gun control and the Farm Bill.
The town hall was held in the Enfield Highway Department building, a more spacious venue than some of Reed’s past town halls in Tompkins County. Reed was met with disagreement on several issues Thursday evening — most strongly on healthcare — but found some common ground about not wanting to arm teachers.
Healthcare dominated the discussion at the beginning of the event. Last year, Reed voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Asked about insurance companies driving up prices, Reed said a market pressure type system is the best way to get costs down.
“In my opinion, we need to bring more transparency, more accountability to that marketplace and let the marketplace change how healthcare goes forward,” Reed said.
The Farm Bill has come into focus lately, as it expires this year. The bill includes things like farm commodity price and income supports, agricultural conservation, farm credit, trade, research, rural development, foreign food aid and domestic nutrition assistance.
Some raised objection to Reed’s stance on part of the Farm Bill, which would require able-bodied adults without dependents who get aid through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program find a job or attend job training classes for about 20 hours each week or lose their benefits.
“I think that is good policy because you’re empowering people with a skill, with a degree, that will allow many of those individuals … to be in a position to take care of themselves and their family, which I find most people would like to do,” Reed said.
One woman who spoke up on this issue said the work requirement and reporting requirement is punitive, especially for people who live in rural areas where it can be difficult to find steady jobs.
As one local farmer illustrated, even small programs in the Farm Bill can have big impacts for small farmers.
Ariana Taylor-Stanley, who runs a small organic farm in Trumansburg, asked Reed how he was going to vote on the Farm Bill and described some programs that may get cut that are all the difference to small farmers like herself.
Specifically, Taylor-Stanley mentioned the Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which is at risk of being cut. USDA certified organic farmers must go through a rigorous process each year and the Agricultural Management Assistance Act provides farmers with a reimbursement of $750 to cover the costs.
Though it doesn’t sound like a lot, Taylor-Stanley said, $750 can make all the difference to small farmers. Taylor-Stanley asked Reed if this information helped him, and he responded, “Absolutely.”
Reed, who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, surprised some at the town hall by stating he does not agree with the NRA that arming teachers is a good idea. Instead, he supports having school resource officers and law enforcement in schools.
“I like the idea of community-based policing in our schools,” Reed said. “Arming teachers is not something I support. If a teacher wants to get their credentials of a law enforcement officer and go through that process … that’s your right.”
When asked how communities should pay for additional law enforcement in schools, Reed suggested trimming administrators’ salaries in school districts. Reed said it doesn’t make sense that a superintendent in Western New York make $190,000 per year.
The conversation switched to another area of gun control when a student at Cornell University said having a school resource officer will not stop gun violence in other places, such as universities, waffle houses or concerts. Reed was asked if he would consider any other aspect of gun reform.
“We voted for background check reforms which are now being signed into law,” Reed said. He said he does support mental health reform and preventing gun access to people who are identified to have a “serious, violent mental illness.”
Reed said he did not agree with gun owners having to get a license and training because, unlike driving, it would infringes too much on their Second Amendment rights and is “too much of a burden.” Owning a gun is a constitutionally protected right and driving is not, he said.