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Appreciating our town hall meetings

EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON | 4/3/2017, 12:18 p.m.
Since the start of this 115th session of Congress, you have probably seen multiple news stories about town halls across ...
eddie bernice johnson

U.S. House of Representatives

Since the start of this 115th session of Congress, you have probably seen multiple news stories about town halls across the country. For instance, just recently, California U.S. Representatives Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa hosted town hall discussions that were rather lively.

But not every town hall is alike. In order to keep in touch with my constituents, I hosted a TeleTown hall earlier this month in which over 3,000 people dialed in to discuss issues most important to them. From those callers, we fielded a number of excellent questions whose topics ranged from Planned Parenthood funding, to legislative measures to help the mentally ill, to political involvement on a grassroots level.

Again, I want to thank all of those kind constituents who participated providing excellent questions and political curiosity. My only regret is that I did not have more time to spend with all of you. If you did not have the opportunity to call in, you can find audio highlights of the conversation on my website.

It is important to understand a town hall meeting is an event that gives a representative the opportunity to speak directly with his or her constituents. It is mutually beneficial for the representative and the constituents, because the representative can discuss what he or she is working on in D.C. and the constituents can tell the representative what the issues are that they care about the most.

Now, unfortunately, town halls are most featured and discussed during times of great controversy. In the same way that the tea party turned out in unprecedented numbers following the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama, now activists are organizing in response to President Trump and his administration’s initiatives. They are also turning out in significant numbers to these town halls across the country.

Town halls are not always confrontational in nature. Often, they can be conciliatory or celebratory – they are not always argumentative in nature. Regardless of the composition of town halls, they are ultimately positive events, because allowing citizens to vocalize their desires directly to the people responsible for representing them.

As previously mentioned, the number one responsibility of the representative during a town hall is to listen to their constituents. From what I observed during our conversation last week, a primary concern expressed by the people in district 30 was what is going to happen with their healthcare when the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is repealed. Many are afraid they may lose healthcare coverage or their premiums will rise. It hurts my heart to say that, with the Republicans’ current healthcare replacement bill, that very well may happen.

In a district report that my office released recently, we point out that 301,800 people in the 30th district who have employer sponsored health insurance could lose important consumer protections – like the prohibition on annual and lifetime limits and the prohibition on coverage exclusions for preexisting health conditions – if the ACA is ever repealed.

As noted, the Congressional Budget Office released numbers showing that 24 million people have the potential to lose their health insurance if the new Republican led healthcare bill, American Health Care Act is adopted. Because you called and expressed your concerns, I must reassure you of one thing – I am determined to fight in your best interest in the upcoming weeks.

U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.