Congressman Rooney speaks to island group
U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney addressed a range of issues during a recent meeting on Sanibel.
On March 29, the District 19 representative spoke before the Sanibel Captiva Islands Association of Realtors at its general membership meeting. A Naples resident, Rooney covered water quality and offshore drilling, along with health care and tax reform, job creation, Big Pharma and cutting prices.
“It’s a long-term issue for me and my family,” he said of improving water quality.
“We did pretty well in our appropriations,” Rooney added.
He voiced support for the Herbert Hoover Dike, A2 reservoir and Everglades restoration, but noted more funding is needed. Rooney reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested $200 million but did not receive the full amount due to the Army cutting out $50 million from the request.
He told a story of spending some time with President Donald Trump and sharing his concerns.
“I think he’s associated us, me, our office, our team with the Everglades,” Rooney said.
On the subject of offshore drilling, he spoke about the challenges being faced.
“It’s akin to David against Goliath,” Rooney said.
He reported on the moratorium regarding exploration in the eastern Gulf, which was established in 2006 and will expire in 2022. Rooney shared trying to get a law in place to make it permanent, but ran into pushback over the issue from U.S. Rep Steve Scalis, who stated “the industry won’t go for it.”
In response, Rooney garnered enough votes to have one of Scalis’ bills killed.
“There’s always a risk of spills,” he said of offshore drilling. “It’s humans doing it.”
He ticked off the names of Texas, Alabama and other states, stating that they “are owned by the oil business.” Rooney added that the offshore supply service industry has an interest in the issue.
“If we don’t drill it, the Mexicans will,” he said he was told by House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Rooney urged local communities and groups to come forward and voice opposition.
He touched on the flood insurance program, as well as the “unfortunate” move by Democrats to abandon the Affordable Care Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA in order to maintain funding for Planned Parenthood. Rooney also reported that job creation is on the rise.
“The tax reform seems to be gaining traction around the country,” Rooney said.
As for down the road, he laid out a plan to introduce term limits for lawmakers. Rooney explained that his proposal will consist of lawmakers receiving $1 per year and no pension after they serve 12 years.
“They’re like a barnacle clinging to a dock,” he said of career politicians.
“It ain’t going to go anywhere,” Rooney added. “But, I’m going to try my best.”
He said he also wants to make Big Pharma have to compete for business.
When Rooney took questions from the audience, David Schuldenfrei asked about how to hold elected officials to their promises, like on water quality. He added that there is talk, but nothing gets done.
“Keep refining our message and keep everybody on a united front,” Rooney responded.
Schuldenfrei acknowledged that some bills do get passed.
“But they never have appropriation meetings to fund them,” he said. “It’s all smoke and mirrors.”
Schuldenfrei added that properly funding programs and projects would also create jobs.
“They literally are on life support,” he said of local waters. “We don’t have the time to wait five years.”
Another attendee asked about subsidies for Big Sugar.
“The farm bill is the only thing that looks worse than the sugar bill,” Rooney responded.
He noted that he does not take PAC money from sugar, coal, Big Pharma and such.
“I’m just trying to be honest about it,” Rooney said.
He shared why he felt it was important to speak at the meeting.
“My job is to represent the people of Southwest Florida,” Rooney said, adding that he also sought to provide updates on the issues. “I just want to get feedback on what I’m trying to accomplish.”
Dustyn Corace, president of the Sanibel Captiva Islands Association of Realtors, explained that it was the first time the group has had a guest speaker of Rooney’s political caliber address its members.
“This is an important time for us because we’re really fighting the water quality issue,” he said.