August 20, 2013

Written by
Sebastian Kitchen
Montgomery Advertiser

PRATTVILLE – U.S. Rep. Martha Roby responded to a variety of questions and comments, some of them critical on immigration and spending, during a town hall on Tuesday.

Roby, a Montgomery Republican in her second term, spoke to an overflow crowd at the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative.

Roby spent much of her time reiterating her stances opposing what she perceives as amnesty in a Senate immigration reform bill, her opposition to shutting down the federal government, her opposition to the so-called ObamaCare health care law, and her resistance to the effects of a sequester on defense spending.

Roby reinforced her opposition to ObamaCare, officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and support for defunding the health care law, but said “shutting down the government over ObamaCare is a bad idea.”

One man asked, if she opposed the health care law, what they proposed to replace it with, especially given years of rising health care costs. Roby said there are replacement bills in the House, that they are not spending enough time talking about those, and said many people are not aware – in part because of messaging on their side and in part because of an unwillingness by the media to report on those plans. Those plans, she said, would be market-driven, include medical liability reform, and encourage health savings accounts.

“We have a plan” Roby said.

She expressed her concern about 50 percent of the cuts during the sequester, which she said had hurt working families in her district, coming from the Department of Defense. She said no one would be surprised that there is waste and duplication in the defense department, but she argued the cuts are disproportionate for defense.

“I’m for cutting spending,” Roby said.

She said the cuts to defense also hurt the military’s ability to prepare.

Roby was also questioned by two women who spoke in favor of immigration reform. She said she did not support the Senate version of the immigration bill and did not support what she said was amnesty. Roby spoke strongly in favor of securing the border, which drew applause from the crowd.

The women, including Evelyn Servin of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, asked why undocumented workers had to be treated like second-class citizens and why there was not a path to citizenship for them.

Servin, who was born in California, married an undocumented worker she met at church. They have children, but she said it is still a long, difficult path for her husband to become a citizen.

“He’s a good man,” she said.

Servin said she did not support the Senate version because it militarized the border, but said there were some good aspects to the bill. She said many of the workers want to come out of the shadows, work, learn the language and pay their taxes.

Roby warned those that supported immigration reform that some in Washington making the same arguments as them are not on their side, and do not want solutions, but want political talking points for the 2014 election.

Some argued Republicans needed thicker spines, with one man questioning whether Roby had stood up enough to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Roby said she agreed with Boehner on some issues and strongly disagreed with him on some others, but she believes it helps the district for her to have a relationship where she can go into his office and discuss issues.

Bruce Mills of Deatsville, a retired professor who also served in the military for more than two decades, expressed his concerns about the growing budget deficit and also expressed his opposition to a bill that would allow states to collect online sales tax, which he said would cost the state of Alabama more than it was worth to implement and lead to a tax increase.

Roby said she supported the measure because it was a fairness issue and said that the taxes are already authorized.

Some local retailers have argued it is difficult for them to compete with large online businesses that do not have to collect sales tax.

Mills said he supports Roby and appreciates the town halls, although there is not enough time for everyone to ask their questions or for detailed answers.