Rep. Katie Hill reflects on first 100 days at town hall eventSebastian Cazares April 28, 2019 1 COMMENT
Met by a crowd of constituents and a handful of agitators, Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) discussed Medicare, voting rights, gun reform and her first 100 days in Congress at a town hall event at Santa Clarita City Hall on Saturday afternoon.
Hill and her staff opened up the town hall event by announcing that the congresswoman’s new Santa Clarita office — located at 23734 Valencia Blvd. — will finally be open, allowing Santa Claritans to access constituent services without having to drive to the Simi or Antelope Valleys.
Before diving into discussion, Hill thanked attendees for their presence at the event.
“I’ll be heading back to sit at the leadership table and sharing what I learned from all of you, and I can promise you that will influence some of the most critical decisions that are made in Congress in the coming weeks and months,” Hill said. “My priorities now remain the same priorities that I’ve always had: pragmatic approaches that we’re all struggling with.”
During the town hall, Hill discussed highlights of her first 100 days as the 25th Congressional District’s representative, including her co-sponsorship of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 8, the bipartisan bill for background checks for firearms, along with the legislation she authored to reduce the penalty for late enrollment in Part B of Medicare.
“Right now, Medicare offers an initial enrollment period three months before and after your 65th birthday,” Hill said. “If you miss that window, though, you will be subject to a late enrollment fee for every year of the delay for the rest of your life. Now that Social Security benefits aren’t typically received until people are 67 years old, a growing number of people are missing this window. The Medicare Part B Fairness Act will put a cap on the length of penalties for seniors who miss the enrollment period, creating exemptions from penalties for those who were delayed because they were in a COBRA, VA or employer plan.”
The congresswoman was joined at the front of the Santa Clarita City Council chambers by three guests: Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), End Citizens United Action Fund Director Scott Fay and Valencia High School sophomore Cassidy Bensko, who is a Santa Clarita March for Our Lives organizer and member of the Valencia High School Democrats. Thompson, the author of H.R. 8, explained the bill’s effects and the bipartisan collaboration behind it.
“I was named the chairman of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 toddlers and six adults were murdered,” Thompson said. “I was asked to put the task force together, I did so, it’s well-represented by someone from every side of the gun issue — hunters, gun owners, people who don’t like guns, gun violence survivors — and we worked tirelessly to come up with a list of legislation that would help keep our communities safe while protecting Second Amendment rights. The top priority on that list was legislation to expand background checks for individuals who want to buy guns.”
As an End Citizens United staff member, Fay discussed the potential impacts H.R. 1 could have on curtailing the political influence of wealthy donors.
“We should know who those donors are,” Fay said, referencing undisclosed donors’ contributions to political action committees. “We should understand where that’s coming from so that when billionaires and corporations are spending on the election, who are then benefiting from tax cuts, that we know why that money was spent.”
After Fay and Thompson talked about H.R. 1 and H.R. 8, Benkso served as a moderator while constituents asked Hill about issues such as mental health services, fixed-income seniors, controversies surrounding Reps. Omar (D-Minn.) and Tlaib (D-Mich.), local innovation, citizenship questions on the census, single-payer healthcare, homelessness and municipal issues like the installation of cell towers near homes in Simi Valley.
Although most of the town hall attendees were attentive, about a dozen audience members repeatedly interrupted the congresswoman and her guests, shouting phrases such as “build the wall,” “secure the border” and “we’re giving you a taste of your own medicine.” One of the agitators, Torrance resident Arthur Shaper, passed out fliers condemning Hill’s co-sponsorship of the Equality Act, claiming that the LGBTQ civil rights bill “harmed black Americans.”
“I’m so supportive of people having discussions and dissenting opinions, but this wasn’t the way to do it,” Hill said of the agitators after the town hall. “It was disappointing, I thought it was incredibly disrespectful.”
Hill told The Proclaimer about upcoming actions and issues she will be working on in Congress, including the federal budget and its allocation to the Department of Defense.
“[The appropriations process] has huge implications for people,” Hill said. The congressional appropriations bill outlines and distributes the federal government’s budget. “The budget and way that you spend money shows your values and the things that are important to you. The top few priorities that I specifically put in my appropriations request was all for district issues.”
Since she sits on the House Armed Services Committee, Hill will be working on the National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the annual budget for the Department of Defense, in the coming weeks.
“This is a piece that is heavily influential on local jobs and the defense industry that is so critical in our district, and of course our national security and our armed forces that protect us every day,” Hill said. “We have a much higher rate of service members and veterans here in this community than you see elsewhere across the country. I think we’re very proud of that tradition and something that’ll I’ll be advocating for on Armed Services.”
Because Hill has to spend most of her week in Washington working as a legislator, she is excited to have her third office open and available to serve her constituents in Santa Clarita. She explained that the primary reason the process of opening the third office took several months was not only due to the location search, but also because Hill’s staff had to go through the process with the House Committee on Administration, which handles the daily office operations of the House of Representatives.
“We got first-hand experience with the bureaucracy,” Hill said. “I feel really good about the groundwork that was laid over the last 100 days and where that’s gonna position us for the future.”
Sebastian Cazares is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and student at College of the Canyons. He was heavily involved in Speech, Model UN, Rotary Club and journalism during his high school years. Sebastian is deeply interested in local politics and excited to report on the issues that impact his community.