Representative Matt Gaetz made a half-dozen stops across Santa Rosa County on Thursday to hear from his constituents, both supporters and opponents, dubbing it "Open Gaetz Day."
An overflow crowd greeted the Congressman at Grover T’s BBQ as he moved through the crowd in the parking lot, speaking with both supporters and opponents. Once inside, Gaetz moved though the main dining area greeting the lunchtime crowd, to the sound of competing chanters.
Gaetz made his way to a packed banquet room, where those who were checked in as actual First District residents were enjoying barbecue sandwiches and sides.
“Just because I’m your congressman doesn’t mean you should have to come to Washington D.C. to have a meeting with me,” said Gaetz.
For the better part of an hour, Gaetz answered questions from people selected by a drawing. The main issue, as has been the case at events hosted by other congressmen nationwide, was Obamacare, its fate and how to replace it.
“There’s universal agreement that we do not discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and we allow young people up to age 26 to stay on their parent’s healthcare,” Gaetz said. “No one disagrees with that. The question is what happens next.”
Gaetz wants more competition among insurance companies for customers, and for them to be able to do business across state lines. Other proposals are health savings accounts and tax breaks. The other predominant issue is Gaetz proposal to abolish the U.S. Environment Protection Agency.
“In 1970 when the EPA was created, you didn’t have the same amount of technology, expertise, and research universities at the state level that you have now,” said Gaetz. “I want to keep high environmental standards like the Clean Act; like the Clean Water Act. Those are things that are currently in many ways enforced by our states now.”
Among those disagreeing with Gaetz assessment is environmental activist Gloria Horning,
“Local enforcement is not doing their job,” said Environmental activist Gloria Horning, who was in the crowd at the restaurant parking lot.
“For seven years, one landfill in the Wedgewood Community, was cited with 17 violations. And not once did they pay a fine,” said Horning, who has been working with residents in Wedgewood.
“It took the community to go to [Escambia County] and to the [Florida Department of Environmental Protection] to raise our voices, said Horning. “If we’re supposed to count on local, and local pushed us to the back side, then we’ve got to move up and go to the next one, and that’s the EPA.”
Rep. Gaetz also met with a Kiwanis Club and the Santa Rosa County Commission. He taught a civics class at Avalon Middle School. After lunch he visited the Santa Rosa County Administration offices, and will wrap up the day with a town hall meeting at Oops Bowling Center in Pace.