When I took office in January 2017, I committed myself to representing you and your families so the policies enacted in Washington work for our community.
I took with me to Congress your ideas for legislation and your concerns about the direction of our country. By working together, we’ve been successful in advancing and enacting reforms that have direct, positive impacts on our district.
For instance, during the debate on the new Republican tax law, I heard from thousands of constituents concerned about losing the ability to deduct medical expenses from their taxable income. I shared your concerns with the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as its members on both sides of the aisle. The final version of the bill retained the medical expense deduction.
Additionally, last summer, the House of Representatives passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act — legislation that will help give Americans the skills needed to compete for today’s in-demand jobs.
Our district is home to multiple career and technical schools, such as Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and input and support from teachers, administrators, students and families helped get the legislation through the House. It awaits Senate consideration.
When I attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show earlier this year and participated in a roundtable discussion with members of our agriculture community and local and state officials, I heard about the serious threat posed by the spotted lanternfly — an invasive species threatening crops in Pennsylvania. With the support of farmers and local officials, I pushed for increased funding to help mitigate the threat and protect our crops. Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated more than $17 million to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania, and Congress approved more than $60 million for plant pest and disease management.
I’ve also co-sponsored 29 bills as a direct result of constituent meetings, letters, emails and phone calls to my office. These include legislation to better protect women from abuse, to improve palliative and hospice care, and to help improve cancer treatment for children, to name just a few.
But these things don’t happen by accident. I share these examples because it’s important we understand the real impact made when we work together. This effort takes sustained involvement from our community and constant contact with constituents — and it’s why I work hard to meet with and engage with constituents on a regular basis. In 2017:
— I hosted nearly 300 meetings with constituents in one of my offices, including multiple meetings with immigration and refugee advocates such as Church World Service, FWD.us and others. I traveled nearly 7,000 miles in our district driving to one of my 117 visits to schools, businesses, and other organizations, typically setting aside time to meet with large groups of students or employees to answer questions and have a substantive discussion.
— My office received and responded to more than 101,000 emails, letters, and phone calls from constituents. Constituents received a response in an average of three days. I routinely read and review both these constituent letters and responses.
— I hosted tens of thousands of constituents on 12 telephone town halls to hear from constituents while working in Washington.
— My local staff traveled an additional 11,229 miles to meet with constituents on my behalf and to make themselves available to one of the 1,158 constituents who sought help with a federal agency. As a result, 994 of those cases were closed by the end of the year, and more than $450,000 had been returned to constituents as a result of my caseworkers’ efforts.
I’ve also received input from constituents asking me why I have not yet held an in-person town hall meeting.
While I have not ruled out town halls this year, I am not interested in giving a platform to paid political activists to disrupt a forum for constituents to engage in a thoughtful discussion. We’ve routinely seen town halls erupt into chaos, including right here in our own community, and local political actors have admitted they will “sacrifice decorum” to achieve that goal.
Sadly, LNP helps these actors by propping up their false narrative that I am not accessible solely because I haven’t chosen this one form of communication.
The simple truth is that your voices resonate from my office through the halls of Congress. Let us not be distracted by those wishing to create division and tear us down, but instead redouble our efforts to work together to change Washington and enact policies that work for all of us.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker represents Lancaster County in Congress.