KEYPORT, NJ - Frank Pallone (D-6) has been "working the room" since his election to Congress in 1993.
On Wednesday at an IHOP in Keyport, he invited TAPinto Piscataway and other press from across Central New Jersey to a breakfast where he tackled a variety of topics in a relaxed forum, airing his views and citing his concerns about current issues facing not only New Jersey but also the nation.
Throughout the discussion, however, one thread ran through most assertions - the need for greater bipartisan action in Congress to move legislation forward. Said Pallone, "President Trump must work with Democrats. The GOP in the House wants to work with Democrats."
He went on to cite the FDA Reauthorization Act that was signed by Trump this week as a show of bi-partisan faith in the government. The act controls prices on some prescription medications and the generic versions of those medications.
He plans to attend another event next week in Piscataway to discuss drug pricing. However, Pallone added, "Trump makes this all more difficult by setting different priorities and delaying the commitment of federal dollars."
Pallone sees hope for cooperation in the areas of improving the Affordable Care Act, railroads, bridges, and large-scale road repairs that states accomplish supported by federal funds and has participated in many Congressional discussions of these issues.
He referenced statistics showing that Central New Jersey is one of the worst areas in the state for opioid abuse. He said that the last Congress tried to address this nationwide addiction problem.
"In the summer of 2016, the CARA Act was a bill that made Narcan more available to local police and allowed doctors to treat more patients,” said Pallone. “The focus of the CARA Act was prevention, education, treatment, and recovery from opiate addiction. Pharmacists were incentivized to not prescribe as many opiates. Nationally 1 billion dollars over 2 years became available to the states. New Jersey received roughly $10-15 million.”
He added that "Trump's budget does increase funding to address opiate abuse. Governor Christie is well-intentioned in this area."
On immigration, Pallone praised local courts and law enforcement, saying, "Middlesex County has done the best job of defining voluntary versus mandatory orders for local cops." Having attended a tourism roundtable last week in Asbury Park, Pallone worried that "the economy can't grow without some degree of legal immigration. Attendees at the meeting were concerned about cutbacks on visas and seasonal jobs, especially in the agricultural industry." He said, "Trump is trying to recreate the isolationism of the 1920's.”
Pallone also attended a post-Charlottesville event with clergy at St. Luke's Methodist Church in Long Branch, the site of an infamous KKK march in 1924. He stated that he didn't like President Trump's response to the events in Charlottesville. "He didn't unify us on values. Unity should be against the alt-right and white supremacy groups," he said.
Pallone closed the meeting with a plea for maintaining "net neutrality" and preventing corporate interests from controlling free speech on the internet, which he sees as vital to the public forum and the free press. He pointed out that the comment deadline in support of net neutrality is August 30 and urged concerned citizens to speak their minds regarding freedom of speech and of the press.*
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