U.S. Representative Jason Smith stopped by a scheduled listening post yesterday at the Rolla City Hall. Concerned constituents gathered to express themselves on many issues, leading to a lively, and sometimes heated, discussion and debate.

U.S. Representative Jason Smith stopped by a scheduled listening post yesterday at the Rolla City Hall. Concerned constituents gathered to express themselves on many issues, leading to a lively, and sometimes heated, discussion and debate.

Many of the concerns initially voiced by the constituents related to the seeming lack of town halls held by the congressman. One attendee voiced they had been requesting a town hall since February to take place during Congress’ recess, and another asked when he would next be available for a town hall.

“I’m right here, right now,” Rep. Smith responded. His newsletter did list yesterday’s listening post on a schedule of events, but did not say whether or not he would be attending. Rep. Smith added that he has different ways he tries to listen to the people he has the opportunity to represent.

“I want to make it where I can drop by for at least a little bit and personally listen to people’s concerns,” he said. “I’d be glad to meet with anyone who wants to meet one on one. I’ll be happy to try and meet with them during our office hours.”

The topic of the listening post segued into national topics, such as the strike on Syria, which Senator Claire McCaskill also touched on during her visit to Rolla. The concern of the residents remained the same, that unpredictability makes a shaky foundation for foreign policy. Rep. Smith responded to this concern, explaining how any action moving forward is reliant on Congress.

“It is the authority to of Congress to declare war,” he said. “The Syria action, that’s the one that’s most on everyone’s view, I think the President acted appropriately and accordingly. However for further action he needs to present a plan to congress.”

Despite this reassurance, the issue of the unpredictability of the administration took control of the conversation. Another attendee voiced particular concern with the way the President chooses to conduct himself via social media, saying some of his postings are alarming.

“The people of the United States knew how he likes to express himself,” said Rep. Smith. “He’s not acted any different from before the election to after. The voters were willing to accept that and our district was the 7th highest vote total Trump got out of 435 in the country.”

“You represent all people,” the speaker reminded him.

Bringing the focus back home to the 8th congressional district, attendees brought up the matter of the district being the poorest in the state, and the concern that churches and other charitable organizations are being “tapped out” of resources to help the needy. The current budget proposal lists many cuts to certain organizations focused on helping others, such as Meals on Wheels.

“The outline is not a complete budget with full details, and does not show where and how the programs will be cut,” Rep. Smith assured. “When we go through and look at the budget, we have to make sure we’re funding our priorities…I can’t make promises about what’s going to be funded here or what’s going to be funded there until I see everything.”

The discussion was brought around to rules and regulations affecting businesses and the environment. One attendee said he likes what President Trump is saying about getting Government out of the way of businesses and cited the housing market as being one with far too many regulations. Others raised further concerns regarding what might happen should certain regulations be removed.

“The role of Congress is to pass laws and we’ve turned into an area where there’s 175,000 pages of rules and regulations…it’s way out of hand,” said Rep. Smith, explaining that some regulation agencies have overstepped the legislation that originally gave them power. The EPA was a focal point of conversation on this matter.

“The EPA represents a lot more than dusty roads in the 8th Congressional District in Missouri,” said Beth Pross who attended the meeting. “You don’t scrap the agency because you don’t like a couple things.”

“Everyone wants clean air and clean water,” said Rep. Smith. “It’s how we balance that…Some people want to regulate every aspect of one’s life and others believe you should have more freedom. I’m more aligned with the more freedom. I believe the best control is that closest to the people.” Rep. Smith did add there wasn’t much sense in “throwing the baby out with the bath water” in term of doing away with regulations.

Rep. Smith ended the listening post by saying, “A lot of the items…expressed today are not clearly what the majority of the people that I represent [agree with], but I understand there are times and balances where we are going to agree and I want to work with that. It’s a frustration that all of the conservatives in the congressional district had under the prior administration.”

Rep. Smith also added, in response to the poverty level of the district, the believes “conservative policies is what will drive us out of poverty,” and that reducing business regulations will bring more jobs to Missouri. This statement was met with a challenge, reminding Rep. Smith of the current poverty level and that he is in his third term.

Rep. Smith encouraged others to reach out and schedule personal meetings by setting up a time with his regional offices. The information and contacts for each office can be found on his website. Constituents can also subscribe to his newsletter to find out about future listening posts and public events.