Town hall

Rep. Doug LaMalfa is holding a forum, but will he listen to his constituents?

North State constituents who want to give Rep. Doug LaMalfa a piece of their mind—be it outrage or support—have an opportunity to do so next Monday (April 17), but I’d advise folks to show up early. Our cowboy-hat-wearing, rice-farm-owning congressman is finally holding a town hall in Butte County, at the Oroville State Theatre (see Downstroke, page 8), and that’s not the biggest venue around these parts. It holds about 600 people, so seats will go fast.

Last month, LaMalfa held a town hall in Grass Valley and the turnout was pretty epic—an estimated 1,500 people showed up. The event even made national news, The Rachel Maddow Show, which ran a clip of the long line snaking up to the venue where that shindig took place: the Nevada County Fairgrounds. I’d been curious to see how things would go after reading a report in the Sac Bee about GOP representatives in that region attempting to wrangle local Republicans to weight the audience in LaMalfa’s favor. That plan didn’t work out well, based on the coverage I’ve read.

I can certainly understand why.

For starters, let’s consider the American Health Care Act—that’s the bill House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP officials crafted to replace the Affordable Care Act. The proposed legislation never made it to a vote. Why? Because it didn’t get enough support from within the GOP. That is, despite holding all three branches of government, there weren’t enough Republicans willing to pass the bill. Moderates didn’t like the law because it would take away insurance from millions who need it (or they at least felt enough pressure from their constituents not to back it). Meanwhile, those on the far right thought it was too similar to the existing law (aka “Obamacare Lite”).

The ACA isn’t perfect, but the law is not the disaster Republicans have claimed since it was signed seven years ago. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums for “employment-based coverage will be 10 [percent] to 15 percent lower in 2025 than they would be [without the law].” Already, since its implementation, the ACA has slowed down the rates at which those costs have risen historically. For instance, between 2001 and 2005, employment-based health care premiums rose by 54 percent. Between 2011 and 2015, those costs increased 16 percent.

Congressional leaders, LaMalfa included, know this. He’s also aware that the law has provided millions of Americans—including tens of thousands in his poor district—with the ability to receive lifesaving medical treatment. Still, LaMalfa repeats the disingenuous talking points aimed at scuttling it. That he would disregard their well-being should be an eye-opener for his constituents.

Then again, this is the same guy who voted in favor of cutting food stamps for the poor in a budget cycle in which he also voted to increase farm subsidies (in the form of crop insurance) for wealthy farmers such as himself. Keep in mind Butte County’s poverty rate hovers at over 21 percent.

Based on what I’ve been hearing from CN&R readers lately, however, the tide may be turning. I’m fairly certain LaMalfa’s upcoming appearance could have filled a larger venue in Butte County—say, the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. I’ll give him credit for showing up, but that’s about it. He also needs to listen. Obviously, that’s a concept he’s been unfamiliar with heretofore.