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Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis, criticized the recently passed health care bill and the lack of transparency used to pass the bill in an interview at the Star-Times office before his listening session in Mauston May 5.

Kind also discussed environment and automation issues.

Kind was steadfast in his opposition to the health care bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I voted against it,” Kind said. “I thought it was a bad piece of legislation, both in the process of how it came together and the impact it will have for people back home.”

He not only had problems with the written legislation, but the process of bringing it to the floor for a vote.

“They were flying in the dark on this bill, all for the sake of trying to ram something through,” Kind said.

He said the bill was first available at 10 p.m. the night before the health care vote.

“Anyone who says they had a complete understanding of this bill before the vote is lying to you,” Kind said.

He said he expects the bill to have difficulty in the United States Senate. He thinks Congress has gone on the wrong track of doing what people really want with health care.

“We need to work together to get healthcare costs down and make it affordable for all Americans,” Kind said. “If we get back to that, I think we’ll find a lot of bipartisan support.”

He did express support for incentives to help get young people into the health care system.

“Usually they’re young, and not earning a lot … but we need them in to spread the risk for everyone else. That’s how insurance works,” Kind said.

Kind also expressed concerns on how President Donald Trump’s administration will work against opiate issues.

“The whole opioid epidemic, the drug addiction that we have ravaging our communities is an all hands on deck moment. We need to view this as world war 3 … The policies of this administration, of President Trump, is to defund the drug interdiction policies, mental health services, drug addiction services, everything you need in these communities.”

He said another problem he had with the health care bill was allowing the states to change essential benefits. He said mental health and drug addiction treatment plans are usually one of the first services insurance companies want to cut.

He has grave concerns about the possibility of ending protections for those with preexisting conditions. He said he talked to a mother with a child who had a seizure while still in the womb. The child was protected under Obamacare, but the mother now worries if she will be able to get proper care for her son.

“Parents shouldn’t have to be living in that type of fear,” Kind said.

Environmental issues

The congressman said he’s “very disturbed” in the direction Governor Scott Walker and the state government has acted in taking zoning rights away from local control over high capacity well permits.

“Recent Stevens Point studies show 36 lakes in the area have suffered serious water draw downs and depletion because of the (high capacity) well in the area,” Kind said.

He is also concerned about phosphorus and nitrates in the soil affecting water.

“Since we are a water rich state, we should be doing more to correct it,” he said.

He said it’s not only an environmental issue, but an economic issue. Tourism and fishing can have a large impact on the area, and having clean water can help create good paying jobs.

“I was equally disturbed with the budget President Trump sent up, calling for a 30 percent cut in EPA funding,” Kind said. “They were going to eliminate federal grants for water treatment programs here in Wisconsin and throughout the country.”

He said the administration doesn’t seem to care about helping communities address environmental issues.

Kind says there is significant data showing global warming is real, and humans have a significant impact.

“Even getting outside the whole debate of if it is man-made or not, just the whole pivot to renewable, sustainable clean energy sources is working for us with the advent of wind, and solar and geothermal …,” Kind said. “We are employing more people today in the solar field than we were by 20 times in the coal industry.”

Automation

Kind said jobs are not being lost because of environmental regulations, but because of automation.

“Take a look at the loss of manufacturing jobs over the last few decades, a lot of that can be laid at the doorstep of automation and robotics coming into those plants now,” Kind said.

He thinks the nation is being “caught flat-footed” when it comes to preparing for the upcoming technology wave and its change on the labor force.

Kind said he took members of the New Democratic Coalition, a centrist group of Democrats, on a trip to Boston to meet with MIT research labs and Harvard business labs about upcoming technology issues.

He is drafting legislation to call on the National Academy of Sciences to assemble a panel of experts to do a study on workforce issues in the future and propose policy solutions.

“There are certain things that can work, but we’re lacking a blue print, or a path forward on it,” Kind said.

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