Kaine, Scott chat with citizens

Published 7:59 pm Saturday, March 3, 2018

Citizens from across Hampton Roads gathered in Boogie’s Restaurant and Lounge Friday evening for a meet-and-greet with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott.

The two legislators discussed President Donald Trump’s administration, developing new opportunities for education and health care and addressing gun violence and safety in the wake of recent tragedies.

“There’s a lot of distraction going on in Washington, D.C.,” said Scott, a Democrat whose district covers part of Suffolk. “While people are spending all their time on the distractions and the dysfunction, they’re missing a lot of things that’ve actually been going on.”

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Scott slammed the PROSPER Act — formally known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act — that House Republicans proposed in December. The bill is designed to overhaul the Higher Education Act that was passed in 1965 that regulates how the federal government provides financial assistance to students and postsecondary institutions.

Democrats have criticized the bill for cutting certain student aid programs while benefiting for-profit colleges with more money and regulatory flexibility. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published an analysis of the bill that estimates nearly $15 billion in net losses for student funding in the next decade.

“The Higher Education Act, in their view, is designed to make it more expensive for people to go to college,” Scott said. “They’ve got to borrow more money, and then it’s going to be more expensive to pay it back.”

The representatives spoke out against the administration’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Kaine, also a Democrat, said Trump seemed to only be interested in erasing the work of his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

“We’ve been able to at least stop repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but the administration can still take little nicks and cuts into it,” he said. “It’s up to us now to not just stop them from doing that but to find advances, because prescription drug costs are still too high and too many people still don’t have access to health care.”

One of the bigger topics on people’s minds Friday evening was about guns.

With the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., fresh on everyone’s minds, and the recent rash of school threats made on social media against schools in Suffolk and other Hampton Roads cities, some weighed in on whether teachers should be armed.

“I don’t think we need an extra burden to what the teachers already do,” said Deloris Thomas, first vice chair of the Virginia Democratic Women’s Caucus and co-chair of the Newport News Democratic Committee. “Their purpose is to teach the children, not to be armed guards.”

Kaine and his fellow Democrats introduced legislation on Tuesday to ban the sale and transfer of “military-style assault weapons.”

“My son is in the Marines,” Kaine said. “He’s trained to use assault weapons and they have a use, but they don’t have a use on the streets of our country outside of a military context.”

The bill will also require universal background checks on any future sale or trade of assault weapons. Kaine is also pushing for better mental health funding and more research into gun violence.

“Right now, the Centers for Disease Control is barred from researching gun violence,” Kaine said. “We should allow them to do that. We might learn something that can keep our communities safer.”