Shown above Sen. Richard Shelby (center), with Boligee Mayor Louis Harper and Commissioner Tennyson Smith at a meeting held in Boligee.
U. S. Senator Richard Shelby held a town meeting at the Boligee Café on Monday morning – February 20, 2017. Shelby greeted a group of public officials and townspeople at the breakfast meeting.
Shelby said he was starting his sixth – 6-year term as a Senator after four terms as Congressman from the 7th Congressional District.
Shelby said he was blessed and privileged to represent the people of Alabama in Washington and was trying to do the right thing. He cited the challenge of terrorism (foreign and domestic, the problems of the continuous growing national debt and deficit and the difficulties of ending poverty in the Alabama Black Belt area, as issues facing him and the nation.
Thad Spree asked him about his support of Greene County’s Amendment 743 for electronic bingo. Shelby said this was basically a state issue but he understood the importance of gaming to Greene County. He said the issue becomes Federal when you consider that the Federal government regulates gambling on Indian reservations because they are sovereign nations.
Hospital CEO, Elmore Patterson asked what he was planning to do to help preserve rural hospitals in the effort to “repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act”. Shelby said that we would have to study the proposals, including the Block-granting of Medicaid, but he was not sure what solution to vote for because whatever is done will add to the national deficit.
Mayor Harper of Boligee asked if the Amtrak train could stop in Boligee to take on passengers. Shelby said that other than in the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington D. C. that Amtrak was losing money. We look at Amtrak from a national perspective and it is no longer for local routes and local stops.
Shelby was also asked about veterans, issues, education, and support for the Alabama Gulf Coast Railroad DOT grant to strengthen 114 railroad bridges between Columbus, Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, and other matters.
Asked about protecting Social Security, Shelby said, “Those who are getting it now will be safe but some changes will need to be made to bolster the Social Security Trust Fund for younger people. He suggested gradually raising the retirement age for recipients.” During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supported an increase in the cap on Social Security earnings that are taxed, from the current $122,000 to a higher level, which would also bolster the program for younger people.