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Politics

Democrat Jimmy Panetta Runs For Second Term In Congress

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Krista Almanzan
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Congressman Jimmy Panetta speaking earlier this year at CSUMB.

Democrat Jimmy Panetta is running for reelection in Congress against Independent Ron Kabat.   The 20th District covers the Monterey Bay Area and southern Monterey County.   Panetta just completed his first term ever in elected office.

Doug McKnight (DM): After two years in Congress. Were there any surprises for you?

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (JP): You know I think the biggest surprise is how things are done in Washington D.C.  What I'm seeing is that in Washington D.C., people like to have conclusions and then they start to find evidence to support that conclusion.

Take for example the tax reform bill. You know, last time we passed tax reform was 1986. You know how many hearings they had before that tax bill was formulated? Sixty-six; 36 in the Senate 30 in the house. You know, how many hearings we had on the tax reform bill in 2017? Not one.

And so, I learned early on in my career as a prosecutor that I just couldn't stand up in court and say someone's guilty and sit back down. Our job was to prove the case with evidence with witnesses, with testimony, with hearings. And you don't see that done. You don't see that regular order done now when you have parties in charge unfortunately.

Don't get me wrong it's a lot more difficult. But the fact is that that's how you get a long-lasting legislation, and it's bipartisan. And that's what's needed more in Washington D.C. and the fact that I haven't seen it when it comes to the major pieces of legislation that is the biggest surprise to me.

DM: I'm not familiar with the problem solvers group. How did it come about? How many people are in it and how does it work?

JP:  This is a caucus, a purely bipartisan caucus, and what I mean by that is that in order to join the caucus you have to have someone from the other side. So, I can't as a Democrat just join the caucus. I need to ensure that I have a Republican that joins with me. Keep the numbers the same. And so, when you join this caucus you understand that you're actually going to be sitting at the table talking about issues with people on the other side of the aisle. But that to me is called legislating.

DM: What do you think are the major issues in your district. And how do you propose to address those issues?

JP: Look, I think the one that I've continued to work on during these last 22 months and will continue to work on if I'm reelected and in the 116th Congress is immigration reform. I believe that I loved to ideally have a comprehensive immigration reform package similar to the one that was passed in 2013 out of the Senate, but unfortunately did not receive a vote in the House of Representatives. But I believe that it definitely is something that affects all of us here on the Central Coast.

DM: This what we call the lightning round to give you some issues. Tell me whether you support them oppose them or have no position on them.

Single payer health care system?

JP: I support it. But like I said there needs to be a serious conversation had by all members as to how we pay for it.

DM: Building a wall on the southern border?

JP: Look I'm completely against the idea of just building a wall on the southern border. It doesn't mean I'm against border security. I'm for border security, but it has to be tied in to immigration reform.   So I’m really to talk about border security, I’m willing to talk about border security as long as you are will to talk about immigration reform. I believe those two go hand in hand.

DM: Do you favor a guest worker program that would allow foreign workers into the country to work temporarily in agriculture?

JP:  There definitely needs to be some type of ag visa program that makes sure that we protect the existing ag workers we have, and encourage more people to come here to work in agriculture. You know as well as I do Doug, that no American or no Americans are getting into that line of work.

Therefore, we need to think about how we protect our existing workers and make sure more workers come in, and that's why I proposed the blue card bill right out of the chute.  I was an  original cosponsor a blue card bill to protect our existing ag workers, make sure they had a pathway to citizenship if they continue to stay in agriculture.