SANDWICH – Business leaders and residents came together yesterday to get informed on the topics impacting the region at the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast.
Congressman William Keating, the event’s keynote speaker, discussed the H2B Visa Program, the Healthcare debate, Opiate funding and small business issues.
Keating says elected officials getting news to constituents in town hall settings is more important now than ever before.
“The opportunity I really enjoy – to go directly, unfiltered,” Keating said. “Here’s my opinion. Here’s the person closest to Washington that you vote for. This is what they say on the matter.”
Keating said ideas at the local level can have an impact on national issues and credited local Chambers of Commerce to help resolve H2B Visa issues last year.
“People should realize that can happen,” Keating said.
Keating believes an easy fix to the H2B Visa program is removing returning workers from the cap of the people that come to the U.S.
“Those are people who hit the ground running. They know what they are doing and they don’t pose a risk,” Keating said. “That will give the flexibility that’s necessary.”
Keating said he is working hard to remove the cap and that it could be completed through budget appropriations.
When it comes to healthcare Keating said there isn’t even a price tag attached to the current GOP plan.
“It should be coming this week and that number will be important to shape the debate among many people,” Keating said.
Keating believes the current proposal will hurt this region in many ways.
“One is the opioid issue where Medicaid funding will be cut off that would have been there otherwise to deal with a terrible epidemic that we have in providing behavioral medical treatment,” Keating said.
The Cape Cod’s increased elderly population could also be impacted.
“Under this plan older citizens can get charged up to five times the amount that the younger people can,” Keating said. “[That’s] something that will cost older people every year and it will cost them on their prescription drugs with out of pocket costs.”
Sandwich State Representative Randy Hunt also focused on the healthcare issue.
“How to get our arms around that and make it more affordable without losing the percentage of coverage that we have today is one of the big questions,” Hunt said. “Unfortunately we don’t have all the answers yet.”
Hunt said depending on what the replacement of the Affordable Care Act looks like, it could have some major impacts on the people of Massachusetts.
Hunt said a major focus for the region is substance abuse and the opioid epidemic. About $10 billion per year comes to the Commonwealth through Medicaid grants which could be reduced with a new healthcare bill.
“A big dollar amount of that actually goes to help out in looking at substance use disorders and ways to prevent and treat them,” Hunt said.
Plymouth State Senator Vinny deMacedo discussed the minimum wage, paid family leave and the logjam currently in Washington. DeMacedo said legislators in the state are finding ways to work together.
“In Massachusetts we have a republican governor and a democratically controlled house and senate and yet there seems to be a real compromise and consensus attitude that actually I think’s been good for the Commonwealth,” deMacedo said.
DeMacedo said residents on the Cape should expect an Air BnB tax sometime this year.
“This is a good thing for them. The fact that people can have their home and go away for two weeks and rent it out and make some money. We think that’s a good thing,” deMacedo said. “We just want to make sure it’s done properly and how we address that issue.”
DeMacedo believes it will be part this year’s budget and be in law by July 1.
The legislative breakfast was sponsored by NRG.
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter