United States House of Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL19) addressed an overflow crowd at the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Charley’s Boathouse Grill on Thursday, August 10; Congressman Rooney’s district includes the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Prior to taking questions, the Congressman offered brief remarks, focusing on Southwest Florida water quality issues and the possible re-authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program.
“I used to think that the White House was the goblin,” he said when reviewing possible water solutions, “or that it was the fault of the Army Corps of Engineers, but it turns out the actual enemy is the Army guys, because that is who the Army Corps has to ask for their money, so at least we have run down who is the enemy! The Army Corps asks for a lot, but can only work with what the Army provides them. The good news is that, while we did not get everything we want, we did receive more money than ever before, including funds to shore up the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, as this is important to hold more emergency water, like heavy rain that comes from a hurricane, rather than releasing it west down the Caloosahatchee River.”
The Congressman discussed the importance of the State recently approving the construction of the A-2 Reservoir to allow water to flow south from the Lake, and to treat it for water quality before the flow reaches Everglades National Park. “A-2 will have 14 feet of depth over thousands of acres for water storage so this along with improvements to the Hoover Dike are the two most important things. What is significant to the water issue is for the first time everybody in the Florida government came through with a united message on the environment, whether local, state or federal, including Florida Senate President Joe Negron staying on message to support and build the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and to strengthen the dike, and keeping everyone on message can solve the problems.”
He continues to invite Congressional leaders to Southwest Florida “so they will know a lot more than ever before, how algae turns water green. This began even before my election, when I had Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to my house last October. Once he heard the message and saw the photos, he understood. It helps a great deal to bring down leaders like Ken Calvert and Kevin McCarthy, to let them splash around here by helicopter, to show the Everglades to them personally, and I have commitments with several other leaders to visit later this season.”
In discussing the potential reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, Congressman Rooney pointed out that Jacki Liszak, Executive Director of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce as well as co-owner with husband Scott Safford, of the Sea Gypsy Inn, is “the poster child for this issue, and one of the true leaders, along with Chris Heidrick from Sanibel. Grandfathering properties is the key, along with capping rate increases, and taking up suggestions from people like Chris who recommend adding private insurance markets. Repetitive loss properties account for just 0.8% of the claims but get more than half the money, and there are not many of those here in Florida. We need to deal with those differently, and I hope they do that in the new Senate bill.”
Questions & Answers
In responding to a question about the recent failure of the United States Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Congressman said that “we got it done in the House, so we did our job, and it is now all up to the Senate. This has the potential to become pretty bloody, especially over how much the government will pay for the cuts and other financial engineering, and will pass this along to the Federal deficit. I know there are people who don’t care about the debt, but it has doubled since 2008 to $20 trillion, so there is a lot at stake if we don’t get this done.
“If you favor a Single Payer system, then be ready for rationed care, as this did not work in Europe, as all Single Payers do is keep trial lawyers in the money. We will have Morgan & Morgan running the insurance business and that scares me worse than anything; make it non-rationed care and get rid of the trial lawyers!”
When asked about his reaction to the recent shooting at the Congressional baseball game practice that critically wounded Congressman Steve Scalise, “I was not there, but I did have dinner with Steve the night before. There were a lot of the guys there, so if Steve hadn’t had his security detail there, the attacker would have killed a whole bunch of people in our group. Not many others know this, but there was the ‘Hand of God’ in this, as there is a gate on the third base side of the field that was inexplicably locked that morning, and no one knows why, because it is always left open!
“If it is not locked, the shooter walks right out onto the field and mows them all down, rather than having to stand on the other side of the fence, firing long shots through the chain link, giving Steve’s guys the chance to go after him. As far as I can tell, it has not affected me personally, but we do now have extra protection at places like our regional offices, so this is something you do think about.”
Congressman Rooney has two regional offices: One at 1039 SE 9th Avenue, Suite #308 in Cape Coral; 239-599-6033 and one at 3299 Tamiami Trail East, Suite 105, Naples;
239-252-6225. Members of District 19 can also reach him via his website francisrooney.house.gov
“I love Fort Myers Beach – our kids grew up in the mangroves,” he said in conclusion, “so if there is anything I can do to make this a better place, just let me know!”