|Times Argus: 'Welch listens to Vermonters' concerns'|
|Sunday, 30 October 2011 00:00|
Residents of Waterbury took advantage of an opportunity to speak with the state's only representative in Congress on Saturday morning.
As part of his initiative called Congress in Your Community, Rep. Peter Welch spent more than an hour at RJ's Market discussing hot-button topics ranging from Tropical Storm Irene flood relief to little-known legislation regulating the importation of exotic woods.
"It's one of the most important things I do. It's my job to listen to the voters of Vermont," said Welch, referring to the more than 100 Congress in Your Community stops he has made during his five years in office.
"I get a lot of good ideas from these sessions," said Welch.
Welch described meeting one woman who had proposed that flood victims be allowed to use their individual retirement accounts, without penalties, for rebuilding.
"It's a practical suggestion that I will look into," said Welch.
"I came down to congratulate Rep. Welch on the good work he's been doing," said Brian Stoops. "I think he's doing a wonderful job. He has his ear to the ground for what Vermonters need and expect."
Stoops, who became unemployed after the restaurant he worked at was damaged during Irene, said he also spoke to Welch about the continuation of unemployment benefits for Americans out of work.
Waterbury resident and local business owner Reed McCracken said he hoped to speak to the representative about the continuation of Irene flood relief.
McCracken, a former civics teacher, said that he tries to stay connected with the happenings in Washington. He said he was impressed with the work the Vermont delegation does.
"I think a lot of good stuff happens in Washington," McCracken said. "Our delegation does a great job for Vermonters."
Local luthier Dennis Scannell said he came to speak with Welch about the issues connected with legislation referred to as the Lacey Act of 2008, which is intended to combat trafficking in illegal wildlife, fish and plants.
Scannell said that one of the unintended consequences of the act could put him in violation of federal law for possessing exotic wood used in his guitar making. Scannell said because the wood was purchased before the legislation went into effect he doesn't have the documentation that the law requires.
In order to stay within the law, Scannell said, he wanted to make sure Welch was aware of the Lacey Relief Act, which would clarify the original law and keep the guitar maker on the right side of that law.
Welch also spoke with several students who have taken part in Vermont's Adult Basic Education program.
"It's inspiring to hear from students that have taken advantage of the opportunity to get an education despite hardships in life," Welch said.
Susan Elliot, community liaison for Welch, said voters were waiting at the door for the representative to make his appearance.
"Vermonters are very politically active," Elliot said, "and these events are a great way for voters to have a conversation with their representative."
Elliot said that following the event in Waterbury, the congressman had a full day planned, including a roundtable with Realtors in Stowe followed by a speech he was slated to make before the Vermont Medical Society at Top Notch Resort, also in Stowe.