LOCK HAVEN Republican U.S. Rep. Glenn 'GT" Thompson of Howard is taking his campaign for a third term in Congress to the people.
Thompson kicked off his re-election campaign yesterday with a 700-mile, 22-stop bus tour that will take him through 16 counties in four days.
The tour started with breakfast at Howard Fire Hall. From where Thompson traveled throughout Centre and Clinton counties in the afternoon, with a stop in the lobby of the Fairfield Inn in Lock Haven around 2 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard, second from right talks to, from left, Clinton County Commissioners Pete Smeltz and Jeff Snyder, and Raj Patel, chief of medical staff at Lock Haven Hospital. Thompson was greeted by about 20 well wishers during his campaign stop in Lock Haven.
The local gathering was marked by the county Republican Party Chairman Kurt Smith, and about 20 well-wishers getting the congressman's thoughts on the economy, education, gasoline prices and the nation's health care plan, dubbed "Obamacare" by the GOP.
"This is to show my commitment to my people in my district," he said. "I made a commitment to be out in the community and you have to do this."
Thompson said he personally made 286 county visits last year, traveling 32,000 miles in the district that encompasses 16 counties, and roughly 23 percent of the land in the state.
"I can't be here all the time, that's why I have constituent service people and legislative aides," he said. "My staff traveled over 100,000 miles in 2011."
He pointed to a shirt he received from his son and daughter-in-law during Christmas that echoes his motto: "Congress should be a service, not a profession."
Thompson pointed to an act he authored that became law on Dec. 31: The STEP (Servicemembers' Telemedicine and E-Health Portability) Act, which increases healthcare access to military members, without additional cost to the taxpayers.
It came, he said, from a conversation he had with his son, Logan, who served in Iraq in the 3rd Infantry Division and noted the number of suicides from military members is "absolutely frightening."
"They tried to help with decreasing the length of deployment, increasing the healing time in between," Thompson said, but a loophole in the law made it difficult for service members to receive the mental health care needed."
The Department of Defense had a limited ability to allow its health care professionals to provide care when the patient is in a different state. Thompson's measure removed the state licensure burden, empowering the qualified and credentialed DOD medical staff to use telemedicine and e-health applications to treat service members regardless of their physical proximity.
Thompson said education is also a very important issue to him.
"There's nothing more important than a qualified and trained workforce," he said, adding, however, the nation's unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent for the past three years.
To put it in perspective, the 8 percent rate is approximately the population of Pennsylvania.
"That's 14 million families out there worrying about how to make ends meet," he said. "There are very few social ills that can't be solved with a good job."
To help, Thompson will debate two bills he favors next week.
The 21st Century Jobs Bill, he said, will encourage all schools to not only educate students for college, but for also jobs that require trade skills. Further, Thompson said he advocates an amendment to a bill he introduced last summer, the ACE (All Children are Equal) Act, that adjusts Title I money from urban areas to the more rural areas that include the entire 5th Congressional District.
"It doesn't add spending, it adjusts the formula for how the money is distributed," he said. "Like most bills, there were unintended consequences where large urban areas were getting the most money for schools, while they had the lowest incidents of poverty. Every school in the 5th Congressional District will get more money with this. The money should follow the child."
The challenges as Thompson sees them: Unemployment, the nation's $15 trillion debt, and the lack of a sustainable national energy policy, something he called "scandalous."
"We have to leverage our domestic resources," he said. "God has blessed us with it and the technology to use it safely."
He said President Barack Obama has said Washington cannot do anything to lower gasoline prices.
"That is just not true," Thompson said, noting gas prices dropped "significantly" literally overnight after President George W. Bush said he was going to open up the Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.
Further, the Congressman said, the U.S. House has sent 30 jobs bills to the U.S. Senate to significantly open up the national gas resources to drilling.
"The Keystone Pipeline is a significant resource, as is the Marcellus Shale," Thompson said. "With that 1-2 punch, we can turn off the valve to the Middle East. Not much good has come out of the Middle East since the New Testament."
Thompson also discussed the national health-care law after a question from Lock Haven Hospital Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Raj Patel, who said the plan has had the unintended consequence of affecting employment by having many employers drop workers to part-time because they cannot afford healthcare insurance for full-time employees.
Thompson said he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will rule the plan unconstitutional this summer.
He said the country has faced many challenges, and the American people have always fought back.
"It's part of our make-up," he said. "We have always overcome and have done so on the strength of the individual American citizen. I'm confident we can do that with a good election in November of 2012 and I hope I have earned the right to serve the citizens of Clinton County and all of the folks in the 5th Congressional District.
The district itself has changed recently, with redistricting taking out of parts of Mifflin, Juniata and Lycoming counties and three-quarters of Tioga County, while picking up parts of Erie and Huntingdon, and more parts of Warren, Clearfield and Venango counties. The state Supreme Court, however, has struck down the re-alignment for now.
"Basically, 25 percent of it is new," he said. "The only problem with it is you hate to lose an area after you make new friends and new relationships."
Thompson said the additions of Huntingdon and Erie counties are good because they have similar demographics to the Fifth District.