Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
At his town hall meeting Tuesday night, congressman-elect Mark Green discussed items ranging from climate change to medical marijuana.
One of the first questions posed at congressman-elect Mark Green at his town hall meeting Tuesday night came from Spring Hill resident Trish Merelo, who asked Green where he stood on pushing for railings to be installed on Natchez Trace Bridge to prevent further suicides. Green said he was in support of such a venture, and that he would make it a priority during his tenure. The Home Page has also previously reported on Merelo’s story, who has been advocating for railings on the bridge after the loss of her son in 2016.
Another early question asked was what Green intends to do to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic, with drug overdoses claiming the lives of 72,000 Americans in 2017 alone.
“Managing pain is just one of the most challenging things, and you don’t want someone to leave hurting,” Green said. “I’m a physician – I want people to be helped, but are you really helping them if you addict them to a drug? So this thing is incredibly complex.”
Green went on to say the reclassification of marijuana could potentially curb the growing number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses.
“I’ve probably got some people on my side of the aisle who aren’t happy when I say this, but medical marijuana, I think, has a purpose,” Green said. “I have been supportive of that for probably about two years. It’s just time for us to use evidence based medicine, clinical studies at the RIB level. We’re talking about medical quality research, and we can’t do that as long as that drug is in its class.”
Another question directed towards Green was if he would be in support of raising the minimum wage in Tennessee, which currently sits at $7.25 an hour. Without committing one way or another, Green argued that with the current market booming under the Trump administration, jobs that pay higher than minimum wage are in high supply.
“The one thing that’s lagged until the tax cuts, was wage growth,” Green said. “In the past six to eight months, there’s been substantial wage growth, and I think we’ll continue to see that. If you want a $15 an hour job, or a $17 an hour job, right now in our economy, I think you can find it.”
Another hotly debated topic in the modern day is climate change. Whereas most will agree that such a phenomenon is happening, what measures should be taken is often hotly contested.
During the town hall, a woman asked Green whether he would make efforts to “join the world in stabilizing the climate” as a member of U.S. Congress. Green said he was in favor of keeping the streams and air clean, but said he didn’t think the evidence was concrete that temperatures are rising.
“First off, CO2 is increasing – you cannot deny that – so the question is, is it causing warming, or is aerial fertilization what’s happening,” Green asked. “I’m a scientist, I’ve got an MD, I’ve done bench-level research, so I know how to look at these studies and say, ‘okay, that’s biased,’ [or] ‘okay, that’s not biased.’ I’m not yet convinced that the science is proving that we’re warming, but I am very convinced that we have aerial fertilization going on, and if we continue to cut trees in Brazil and other places, we’re going to hurt ourselves, and then we will have warming.”
Student loan debt is another pressing issue among Americans, with approximately $1.5 trillion in student loan debt across the country. Tuition prices among universities has skyrocketed in recent years, with a College Board study finding the average tuition costs for a public four-year institution to have increased by 213 percent since 1988, when adjusted for inflation.
Green said one idea he had considered to combat the increasing burden of student loan debt would be to allow for employers to match student loan payments, in a similar vein to a 401k.
“It comes out pretax from the employer, it comes back pretax from the student, and then their debts get paid off a lot faster,” Green said. “It’s a win for the employer because it they now can offer something that allows them to recruit employees in, and it benefits the students because it helps pay off our loan debt much, much faster.”
And lastly, Green affirmed that, similar to his service as a state congressman, his first bill as a U.S. congressman would be pro-veteran, and would be to ensure Gold Star Wives and spouses do not stop receiving support in the case of a government shutdown.
“It’s unconscionable to think this, but if we shut the government down this week, the men and women whose husbands or wives who died in combat will stop getting their benefits,” Green said. “I just can’t believe it.”
Green’s next town hall meeting will on Friday at 2 p.m. at Square-Forty Restaurant in Lawrenceburg.