COLUMBIA, Mo. - In the hour she spoke at Columbia City Hall Monday afternoon, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill covered a variety of topics, including infrastructure, immigration, marijuana and healthcare.
McCaskill's main talking point at the meeting was infrastructure.
"We cannot be the economic superpower we are if we do not invest in infrastructure in this country," McCaskill said.
The senator promoted the Partnership to Build America Act, a House bill that would allow private companies to bid on $50 billion worth of bonds to bring their facilities from overseas. Companies would be allowed to set the corporate tax charged on the facilities they move into the country. That money would then be available for infrastructure projects.
"This is the first year that I can ever remember that MoDOT does not have one new project that they're going to be building this year," McCaskill said. "They have $600 million to spend, and they are going to spend it all on maintenance."
Columbia resident Roger Fries said the problem has a simple solution, rather than the complicated one lawmakers present.
"If you just cut the taxes, you wouldn't have some big program," Fries said. "The only way to get the money back from lower-tax countries is to lower our tax. You've got to compete with them."
Senator McCaskill discussed numerous other issues, as well. You can read transcripts of them beneath the line.
HEMP: "We need to look at hemp as an agricultural product. Frankly, our agriculture is our life saver in Missouri. We have a positive trade balance because of how much we export. If hemp could be another one, I'm certainly open to it."
SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY: "The problem we have right now is not that commanders are refusing to take these cases to trial. The problem we have in the military right now is a system that was not devised to support and protect the victims, to give them the courage to come out of the shadows.
"We have given victims their own lawyer. What I wouldn't have given when I was a prosecutor, prosecuting rape cases, for the victim to have their own lawyer. Because the victim wasn't always sure you, the prosecutor, was always on their side. Obviously, the defense lawyer is not on their side. Now, in this system, every victim will have their own lawyer to advocate for them.
"Reporting [sexual assaults in the military] has seen a spike this year. And this is a weird thing to say, but I hope reporting of sexual assault in the military goes up for the next several years, not because I believe sexual assault is going up, but just because it's the most under-reported crime of any crime, because of what it means for someone to have to go public with the most personally painful moment of their lives, and be challenged about it.
My next goal...is to make sure that it's done right, and implemented broadly and importantly. The other place that is dramatically under-reported, the crime of sexual assault, is college campuses. I've been working with [UM President] Tim Wolfe...and other colleges in Missouri, and we're beginning to try and develop a protocol that we can begin installing on college campuses to give that victim a safe place where she or he feels supported, protected and where they can get enough good information feeling comfortable to bring their perpetrator to justice.
IMMIGRATION: "We want to make sure that the brilliant people that graduate from the University of Missouri, who have fallen in love with America, that know have great skill that can help our economy, and what we want to do is the minute they get their diploma, we want to kick them out. That doesn't make any sense to me. So we passed a good, bipartisan bill in the Senate...and I think the House is beginning to feel some pressure."
UKRAINE/RUSSIA: "I think we have to be strong and unwavering, telling Ukraine that we are supportive of their government, and just as strong and unwavering telling Putin that the election occurred was illegal, and cannot be recognized internationally. There is a price to pay for that, for Putin. If he continues down this path, he will get marginalized, and it particularly is important in terms of our allies in Europe.
There is an interdependence between Russia and the European countries in terms of trade and economies. If our allies in Europe stand strongly with us, it will make it difficult for Putin. He's got a lot of customers in Europe. His desire to make sure none of the former Soviet republic goes "West" is going to have to be tempered by the reality of the damage it does to his world standing, and to his economy. One thing I don't think would work is declaring war on Russia.
We have to stay in close contact with our allies in Europe, making sure that we're lockstep with them. Then we have to crank, just like we did in Iran, that's what brought Iran to the table, cranking down the sanctions, continuing to minimize the advantages Russia gets from trade with the rest of the world."
YOUTH VOCATIONAL TRAINING - "We need to change the [Workforce] Investment Act so that the programs reflect today's reality. We need to grab young people and hook them up with companies, and allow on-the-job training, as opposed to thinking we can sit kids in a classroom, or sit young people in a classroom or older people in a classroom and give them some information that's going to immediately get them a job. I went all over the state talking to manufacturers. Every single manufacturing plant I went to, large and small, had job openings. The reason they had job openings is that they couldn't find the skilled workers. Now, manufacturing is not putting Widget A into Slot B. Manufacturing is now running a computer. Manufacturing is about software and about robotic systems.
So if companies had a place they could go to, where they could get good people that were willing to take these jobs, we could work out a cost share, where the government would pay part of the job training – benefit to the company – and the company would hire the worker – benefit to us in terms of getting someone placed in a good job."
MARIJUANA - "I'm in close contact with my colleagues in Colorado. They're having some unexpected problems, and it's bringing some activity that they're not happy about.
There's no question that marijuana impacts your behavior. It's a mind-altering drug, just like nicotine and just like alcohol. I can definitely understand arguments that say nicotine and alcohol are as bad or worse. But I'm not sure that putting another one being easily accessible is the best way for us to go.
I'm not going to tell you I'm for it. But I'm going to watch carefully and see what happens in Colorado."