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Rep. McAdams says he will stay ‘center’, vote for the good of the district

 

By Suzanne Dean

 

Rep. Ben McAdams, who represents northern Sanpete County in Congress, interacts with constituents during a town meeting last week in Nephi.

NEPHI—“I will stay in the center, I will vote for what’s good for my district, I will vote my conscience,” Rep. Ben McAdams, the new congressman in Utah’s 4th District, told constituents in Nephi last week.

McAdams, whose district includes parts of Salt Lake and Utah counties, populated areas of Juab County and Sanpete County north of Pigeon Hollow Junction, held his first town meetings, one in Lehi on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and one in Nephi on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

McAdams, a Democrat in a dominantly Republican state, painted himself as a pragmatist whose main focus will be forging bipartisan solutions to problems.

“I just hope people will make a judgment of me that I’m on Team Utah before I’m on any other team,” he said.

McAdams was one of 15 Democrats out of 235 who did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House. One constituent wanted to know if he voted that way to fulfill a campaign promise or because he believed it was the right thing to do.

He said both. Keeping his campaign promise was a matter of integrity, he said, but he also felt Pelosi had been in leadership too long.

One participant in the meeting said he had held positions with the Utah Municipal Power Agency (UMPA), an organization of six municipal power operations, including power systems in Nephi and Levan.

In that role, he said he sometimes visited with Jim Matheson, the last Utah Democrat in Congress. “I really appreciated Jim Matheson, not because he was a Democrat, but because he was Jim Matheson,” the former UMPA official said. “I think he helped our district, and he helped us (the power agency) because he was able to reach across the aisle if he knew it was right.”

McAdams said he had joined the Blue Dog Democrats, a group in Congress in which Matheson had played a key role. And since starting his term, he said, he had consulted with Matheson regularly.

McAdams said when members of Congress are mingling in the House chamber between votes, “I go and sit on the center aisle” with other moderate Democrats. He said sometimes he and his moderate colleagues are joined by moderate Republicans.

Juab County Commissioner Byron Woodland brought up a couple of local concerns. He said he’d heard a lot of talk about a potential infrastructure bill. “But we need that in the rural areas as well.”

He cited a road running between Nephi and an industrial plant west of the city. The road is in bad shape, yet the cost to fix it is $12 million, which is more than the county’s whole budget for a year.

He also asked McAdams to keep his eye on funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs, which help compensate schools districts and counties that have a lot of federal land. Because the land is government owned, it is exempt from property tax.

Nephi Mayor Glade Nielson said he hoped McAdams would advocate for bills to go through committee study and not be brought directly to the floor.

McAdams, who is on the Financial Services Committee, said he’s already seen the importance of committee study in an issue that has come before him.

Forty-seven states, including Utah, have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. Yet possession and sale of marijuana continues to be against federal law.

It is also against federal law to deposit money from illegal drugs in banks. Yet experts have come before the committee explaining the prohibition is making marijuana a cash business, which could open the door to money laundering and lead to money from marijuana being channeled into crime and even terrorism.

McAdams said he opposes legalization of marijuana at the federal level. But possibly a “safe harbor” needs to be created to allow banks to accept deposits from legal marijuana businesses in their states.

One constituent wanted to know where McAdams stood on abortion. “Personally, I don’t support abortion,” he said, with a few exceptions such as rape, incest and saving the life of the mother.

But he also said decisions about abortion are best left to the mother and her doctor.

However, he added, “I’m very troubled by what is happening in New York.” (The assembly there has passed a law permitting abortion after six months if the mother’s health is jeopardized or if the baby will not be able to survive after birth.)

Mayor Corey Christensen of Levan, who is on the board of directors of UMPA, asked McAdams if he supported the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal is a proposal by some of the more liberal Democrats in Congress to mandate 100 percent renewable energy in 10 years; to remove carbon from agriculture, transportation and all other industries; and to guarantee a job with a “living wage” for every American.

“The Green New Deal I don’t support,” McAdams said. He said he would like to see private industry lead the movement toward clean energy, clean industry, clean air and clean water.