Rep. Cindy Axne, D-3 District, addressed a wide range of topics during a town hall meeting at Iowa Western Community College Wednesday evening. Topics ranged from school safety and gun control to EPA biofuel exemptions for refiners to what Axne termed Iowa’s rural healthcare crisis.

Nearly 100 area residents took part in the question-and-answer session in the Looft Hall auditorium.

Responding to a question from Linda Nelson of Council Bluffs about what’s being done to increase school safety in the wake of recent mass shootings, Axne criticized the GOP-controlled Senate for not taking action on House-passed legislation that would expand background checks for those purchasing guns.

“We want to protect the Second Amendment but keep guns out of the wrong hands. The majority of Americans believe in universal background checks,” she said, “and we’re going to make sure Trump keeps his word on bringing background checks to the floor.”

Asked about banning assault-style weapons, Axne said the assault rifle ban that was allowed by Congress to expire more than a decade ago needs to be put back on the books.

“The ban has been off the books for a decade, and we’ve seen a drastic increase in the number of shootings,” she said. “Those weapons aren’t used for anything but to kill people.”

Asked about the Missouri River flooding that has ravaged parts of western Iowa since March, Axne said there is no national protocol for addressing disasters in this country.

“We need to hold the Corps of Engineers responsible,” she said. “Why would you rebuild a levy to the same height it was before the flooding when we know it didn’t protect us?”

Turning to a question about government spending and the growing national debt, Axne said Congress is not addressing the debt as it should.

“We are paying so much interest to China that we are actually funding their military,” she said.

Axne said Congress needs to pass tax reform that will ensure that the wealthiest people pay their fair share rather than escape payment through loopholes in the current tax system. She also called for better control of government spending.

Turning to health care, Axne said, “Rural health care is a major crisis in this country,” and Congress must work to ensure that “every single person has access to affordable health care.”

She said that clinics in rural communities that are not affiliated with corporate health systems are reimbursed for services at 80% while corporate-affiliated clinics are reimbursed at 100%.

How can they compete and provide services so people in these smaller communities can get necessary health care right in their communities, she asked.

Echoing comments she made during a press conference at Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs Wednesday afternoon, Axne lashed out at the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency for the expansion of biofuel waivers.

In calling for an investigation of the waivers by the EPA inspector general, she called for increased transparency of the waiver process in the wake of “unprecedented use of small refinery exemption for large or unqualified refineries.”

In a letter to the EPA inspector general, Axne said, “Through the unprecedented use of small refinery exemptions, the EPA has waived more than 4 billion gallons of requirements for renewable fuel blending at the expense of Iowa farmers and rural communities.”

Along similar lines, Axne said she’s baffled “by a president who continues to push trade wars that hurt Iowans.”

“I’ve told Vice President Pence that I don’t think the president understands what tariffs are doing to Iowans,” she said, adding that Trump is using people as pawns in attain his goals.

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