Photojournalist – Immokalee Bulletin
IMMOKALEE — No matter who you voted for, 2020 has been a crazy year. This election cycle has been no different. From “fact-checkers” to conspiracy theories, 2020 has taught Americans to expect the unexpected.
From local to state to national politics, civic involvement in elections is growing ... and that’s a good thing!
Immokalee is in a unique situation. The community is in one of the wealthiest counties in the state and country, yet Immokalee is home to some of the lowest wage-earners in the country.
At the federal level, Immokalee is represented by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) who recently won his re-election bid for the House of Representatives representing Florida’s 25th Congressional District. Diaz-Balart’s district covers Immokalee, LaBelle, part of Clewiston, Golden Gate, Golden Gate Estates, East Naples, Everglades City, Copeland, and even areas along the east coast including part of Miami-Dade County.
Residents have voiced concerns about including the economic future of Immokalee, health care and the current situation with President Donald Trump and former Vice President but now President-elect Joe Biden.
When it comes to the economy, Congressman Diaz-Balart said, “The economy is my number one concern. We need to get this economy going. We need small businesses and we need to support them.
“I’m concerned about what I keep hearing from the Biden team that they want to raise taxes on anyone making over $400,000 annually. It would be highly irresponsible to raise taxes on any business right now,” Diaz-Balart said.
The congressman pointed out that in Florida, most small business owners file and pay taxes for their business when they file their personal income tax return, meaning that small businesses barely crossing that $400,000 threshold will certainly see a tax increase under Biden’s plan.
“I represent the average low- to middle-class residents in Florida from Collier County, Hendry County and Miami-Dade County, so raising taxes on small businesses is worrisome. Due to the impacts of the coronavirus, we have cut regulations that have had a positive impact on the economy. We are looking at making those changes permanent so long as those changes have truly made a positive difference,” Diaz-Balart said.
Speaking about health care, the representative pointed out that he recently voted in favor of a bipartisan bill to help protect pregnant employees.
The bill, H.R. 2694, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, addresses several key areas and if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, would make it unlawful to fail to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, unlawful to require a qualified employee affected by such condition to accept an accommodation other than any reasonable accommodation, unlawful to deny employment based on the need for such reasonable accommodations, unlawful to require employees to take paid or unpaid leave if accommodations can be provided, and unlawful to take adverse action against a qualified employee who simply requests reasonable accommodations.
Rep. Diaz-Balart pointed out that much more needs to be done in terms of health care legislation. “Obamacare had several good parts and several not-so-good parts. In order for everyone to be covered, others had to pay higher premiums. Additionally, for many who obtained insurance under Obamacare, their deductibles were so high that they didn’t really have traditional health insurance, they only had catastrophic insurance. They still couldn’t afford to see the doctor because they couldn’t pay the initial deductible,” Diaz-Balart said.
One thing Obamacare did cover was pre-existing conditions. Diaz-Balart pointed out that even if those pre-existing conditions were technically covered, high deductibles still put treatment out of reach for many.
“We need to make sure that people with pre-existing conditions have coverage without insanely high deductibles and we need to ensure that your health care decisions are made by you and your doctor, not a bureaucrat in Washington and not some bureaucrat at the insurance company,” Diaz-Balart said.
He went on to say that “We need plans people want, plans people need, and at a price people can afford. We don’t need a health care system run by the government. That would be disastrous. We need bipartisan solutions to lower costs, increase competition, and protect pre-existing conditions.”
When asked about the current state of affairs with the presidential election, Diaz-Balart said that he is convinced that the process will continue to work as it was intended. “In 2000, it took 37 days for the process to work between Al Gore and George Bush. Do I understand why President Trump is looking at what happened in different states? Absolutely. Are there some irregularities that should be looked at? I don’t know,” he said.
Diaz-Balart pointed out that since 2016, President Trump and the American people have been put through a display of partisan politics like never witnessed before. “No other administration, Democrat or Republican, should be treated the way that President Trump has been treated. It’s scary and I really hope that we never see that again,” he said.
Rep. Diaz-Balart expressed his desire for bipartisan legislation to move the economy forward regardless of the outcome of the presidential election.