2016 Congressional Candidate Questionnaire – Valleri Crabtree

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Valleri's Professional Picture 2015Congressional candidate Valleri Crabtree’s responses are in bold. Crabtree is running in Florida’s 9th Congressional District and the Democratic primary election is on August 30th.

General:

  1. What are three top national legislative priorities for the country?
    I believe that the three top national legislative priorities for the country are:

    1. Legislation creating an affordable/free network of mental health facilities and substance/alcohol abuse clinics, which utilize not only federal dollars but also coordinate with the investment of state and local government funding, encourage cooperation with non-profit and for profit organizations, and welcome the involvement of faith communities.

    2. Legislation which promotes transparency through Constitutional amendments (1) for term limits for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate and (2) to exclude from the definition of Constitutionally-protected speech the giving and spending of money for candidates, causes, and political parties.

    3. Legislation to increase the pay of active duty members of the armed forces, with significant bonuses for those in combat zones, and to increase the quality and quantity of health care for veterans with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.

  1. In your district specifically, what are the three most important issues on which you believe the federal government needs to act? If elected to Congress, how would you take action on one of those issues?
    The three most important issues on which I believe the federal government needs to act are (1)homelessness; (2) the need for non-service sector careers; and (3) safety and infrastructure needs for one of the most rapidly growing areas in the country.

    If elected to Congress, I would propose legislation to redefine homelessness to include those living in motels and to allocate funds for Housing First solutions, utilizing an approach of “tiny homes”surrounding a central community building where those who are living in these transitional tiny homes can receive mental health, substance abuse, employment, and social services counseling, in addition to other services to help the homeless and housing insecure to be ready for quality employment and permanent housing.

  1. What is one thing that distinguishes you most from the other candidates in this race?
    The one thing that distinguishes me most from the other candidates is that I not only live in District 9, but that I am also an active and dedicated volunteer and community leader. My family and I moved to Osceola County in2002 and I almost immediately became involved with our many diverse communities in Congressional District 9.I cannot imagine acting any differently as an elected official; thus, I will not disappear as many office-holders do.

National Security:

  1. What are the most important actions Congress can take to reduce the threat of ISIS abroad and at home?
    Since I am not privy to classified intelligence, I am only able to answer this based upon my understanding of what is commonly broadcast and printed by the media. Of course, we should continue to investigate possible terrorist threats using all our investigative and military resources. However, we clearly need to do more. An alliance with Russia, a country which also appears to be working toward the elimination of ISIS, may be a wise move. Whether increased military action over and above what we are now doing with drones and the U.S. and allied troops remaining in the Middle East will help to eliminate ISIS is a question for our military experts.
  1. Would you support legislation seeking to make it harder for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to enter the US? Are there any “bans” you would support in the name of national security?
    There should not be a ban against any particular group. All refugees should be carefully screened for terrorist or criminal ties before entering the United States.
  1. What do you believe is the best strategic course for the United States to take in the Syrian conflict? Do you support a Syrian no-fly zone or the U.S. enforcement of Syrian humanitarian safe zones? Why or Why not?
    I believe that that United States should create “safe zones” which are enforced and supported by the United States and its allies. As in most conflicts, innocent civilians bear much of the burden. We should always strive to lessen the impact on innocent civilians whenever possible.
  1. Would you support legislation giving U.S. authorities more access to encrypted or “dark web” communications about potential terrorist plots? What measures, if any, would you support?
    A reasonable balance needs to be achieved between privacy and security. Because of the amount of sensitive and personal information which is maintained on our phones and computers which is attractive to cyber criminals, strict safeguards must be in place before any of these electronic devices can be accessed by the government. A court order, of course, must be required; however, such an order must be based on a near certainty that the data uncovered by the search of the device will be instrumental in addressing past, current, or future terrorist activities.

Gun Violence:

  1. What is the single most important action Congress can take to reduce U.S. gun violence?
    Legislation should be passed to implement a procedure so that those wishing to own a gun must submit to an online background check. At the end of this check, a document will be provided which certifies that the individual has met the criteria (as outlined in regulations implementing the law) to own a firearm (a more extensive background and mental evaluation would be necessary for ownership of a semi-automatic rifle). This document must be presented to the transferor (whether by sale, gift,inheritance, or otherwise) in order for the transfer to proceed. The document is retained by the transferor. Any transfer of a firearm without this document or with a falsified document will be considered a violation of law, punishable as a felony, to both the transferor and transferee.
  1. Do you support or oppose the “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act?”
    For the most part, I support this Act; however, it does not include due process safeguards. A system must be added to allow for an appeal process before a civilian judge.

Climate Change:

  1. Do you believe there is scientific evidence of climate change, and it is caused by human activity? What is your position on the Paris climate change agreement?
    Yes, there is definitely climate change which is caused by a combination of human and non-human activity; however, I also believe that it was the human activity which sparked the cycle which we are now experiencing. The Paris climate change agreement may be a good starting point; however, the voluntary nature of the agreement may allow the countries who pollute the most to continue to do so without ramifications. Since climate change is a world-wide problem, until all countries are committed to address it seriously, it is difficult to see how future environmental disasters will be prevented.

Economy:

  1. What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
    Incomes over $500,000 should be subject to additional, progressive income tax brackets. Capital gains tax rates should be increased. There should be no limits on deductions for charitable contributions.
  1. What are the most important actions Congress can take to ensure the solvency of Social Security?
    Increase the Social Security Wage Base contribution level to $500,000 in order to collect substantially more taxes for the fund; however, the benefit ceiling should remain unchanged. The current formula for payments should be changed to favor lower income seniors even more.
  1. Do you support raising the minimum wage, and to what amount and by when?
    I do support raising the minimum wage under a synergistic two-part approach. Here are the parts: (1)increase the minimum wage as soon as possible to $15 per hour for non-tipped employees and (2)dramatically reduce or completely eliminate the federal corporate income tax for corporations which agree to pay this higher wage and provide tax credits for unincorporated businesses and for small corporations which have yet to be profitable enough to pay a federal corporate income tax. This two-part program should stimulate job growth, improve the position of millions of working families, and help businesses absorb the costs of this higher federal minimum wage while not raising prices for goods and services. (The loss of revenue to the government that results from the reduction/elimination of the corporate income tax will be covered by the increase in personal income taxes for incomes over $500,000 and increased capital gains taxes.)

Health Care:

  1. Should Obamacare be overturned, left intact, or changed? Please explain.
    The Affordable Care Act should be changed. Insurance company special interests were too involved in the current version of the ACA. In addition, not enough research was conducted on successful national health care models of other countries. Finally, the penalty which is imposed for not purchasing insurance is not high enough, resulting in a potentially serious anti-selection problem as young, healthy people do not enter the insurance pool, opting instead for the penalty. As the pool includes fewer and fewer healthy lives and more and more unhealthy ones, insurance rates will increase for everyone. These are a few of the circumstances which need to be reevaluated and corrected.
  1. Do you support federal funding of health care services provided by Planned Parenthood? Why or Why not?
    Non-abortion women’s (and men’s) reproductive health care should receive federal support as theses ervices are often provided to women (and men) who might not otherwise be able to receive care.

Immigration:

  1. What are the most important actions Congress can take on immigration reform?
    Congress should take action on “Dreamers” (see answer for 17 below). Congress should also greatly expand work permit visas and provide these to all those who are in the country illegally who wish to remain. In order to remain, the immigrant would need to secure a sponsoring employer who would be responsible for the immigrant under the work permit visa rules. New immigrants may also enter legally under this program. When the sponsoring employer’s employment opportunity is over, the work permit visa is suspended and the immigrant must return to his or her country of origin until such time, if any, the employer or another employer wishes to sponsor the immigrant. If the immigrant does not return when no longer employed, then the employer and the immigrant are penalized. The employer is heavily fined and the immigrant will no longer be able to enter the United States. Student and other visas must also be carefully monitored. Any person who overstays his or her visa forfeits the right to return to the United States.
  1. President Obama used his executive powers to prevent the deportation of “Dreamers” – youth who came to the U.S. illegally as children with their parents. Would you support legislation to prevent Dreamer deportations? Do you support putting Dreamers on a path to citizenship?
    “Dreamers,” those who had no control over being relocated to this country, who have only know the culture of this country, and who have not violated our laws (with the exception of non-criminal traffic laws) should not be deported. To send these immigrants back to a country about which they are unfamiliar would be a cruel act. These “Dreamers” should be given a Green Card and be given the opportunity to comply with the procedures applicable to all Green Card holders for eventual citizenship.
  1. Would you support building a wall across the southern border?
    No.

Education:

  1. What congressional reform do you favor to address America’s student loan crisis?
    There should be more deferment and income-based repayment schedules available. There should also be options to have all or part of student loan debt discharged through programs which allow those with student debt to work on infrastructure construction projects. However, the root of this problem is, in my option, two-fold: first, too many students are encouraged to go to college instead of going to more cost-effective trade or technical schools and, second, college and university expenses are increasing at an alarming rate. We should present all types of career options to all students, beginning in elementary schools, so that students understand that all careers have honor and value. Thus, fewer students should find themselves selecting the college/university route when another may be more appropriate (and less costly) for their talents and interests. As for the second concern, serious,objective evaluations of various types of higher education should be undertaken to better understand– and then find ways to control – the spiraling costs of education.

Closing:

  1. Any closing remarks or other issues you would like to address?
    1. Zika is becoming a greater and greater threat to Florida and to our country. Congress needs to immediately cease the gridlock on the issue of funding for the prevention and control of this disease.

    2. Our society “throws away” too many people. When elected, I will collaborate with my fellow Congressmen and women to direct the attention of the federal government, working in harmony with state and local governments, non-profits, for profit businesses, and faith communities, to provide the frameworks and resources needed to address issues of mental health, substance abuse, homelessness, early education, care of veterans, and support of the elderly – in our Congressional District 9 and throughout our country.

    3. We must stop the revolving door of our jails and prisons. Not only do we need sentencing reform, we also need to empower law enforcement officers to send first-time offenders to substance abuse centers, mental health facilities, or homeless shelters to prevent these offenders from entering the system in the first place.Employers need to demonstrate that the reason for denying employment because of a felony or misdemeanor is one that is directly related to the position for which the person has applied. There should be no disenfranchisement of felons permitted anywhere in the United States.

    4. Federal programs such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” have done a great disservice to our school systems. High stress, high stakes standardized testing must be eliminated as a way to determine student advancement and graduation, teacher assessment, and school ratings. Standardized testing should return to the place which they once occupied – as a useful tool for a teacher and for a local school system to use in an overall plan for student success. Unfortunately, the extreme emphasis on our current high stress, high stakes standardized testing has crowded out time for everything from recess in elementary school to music and art education to time for the natural development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

    5. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design, and Math) (http://stemtosteam.org/) education should be incorporated into school curricula along with a strong humanities and liberal arts education. This approach encourages critical thinking and problem solving through hands-on learning while providing a foundation that is helpful to both the skilled trades and college career tracks. States should determine, as part of their requirements, how this is integrated into their requirements. The federal government should provide funding to assist the states in launching STEAM pilot programs.

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