Congresswoman Katie Hill, left, listens to a Santa Clarita resident with opposing views, Michael Chartier after the Congressional Conversation with Congresswoman Katie Hill town hall meeting held in the City of Santa Clarita City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Katie Hill talks health care, money in politics and gun control during ‘First 100 Days’ town hall

During a town hall meeting held in the City Council chambers Saturday, Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, discussed a number of topics she says her office has been working on during her first 100 days.

Among the topics brought up to an often combative and raucous audience was the announcement that her third and final field office, the one for Santa Clarita, is set to be open on Monday.

In addition to making the announcement regarding her office, which is located 23734 Valencia Blvd., Hill invited Rep. Mike Thompson, D-San Francisco, chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, to attend the town hall.

Congresswoman Katie Hill, left, looks on as Congressman Mike Thompson speaks during the Congressional Conversation with Congresswoman Katie Hill town hall meeting held in the City of Santa Clarita City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Together, they touched on House Resolution 1, an attempt at campaign finance reform, and House Resolution 8, a bill that would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties.

Both bills have passed the House, but have yet to be introduced on the Senate floor, Hill said.

“These are two pieces of legislation that have the ability, if we’re able to pass the Senate, to make major changes in our country for generations to come,” Hill said. “H.R. 1 is about people’s access to democracy, and the individual’s ability to have an influence on democracy rather than it just being controlled by corporations and special interests.”

Members of the audience react with applause and boos during the Congressional Conversation with Congresswoman Katie Hill town hall meeting held in the City of Santa Clarita City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“The second piece is what Mr. Thompson has spearheaded, which is H.R. 8, around universal background checks,” Hill added. “As he mentioned, 90 percent of the population, regardless of if you’re Democrat or a Republican, a gun owner or not, support this. And I think that’s really indicative of how common sense these kinds of measures are.”

The discussion on each of the topics was often cut short by audience members having exchanges with another and shouting over Hill and Thompson.

“Frankly, the most disappointing thing was that people who wanted to actually have input and have a discussion weren’t able to ask their questions and so we’re going to have to look at how we do this in a different format,” Hill said of the disruptions coming from audience members throughout the town hall. “I’m all for people being able to express dissenting opinions, but this isn’t the forum to do that… I thought it was incredibly disrespectful.”

Congresswoman Katie Hill, left, shakes hands with a boisterous opponent in the audience during the Congressional Conversation with Congresswoman Katie Hill town hall meeting held in the City of Santa Clarita City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday. Dan Watson/The signal

One of those audience members who was often being directly asked to quiet down by the congresswoman, Arthur Schaper, said her support of HR 5, also known as the Equality Act, was detrimental to minority communities.

The bill, according to Congress’s official website, “prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system.”

On a flier he was distributing during the meeting, he argues that the bill would “undermine the Civil Rights Movement which black Americans fought for” and will result in religious institutions, such as churches, “being sued or (forced to) lose their tax-exemption status if they do not accommodate LGBT behaviors.”

Valencia High School student Cassidy Bensko, right, says goodbye to (from left) Congressman Mike Thompson, Scott Fay of End Citizens United and Congresswoman Katie Hill after Bensko read written questions from the audience during the Congressional Conversation with Congresswoman Katie Hill town hall meeting held in the City of Santa Clarita City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Hill responded that Schaper was wrong, and Thompson said that they did not have the facts and were simply “pounding the table.”

The question-and-answer portion toward the end of the town hall meeting was moderated by Valencia High School sophomore Cassidy Bensko, who eventually stopped leading discussion due to audience members shouting over her.

“She has shown her gratitude for the kids and the young people in the community… and I think it’s important that she was here period,” said Bensko in response to a question of why she was willing to stand alongside Hill in the midst of the contentious environment. “To have the courage and ethics to stand in front of a group of people that are obviously not in favor of what you are doing, but to still be able to be there for the people who are civil and being respectful and still show your concern for their concerns in the community, is really important.”

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