College issues rules for Harris town hall
WYE MILLS — Chesapeake College has issued a code of conduct for the hour-long March 31 town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st.
Meanwhile, local citizen groups are saying that one hour isn’t enough, and has demanded that three hours, instead of one, be scheduled to cover the issues currently before Congress.
The town hall scheduling came after liberal groups criticized Republican congressmen across the country for supporting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the widespread and controversial health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.
For the past few months, Republicans in town halls and at their offices across the country have been confronted by protesters arguing their points to keep the Affordable Care Act. Many of those arguments at town halls turned into shouting. Harris has been on the receiving end of those protests, too.
Locally, the concerns revolve around changes in funding to Planned Parenthood and the outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Harris, who supports repealing the health care law, said he would hold a town hall when a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act is submitted.
A Republican alternative was released in the House of Representatives last week and was withdrawn after GOP leaders were unable to collect enough votes for passage. Harris opposed the American Health Care Act proposed by Republican leaders because he said it didn’t do enough to reduce premium prices.
Before an alternative was released, Harris held a series of town halls over the telephone, but he was criticized again for not holding them in person.
Ahead of the town hall, Chesapeake College issued a code of conduct.
The following rules will be enforced at the town hall:
• No weapons of any kind will be permitted on campus.
• There will be a designated area for anyone who wants to walk back and forth with signs, but they will not be allowed to interfere with anyone entering or leaving the venue.
• Signs are permitted without sticks attached to them.
• Bull horns are allowed on the outside of the venue, but not allowed inside.
• No tables will be allowed to be set up inside or outside the venue.
• Information may only be handed out if attendees approach the designated areas. No attendees may be approached.
• Small signs (no larger than 8½ x 11) that do not interfere or obstruct views of attendees can be brought into the venue. The small circle in front of the Todd Performing Arts Center (TPAC) will be reserved for those who need to be dropped off at the venue due to physical disabilities.
• Venue will open at 5 p.m. Once seats inside the theater reach capacity, no others will be allowed in the building.
• Parking area on Ring Road in front of the TPAC will be reserved for media staging.
• Unruly behavior that disrupts the town hall will not be tolerated. If any type of behavior disrupts the event, that person will be asked to refrain his/her behavior. If the behavior continues, then they will be asked to leave. If they refuse to leave, they will be subject to arrest by law enforcement.
Several local citizen groups sent a letter to Harris’ office on March 23 that asks for the town hall to be extended, and states that one hour is a “wholly inadequate amount of time” to discuss their concerns about vital issues facing Congress and hear Harris’ views on them.
The groups include Talbot Rising, Together We Will-Delmarva, Democratic Club of Queen Anne’s County, Talbot County Democratic Women’s Club and the African American Democratic Club of Maryland.
“His constituents deserve answers and a fair chance to voice their concerns,” Emily Jackson, from Together We Will-Delmarva, said in a joint press release issued March 22. “Regardless of whether we voted for him or not, as constituents of his district it is important to feel that he is serving our best interests, and how is that possible if he only allows interactions with him in such limited capacities as his very moderated conference calls, and this constricted town hall?”
Harris’ office has not responded to the request to lengthen the town hall, which is scheduled for 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 31, at Chesapeake College’s Todd Performing Arts Center.
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REP. ANDY HARRIS