Congressman Rodney Davis
(Sean Powers/WILL)
August 19, 2013

Rep. Davis Accused Of 'Ducking' Constituents

Political campaigns are gearing up for next year's elections. So, too, are political pranksters.

Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) has lately found himself being shadowed by a giant duck. Well, technically it is a woman in a duck suit.
 
"It is very warm in the duck costume," said Nafia Khan.

Khan and a handful of other activists were on the State Fairgrounds last week, holding signs that accuse Congressman Davis of "ducking" constituents. They say he is not holding any town hall meetings.
 
"(If) he wants to come back and report back to us what he's specifically doing in Congress, we'd love that, and we can engage with him further," Khan added.
 
The duck protesters are backed by the national Democratic Congressional organization.

Andrew Flach, a spokesman for Rep. Davis, dismissed it as "political funny season." Flach acknowledged there have not been town-hall meetings, but said Davis is still available.

"The charge that he's not available to discuss issues with constituents is completely unfair," Flach said. "He holds a lot of one-on-one and small-group meetings, he attends other public events, and we hold mobile office hour stops."

At a state Republican meeting in Springfield last week, Davis took the duck as a badge of honor.
 
"Who else brought protesters to this event today?" he said.
 
Davis is less than one year into his first term in Congress. He is facing a primary challenge from lawyer and former Miss America Erika Harold.


Cong. Rodney Davis and Beth Hall of the MRCC
(Jeff Bossert/WILL)
August 07, 2013

Cong. Davis Credited With Securing Climate Center Funding

A facility in Champaign that provides weather data to farmers and planners credits a local congressman for extending its contract through next month.

The Midwestern Regional Climate Center and its 10 employees rely mostly on federal funding, roughly about 85 percent.

Director Beth Hall says it learned in January that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to fund and manage the country’s six regional climate centers differently, and that could have meant an end to the center in Champaign, or merging it with another one. 

That’s when Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) asked NOAA to reconsider, and the center got a 6-month extension.

Hall said the center serves a vital role with climate events like the 2012 drought, or occasional crop freeze events.

She said it’s not simply a warehouse of data, but serves as a network between that information and the community.

“It’s almost like the national weather service," she said.  "People assume that anytime they can go on line as see what the forecast is from the national weather service. Same situation with the climate centers, is we are working off of daily, if not hourly data.  So we can’t do that same timing scenario that traditional grants and contracts that the federal government supports works off of.  Because we need to be thinking, what are we going to do come October first if we are no longer getting funding?”

The center collaborates with the Illinois State Water Survey and University of Illinois, located in the university's research park.

Its staff ranges from climate scientists to information technology personnel.  


Congressman Rodney Davis
(Sean Powers/WILL)
July 01, 2013

US Rep Davis: Conference Committee Likely on Immigration Reform

Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) says any long-term solution to address immigration reform will be decided in a conference committee.

Davis met Monday with members of the C-U Immigration Forum at his office in Champaign, days after the U.S. Senate passed its own immigration measure.

He said he agrees with House Speaker John Boehner that the chamber needs to take up its own separate bill. Davis said there has been a lack of conference committees the last few years.

“(There are) so few opportunities to have Republicans and Democrats work together," Davis said. "And the result of that has given us a lack of regular order, and openness in the budgetary process. It’s led to sequestration, and across-the-board cuts, which I don’t think are what the American public sends us to Washington to do.”

Davis said he is looking forward to talking with members of House committees on some of the plans they have passed, and then comparing them to the Senate measure. He said Congress needs to make sure whatever passes solidifies the immigration process so the U.S. does not have millions living in the country illegally 20 years from now. 

The C-U immigration group’s Mike Doyle said it was a positive meeting with Davis. He said the bill does provide a pathway to citizenship, but cited concerns on border security.

"It seems to be wasting a lot of resources and too much emphasis on the border," he said. "The extra guards, the wall that's being built. Usually there's a celebration when we take down walls rather than celebrating putting up walls." 

Ha Ho of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center was also encouraged about the meeting with Davis. 

"We had the chance to speak from the bottom of our hearts," she said.  "We wished that all the citizens were given the same opportunity most of us had to become citizens, and to find a second home away from home in the United States."

Doyle's group has invited Rep. Davis to return to Champaign for a community forum later this summer.


Erika Harold
(Sean Powers/WILL)
June 25, 2013

Ex-Illinois GOP Official Apologizes For Loaded Email

A Republican congressional candidate in Illinois says a former GOP official who wrote a derogatory email about her has apologized via text.

Erika Harold said the text from former Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Jim Allen apologized to her and her supporters.

Harold told the News-Gazette in Champaign that the message was only a sentence or two long.

Allen resigned last week after his email was published by a pro-Republican website.

In his email Allen said the bi-racial Harold would be hired by a law firm to fill a minority quota if she loses the GOP primary to Rep. Rodney Davis. Allen also referred to the former Miss America as the ``love child'' of Democrats.

Davis once listed Allen as a key supporter but has condemned the email.


Erika Harold running for Congress
(Jim Meadows/WILL)
June 20, 2013

Illinois County GOP Chair Resigns Over 'Racist' Email

The chairman of the Republican Party in Montgomery County has resigned after writing what's been called a racist and sexist email about U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' primary challenger.

Illinois Republican Party chairman Jack Dorgan said he accepted Jim Allen's resignation on Thursday afternoon. Allen wrote an email Tuesday suggesting Erika Harold could fill a "minority quota'' if she lost the Republican primary. The biracial Harvard law school graduate was crowned Miss America in 2003 and launched her bid to challenge Davis this month.

Allen has apologized for the message that's been called a "racist rant.''

During a conference call Thursday, Davis said he was appalled by Allen’s comments, saying it is clear he should step down as Montgomery County Republican Chair and a leader in the party.

"He's never talked to me in any sort of manner like that  since I have ever known him," Davis said. "I have not had a chance to talk with him. I would hope he is incredibly disappointed by the incredibly, incredibly wrong comments that he made."

Allen's name already was removed from a list of Davis supporters.


Congressman Rodney Davis
(Sean Powers/WILL)
June 18, 2013

US Rep. Davis Defends House Farm Bill

Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) says President Obama is premature in threatening to veto the House’s version of the farm bill.

The White House said $2 billion in annual cuts to the food stamp program in the House’s plan goes too far, and will leave some Americans hungry.  Meanwhile, the Senate bill looks at cutting the food stamp program, known as SNAP, by about $400 million a year.

Davis said before the White House has any say, both measures should go to a conference committee, where lawmakers can hammer out a final plan.

“You’ve got to remember that the SNAP program has grown immensely since 2008 and 2009, and a lot of that’s attributable to the fact that we haven’t had a good economy,” Davis said. “People can’t get jobs, and we need to make sure that we are able to get the benefits to those who need them the most.”

The White House also said the House’s plan should make deeper cuts to farm subsidies like crop insurance. Davis said farmers are more than paying their share, since the $40 billion is split evenly although SNAP makes up 80 percent of the spending.

"Both sides are taking equal cuts, so our farmers and our ag industry have taken $20 billion in cuts too just like the SNAP side and they're only 20 percent of the bill,” Davis said. “Our farmers have paid the price. Our farmers have given up direct payments to attack our national debt and that's why this bill is so crucial to passing."

The Senate has already approved its version of the farm bill, and the House is expected to vote on its plan this week.


Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum
(Sean Powers/WILL)
June 16, 2013

Immigration Group Delivers Father's Day Card To US Rep. Davis

As Congress debates immigration reform, a Champaign-Urbana immigration rights group is urging U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) to support the plan.

On Friday, members of the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum stopped by Davis’ Champaign office to deliver a large Father's Day card, which featured photos of families who have been affected by deportation.

“There has to be something to benefit the people who are here doing the right thing: people that came to work, people that came to better themselves, people that came to help the country,” said Lorenzo Macedo, a member of the C-U Immigration Forum. “We want him to support that.”

Macedo said he also wants Congressman Davis to understand that many families are being split up because of deportation. To convey that point, a group of children presented the Father’s Day card to Rep. Davis’ staff. At the time, Davis was not at the office.

A group of children present the Father's Day card to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' staff.

“Many of these kids have neighbors or family members who have been affected by deportation,” said Lucia Maldonado, the Latino parent liaison for the Urbana school district. “We want to make sure that Congressman Davis saw that. An image always says a lot of things a lot better than words.”

The C-U Immigration Forum is hoping to meet with Davis to find out where he stands on the issue.

In an interview on Thursday, Davis said he hopes lawmakers can come to an agreement on a comprehensive plan.

“There’s no better time than since 1986 to look at a complete comprehensive immigration reform package than now, but what we have to make sure of is you don’t get bogged down in the differences between what the House bill and the Senate bill does because the Senate bill will always have more cost and never pass the House, and the House bill will have less cost and never pass the Senate,” Davis said. “Unless we pass them out of both houses, we can’t ever come to a common sense solution.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently told ABC News that passing an immigration bill in the House is the most important thing on his agenda this year, and that he anticipates President Obama will sign a bill before January.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a product come out of the committee by the end of June,” Bohener said. “I believe that it’s important for the House to work its will on this issue. And I would expect that a House bill will be to the right of where the Senate is.”

Meanwhile, the Senate is currently debating its own immigration proposal that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally. The plan was drafted by a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

During a procedural vote last week, the Senate voted 82-15 to advance discussion of the immigration plan. However, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was in the minority to vote 'no' because of how the bill addresses border security.

“I was disappointed to hear (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) dismiss a constructive border security amendment set to be introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) as a “poison pill” before the text of the amendment had even been released,” Kirk said on his blog. “If requiring real border security with verifiable metrics and independent certifications is a “poison pill” for the Democratic leadership, then I fear we are setting a course for division and partisanship.  My votes yesterday were a demonstration of this great disappointment.”

Macedo said he was disappointed by Sen. Kirk’s action.

“Hopefully we can change his mind,” Macedo said on Friday, shortly after the Father’s Day card was dropped off at Rep. Davis’ office. “I guess we’re going to have to do something like this to see if we can touch his heart as well.”


Rodney Davis
(Jeff Bossert/WILL)
June 13, 2013

US Rep. Davis: Surveillance Programs Need More Oversight

Congressman Rodney Davis says there needs to be greater Congressional oversight over the nation’s surveillance programs.

The Taylorville Republican’s comments follow revelations that the National Security Agency targeted millions of phone records of Americans and the Internet activity of foreigners.

Davis said he wants to know what type of information was gathered, and for what reasons.

“There are many across this globe that want to do one thing, and that’s kill Americans and hurt our country," he said. "We have to make sure law enforcement has the tools necessary to fight those who want to kill us. However, we also need to make sure that individual liberties of innocent Americans are not infringed upon by those same processes.”

Davis said the public has a right to know that they’re protected without their privacy being violated.

"My concern is that we don’t (give) so much information to those who are supposed to be protecting us that the true information needed gets lost in a haystack,” he said.

Davis said he does not think the disclosure of the federal government’s surveillance practices will make the country less safe. Though, he added that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden should be prosecuted if he broke the law by releasing that information to the public.


(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
May 15, 2013

US Rep. Davis Supports Cuts to Food Stamp Program

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville says he supports cuts to the food stamp program in the new federal farm bill.

Davis serves on House Agriculture Committee, which began marking up the bill on Wednesday.

The legislation includes about $2.5 billion a year in cuts to the federal food stamp program. Last year more than 47 million people used the food stamp program with the cost more than doubling since 2008.

Congressman Davis said overspending by the federal government means cuts need to be made in many places.

“Statistics from the federal government show we actually have less people in poverty now than we had in 2008,” he said. “I think what we need to do is give more flexibility to locals in Illinois to ensure those who are unemployed get the training that they need to fill the jobs that are available, so that they don’t need food stamps.”

Census bureau estimates show that the federal poverty rate is 15 percent, which is about 2 percent higher from 2008 to 2011. Illinois’ poverty rate is slightly lower than the national average.

During Wednesday’s committee hearing, Davis also introduced an amendment to give the U.S. Department of Agriculture more say in any changes introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency that affect agriculture.

Davis said the proposal requires the USDA and EPA to form a review panel where recommendations and advice from farmers would be considered.

“We need USDA at the table,” he said. “This is the agency that has the expertise and relationship within the farm community. We have seen more and more regulations come out of EPA that affect on-farm operations, and it’s time these two agencies begin to work more closely.”

The Farm Bill costs almost $100 billion annually and would set policy for farmsubsidies, rural programs and the food aid. The House panel began considering the legislation just a day after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version

The United States House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture will mark up the 2013 version of the farm bill today in Washington, D.C. (May 15). Last night ranking member of the committee Collin Peterson spoke about the bill and the mark up with farm broadcasters. The University of Illinois Extension's Todd Gleason was among them and files this report. It begins the way the evening event started with Peterson and his band the "Second Amendments" entertaining members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting:


Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville)
(Jeff Bossert/WILL)
May 10, 2013

Congressman Davis Takes on Farm Bill

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee is expected to start marking up the new Farm Bill on Wednesday. U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) is one of the new members of Congress working on the measure.

The 2008 Farm Bill expired last September, but parts of it have been extended until this coming September. It covers everything from crop subsidies to nutrition programs for the poor.

There might some some question as to what Rep. Davis can accomplish, having been in office for about three months. But a farmer and two industry experts say they are approaching the debate with some optimism.

John Robinson is a 4th generation farmer in rural Monticello.John Robinson (pictured on the left) is a fourth generation farmer in rural Monticello. In his office (pictured below), he keeps toy versions for every real tractor he has used out in the field. 

"It's fun," Robinson said of his hobby. "That way, when something happens to me, I can say 'these are the tractors that I had."

A photo of John's grandfather on the old family farm near Deland serves as his computer wallpaper. Political memorabilia hangs on the walls, mostly from old-line Republicans like Barry Goldwater and Chuck Percy.

Congressman Davis is not included on the wall yet. But Robinson said he supports his new representative, and thinks he will be successful if he can cut waste from the new Farm Bill.

But he said some things need to be preserved, including the federal crop insurance program - as long as growers understand its purpose.John Robinson's office in Monticello.

“It’s not a ‘be all to get all," he said. "It’s a situation to get you to the next year. And again, it’s subsidized, but subsidized with a purpose because you want to encourage people to take this kind of insurance. So you can lessen your risk.”

Congressman Davis said crop insurance works - covering farmers for their losses just as others are insured for their car and home.

While Davis, Robinson, and ag policy leaders want to keep that subsidized program going, they are seeking an end to another subsidy - the direct payment farm subsidy. That program is meant to give farmers extra money for their crops and guarantee a price floor. But it has paid out regardless of the acreage planted, or how much the crops brings in each year. 

Davis said those in his district who raise corn and soybeans are willing to give up the direct payment subsidies, and do their part to tackle a $16.6 trillion national debt.

“And the key, though is all the ag sectors working together to find out what’s going to work," he said.  "It’s just like what we should do to govern out in Congress on every single piece of legislation.  There’s got to be some give and take.”

John Robinson said there is much more at stake in the new Farm Bill than helping farmers facing production losses-  if drought conditions persist in 2013.  He said more than half the money in the Farm Bill goes towards nutrition programs like SNAP, also known as food stamps.

One industry expert believes Davis, a former staffer to neighboring Republican Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville, can have some success in this area.

“The Congressman’s connections to a lot of folks in Central Illinois, who have been through those battles, should help prepare him very well to assume the leadership that we all expect him to take," said Jon Scholl, president of the Washington, D.C. American Farmland Trust. The conservation group works with Congress to protect soil and water.

Despite Scholl's optimism for Davis and what he calls a renewed sense of bipartisanship, Scholl said items like SNAP and the overall federal budget could lead to a contentious debate.

"The really big difference comes in the amount of money that’s being cut from the SNAP, or nutrition programs in general," he said.  "And it’s a difference of almost 100 million dollars. And trying to reconcile that is going to be very contentious, and it’s going to be that’s going to make perhaps more than anything else, a farm bill difficult to attain.”

Scholl said it could take the end of the year before the House and Senate agree on the measure.  That’s where the contacts that Davis developed while a congressional staffer could help - according to Kevin Johnson.  He’s a one-time staffer for former Urbana Congressman Tim Johnson (no relation) who’s now with the Illinois Chemical and Fertilizer Association.

"You’re not going to be an expert on every issue, even if you’re on the ag committee," Johnson said.  "I think as a staffer and a member, that’s your biggest thing.  You’re trying to keep your ear to the ground - What issues are coming your way, so you’re ahead of those issues.”

Congressman Davis said there is a renewed sense of optimism in Congress, after members got bogged down last year in partisan bickering.

“Some of my best friends in my freshman class are Democrats," he said.  "We’re willing to work together.  I believe when you saw this last election – an election that both thought it would swing their way.  Neither side did.  I think that’s what shows a lot members of Congress that major pieces of legislation shouldn’t be about political partisanship – and polarization.”

Davis said that as the only Illinois Republican on the House Ag Committee, he feels the need to take a statewide view on issues.

With that in mind, he and freshman Bill Enyart (D-Belleville) have co-sponsored a measure – separate from the farm bill -  that seeks to help commercial river traffic, on the Mississippi River during droughts and floods.

"If we don’t have access to that navigation channel down the Mississippi to get that product out – to get our coal – and get our corn –and get our soybeans out, than we don’t have jobs," Davis said. "So it is a crucial element to our Midwestern success economically, and that’s why we’re trying to lead in a bipartisan way on this issue.”

Oklahoma Republican and House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas said he will move ahead with a markup - or formal revision and drafting - of the next Farm Bill by May 15. 

Davis said he is excited to have a seat at the table, but also expects some late nights as that markup process begins.

As for John Robinson, while he supports Davis, he said he prefers not to deal with the politicians. He is saving most of his feedback on the Farm Bill for staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"I want to deal with the people that are running the programs," he said. "Because they are wanting to know how the programs are working out in the countryside. And they think talking to farmers is very valuable."

The Senate Agriculture Committee was expected to start its own markup process early next week, likely on Tuesday. Congressman Davis believes the new farm bill could be approved by both chambers by September, around the time the last provisions of the old Farm Bill expire.

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