Tammy Berry had one concern when she arrived at a Town Hall meeting with Congressman Mike Johnson today in Plain Dealing: Getting her daughter, Emma, to her rodeos.
Berry was one of about 40 people who gathered at the Plain Dealing Community Center with Johnson. Most were there for the same reason as Berry, to voice their concerns about new federal regulations on commercial transportation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires commercial driver’s licenses of anyone driving a truck and horse trailer with a combined gross weight of 26,000 pounds — if the trip involves compensation, such as prize money from rodeo competitions.
“I am a rodeo mom,” Berry said with Emma seated beside her. “I don’t get paid to haul her. Sometimes I have her friends with me; I don’t get paid to haul them.”
Emma’s rodeo season already has begun. Berry said Emma has competitions scheduled across Texas, in Georgia, Mississippi and even Las Vegas this year. She said the expense of complying with the regulations would be a hardship if she has to get a CDL and an Electronic Logging Device.
“I’m a single parent,” she said, choking back her emotions. “I cannot afford ELD. What do I do? Tell her she can’t go when she worked her butt off?“
Johnson said a letter he co-signed with 40 other members of Congress has been sent to the agencies in charge. If they can’t do something about it, Johnson said lawmakers will do something statutorily. “We know it’s urgent,” Johnson said. “Everybody with a rural district is hearing the same complaints.
“As I told some members before we left last week, I said, ‘For crying out loud, the rodeo, that is the one thing we should be encouraging these kids to do because it is wholesome and it’s the right values.’ The last thing we want to do it create a deterrent to rodeo, for crying out loud.”
Johnson opened the meeting with his overview of what’s happening in Congress. He said the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been the biggest accomplishment of the first year of the 115th Congress and the Trump administration.
“The estimate is that over 90 percent of Americans are going to get an increase int heir paychecks,” Johnson said. “We needed it. It’s the largest corporate tax rate cut in U.S. history. Substantial tax rates have been reduced across the board, even for individuals as well.”
He also said that regulatory reform and economic growth is having a positive impact on the economy.
“The estimate is we could get up to 5 percent economic growth if the trend continues,” he said. “That is a game changer in the economy. It’s critical for a state like ours. When you have the economy revving like that, you have more jobs and opportunities, and we certainly need it in our rural areas. The old ways of the economy, manufacturing facilities and stuff, have gone by the wayside, and they likely aren’t coming back in large numbers.
“With emerging technologies and the changing economy, we’ve got to be able to adapt. We want risk-takes and entrepreneurs and job creators to be able to have the ability to expand and try new product lines and add new jobs. Because that benefits everybody.”
Before the town hall, Johnson visited with students at Plain Dealing High School. Plain Dealing is one of two schools in Johnson’s district competing in a national stock market competition. Johnson said the students will learn about personal finance, the stock market and investing, and the global economy.
“You can make a better life,” he told the students. “Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t. It doesn’t matter where you live what community you’re in. If you work hard and you play by the rules and you’re willing to sacrifice, then you can make a better life. That’s the American dream.”