Gaetz meets with protesters during Santa Rosa County town hall tour
SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) —
The majority of Thursday, Congressman Matt Gaetz lent his ear to his constituents in Florida's first district. The freshman congressman held nine town hall style meetings in Santa Rosa County and many were met with protesters.
"We haven't combated protesters, we've invited and included them," Gaetz said. "I think that protest is a key element in a healthy democracy. So, I'm grateful for everyone who would take part of their time and come out and share their ideas and opinions."
Roughly 500 packed inside Oops Alley in Pace for the last event of the day. A look around the room and there was a common theme in the posters: water, air and the environment.
Many people attended in hopes of changing the congressman's mind about his bill to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I feel like it's attack on human beings on every living thing in this entire country," said Sarah Coutu who was with the Florida Panhandle Progressives. "I think the entire nation needs to know this person in district one, as congressman, affects the air and water quality and the environment."
Gaetz proposed the bill to get rid of the federal agency by the year 2018. He told the crowd he wants to take the $8 billion the EPA receives each year and let the states and local jurisdictions handle it.
"My belief is that the $8 billion we're currently spending on the EPA is not appropriately utilized to be able to really get in and punish polluters," Gaetz said.
Protesters said that giving the job to the states would not be more beneficial.
"Our water supplies don't all come from Florida," Coutu said. "They also come from Georgia and from Alabama and from Louisiana and from other states in the north. I also think that our state is doing an insanely terrible job."
Another hot issue was the effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Gaetz has been supportive of repealing it and replacing it. Many expressed concern to him that they would be worse off.