PowerPlayer: Congressman James Langevin
Monday, September 05, 2011
GoLocalProv’s latest PowerPlayer interview is with Congressman James Langevin, who was kind enough to tell us about the work he is doing to help develop the workforce and create more jobs for Rhode Islanders.
1) With Washington seemingly at a standstill all year, you have continued to call for job creation above all else. Tell us about your strategy to help create more opportunities for Rhode Islanders.
We cannot solve any of our pressing economic challenges, including our debt, unless we put people back to work. Creating an environment for small businesses to start up and expand must be at the center of any plan. I support tax breaks to help them grow and an increase in small business loan guarantees to give them better access to capital. We must invest in needed infrastructure projects that only become more expensive the longer we wait, encourage development of emerging industries through initiatives like the wind farm proposed off our state’s coast, and support better science and math education for students and job training for workers to ensure we have a workforce qualified for the high-skill fields where so many of the job opportunities are.
2) Rhode Island has built a reputation as being bad for business. Is it true? What can you do to help repair the state's image to make a more attractive and competitive place?
This and the first question are really one in the same. The policies required to improve our competitiveness in Rhode Island and nationally are the ones that create job opportunities.
Our state’s biggest challenge may be workforce development. I hear repeatedly during visits to businesses throughout my district that our workforce is not being trained with the skills needed by employers who are hiring. This is particularly true in the areas that have the most potential to help our economy grow, such as engineering, cybersecurity, health care IT and energy, which often require an advanced level of science and math education. I recently met with a local businessman in the cyber field who spends tens of thousands of dollars on training instead of investing that money toward further expanding and improving his company.
The Pathways to Prosperity Summit I put together recently was an important step toward bringing together the state's education, business and labor communities to better shape our workforce, and I am working with participants to act on the recommendations that came out of our discussion. In cybersecurity, which is growing rapidly but still has a substantial shortage of top-level professionals, I have joined with non-profits, educators and the business community to launch a high school cyber competition to develop young talent and ensure the state is at the forefront of advances in cyber. These efforts should serve as a model for other expanding fields. In addition, we need to tap into our state’s extraordinary arts community to spur innovation, and I am working with the Rhode Island School of Design and other local partners to integrate art and design training into our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula.
One of the exciting parts of my job is that no one day is quite like any other and there are always many different issues to address. In Washington, I might go from questioning officials about the troop drawdown in Afghanistan to debating the budget on the House floor to discussing our cybersecurity with major companies that are losing millions of dollars from cyber hacks, while meeting with visiting Rhode Islanders in my office throughout the day. If I'm in the District, that usually means touring businesses, hosting discussions with leaders in our state about pressing issues and holding public forums. I often have "community days" which involve spending a day in one particular part of my District, as I did last week in Westerly where I stopped at multiple businesses and the local credit union, met with community leaders and hosted a town hall.
This position also offers a unique opportunity to meet Rhode Islanders of all backgrounds and walks of life, whether during visits to businesses and schools, meetings in my office about particular issues or any time I'm out in my district. I enjoy the chance to hear so many diverse perspectives about the issues of the day and to help wherever I can to ensure that the federal government is meeting the needs of my constituents.
4) What are the three pieces of legislation you're most proud to have worked on during your time in Washington.
1. The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. This was an important bill with far-reaching impact on an issue of great significance to me and I was proud to work as part of the “whip team” that ensured it had enough votes to pass. It was the basis for the Executive Order on stem cell research signed by President Obama in 2009.
2. The landmark health care law passed last year. For many years, I had introduced the American Health Benefits Program as a proposal to expand affordable health care to all and so many of my colleagues had worked tirelessly on this issue. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a significant step toward universal coverage and lower costs.
3. The Lifespan Respite Care Act, which I introduced and passed in 2006. It provides key support service to family care givers while saving on the otherwise more expensive costs of providing this long-term care outside the home.
5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.
I’ve always wanted to go skydiving.
Role Model: Senator Pell and FDR
Favorite Restaurant: 1149 in Warwick
Best Beach: Bonnet Shores
Best Book You've Read This Year: Currently reading the Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and enjoying it.
Advice For The Next James Langevin: I’d tell anyone following my path to always be true to your principles. If you have a passion in life, never give up, even in the tough times. Always remember where you came from and give back.
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