Issues & Political Concerns

 

Education

I support the Department of Education so it can set national standards for schools, like promoting the IDEA act and regulating for-profit colleges. I am against the federal government funding select students to go to private institutions and telling teachers how to teach. Money used for school vouchers should instead be used to make schools better. To provide better textbooks, more teachers, and better facilities for all students. Basing school funding off property taxes inherently disadvantages certain children, and no child's education should suffer because of where they grow up. We need parity when it comes to access to skills education, college prep, and dual-credit courses. I support increased funding for inner-city and rural schools, ensuring every district has a minimum dollar amount per student.

  • Institute a minimum spending per student for all school districts (Federal funds will supplement any district unable to meet the requirement.)

  • End school voucher programs

  • Limit the amount of standardized tests students are required to take

  • Decrease class sizes

  • Improve run-down school facilities

Infrastructure

Missouri’s roads and bridges are ranked 8th-worst in the nation. Only 44% of our bridges were deemed to be in "good condition" and only 33% of our roads are in good condition. This is a safety issue that affects everyone and puts us at an economic disadvantage. I will support another FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act with a larger budget. We need to focus on shoring up our existing infrastructure while also investing in public transportation. A bus or rail system connecting southwest Missouri would be beneficial for many seniors, students, and ultimately everyone in our community.

  • Pass another FAST Act with funding to improve Missouri's roads and bridges

  • Support investment in a cross-country rail system

Military & Veterans

My mother is a US Army veteran and both my grandfathers also served in the Army. I have several friends who are veterans or currently serving in the armed forces, so these issues hit on a personal level for me.

One of the most important issues is the VA healthcare system, which leaves a lot to be desired. Our veterans deserve the best healthcare we can offer but many have difficulty accessing facilities, let alone the appropriate standard of care. Many politicians look at these individual issues as separate, but for rural Americans these issues stand in concert with each other. For example, one problem within the VA is lack of access because vets have to drive upwards of an hour or sometimes a few just to get to the nearest facility. The initial reaction by many is to offer telehealth services. That's great! We should absolutely invest more into that, but the reality is that most of those people who travel long distances live in remote areas where internet access is scarce. Telehealth is of no use to them. So we also have to talk about increasing broadband internet and wifi access when speaking about the VA.

My opponent also moved a VA facility from Mount Vernon to Springfield, disadvantaging many veterans and employees in the area. The solution was just to drive to Springfield or Joplin. That increased the burden on those who already deal with so much. He did not take the livelihoods of people in that area into account. I listen to the voices in our small towns because I care about everyone in the district regardless of where they live.

  • Invest in better care options at the VA

  • Invest in mobile care options for the VA

  • Invest in telehealth options for the VA

  • Improve staff retention at VA facilities so veterans have a consistent community and support system

  • Increase peer-to-peer options, groups, therapy, places for veterans to meet with people who have this shared experience.

Health Care

Americans deserve access to high-quality healthcare regardless of location or income. We need to work on expanding Medicare, decreasing drug prices, and increasing access to mental health and addiction services. However, these things cannot be discussed in a vacuum or as if they are not related to other issues. For example, people in rural areas have limited access to mental health and hospital services. We could solve that with telehealth, but that only applies to those with internet access which is severely lacking in many of our towns. Everything is connected and systemic change is required.

  • Increase funding to our five critical access hospitals

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers

  • Import FDA-approved medications

  • Reform the patent process for drugs and decrease the practice of repeated renewals that allow pharmaceutical companies to maintain their sole proprietorship over medications

  • Increase access to telehealth services​

Money & Politics

My campaign is a true grassroots movement because I believe that the people should control elections, not large corporations and big donors. I do not believe in associated PACs or SuperPACs. (I have none.)  I want to serve the people of southwest Missouri so that is where my funding comes from, not faceless dark money.

  • Continue to operate on small-dollar donations

  • As a campaign, we will not take money from PACs or corporations

  • Support the DISCLOSE legislation which would require nonprofits to disclose their political donations and for government contractors to disclose their giving as part of the bidding process.

Marijuana

One of our original campaign slogans was, "More pot, less potholes," a reference to our commitment to fixing infrastructure. Eleven states have legalized marijuana and it is a great contributor to their economy. 

  • Legalize recreational marijuana use

  • Prohibit the use of marijuana in public spaces

  • Tax marijuana sales and use the funds to support infrastructure projects

Small Businesses

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. I can rattle off a list of my favorite restaurants and most of them are individually owned and operated. My favorite boutiques and concert venues are the same. But there are significant barriers these businesses face. First, there is not enough startup capital available. It can be hard to get a loan with a reasonable interest rate to begin a business. Then, if a small business has a lot of inventory for sale on Amazon, those items are at an Amazon facility. If that business owner goes to a bank, many institutions will not consider that inventory as collateral because the owner is not in possession of those items. 

Additionally, many small businesses have been left out of the CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program while several massive corporations received assistance. Maverick Gaming ($1 billion valuation) got $46 million. Omni Hotels, the Ayn Rand Institute, and several other large companies received benefits while many small businesses were left to flounder. The way Congress designed the package meant it was heavily reliant upon private lenders. That meant the program favored companies with established relationships to those lenders. Big lenders lend to big corporations. Congress just didn't include small town and small business realities in their legislation. I will always listen to small business owners and hear what they need.

Student Debt

As of the beginning of 2020, 11% of student loan borrowers were at least three months late on their payments. That was prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. College costs have doubled over the past thirty years while the median household income has gone up less than 20%. Student debt is a large barrier to millennials starting their own businesses and contributing to the economy in any meaningful way. Student debt is a primary cause of college-educated young adults working jobs at which they are overqualified, pushing off the decision to have children, and not buying a home.

  • Increase regulation of for-profit colleges and strengthen student protections

  • Increase income-based repayment options

  • Protect Pell Grants and increase the availability of Stafford loans​

US Postal Service

You will be hard pressed to find someone who loves USPS more than me. I love sending cards to my friends and family, writing letters, and opening the mailbox to discover someone has sent me a card. I am committed to keeping them under the US government because it is the single largest infrastructure in the country, larger than Wal*Mart and McDonald's combined. They deliver to every household in America, which is how people get medicine or have things postmarked by a certain day. 

  • Remove the requirement to prefund retiree health benefits and adopt the "pay as you go" model

  • Reinstate postal banking

Workers' Rights

Nearly a quarter of Branson's population lives in extended stay motel rooms because they cannot afford an apartment. $9/hour is not a livable wage and if a business cannot afford to pay their workers a living wage, then it is failing. You cannot have a system where someone working 40 hours/week lives below the poverty line. However, this problem is not specific to Branson, or even to rural America. This is a nationwide problem that requires a federal solution. 

  • Increase the federal minimum wage to $15/hour

  • Pass legislation so the minimum wage increases in tandem with inflation

  • Include medical and nursing students in public service student loan forgiveness programs

  • Increase scrutiny by federal agencies of student loan lending practices

2nd Amendment

I believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. I'm not going to take your guns away.

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Paid for by Audrey Richards for Congress