We’d like to thank Congressman Rodney Davis for taking the time to do an interview with us. We know the importance of connecting with you while at the Legislative Conference in D.C. We’re very fortunate to be able to share your thoughts and views with our readers who haven’t yet had a chance to meet you.
Masonry Magazine: Please tell us a little bit about your background and what got you into politics?
Congressman Rodney Davis: I am a proud, lifelong resident of Taylorville, IL where I still live today with my wife Shannon, and our three children, Toryn, Clark, and Griffin. I went to college about 40 minutes away at Millikin University in Decatur where I majored in Political Science. Shortly after graduating, I began working on various political campaigns and eventually worked my way up to serve as Projects Director for Congressman John Shimkus. This allowed me to work with constituents and help our local communities navigate the federal bureaucracy. I was able to see firsthand how members of Congress were able to help veterans who were having difficulties with the VA or seniors having trouble receiving their Social Security check and truly make a difference. This is why in 2012; I decided to run for Congress.
MM: What is it like to be a Member of Congress? What makes you enjoy what you do?
RD: Many people think Congress is a place where social and economic elites come to slap each other’s backs and make backroom deals that only benefit themselves. In my experience, the culture is much different. Most members of Congress have their constituents’ best interests in mind when they introduce or vote on legislation. I believe that if we are disciplined enough to approach solutions from a bipartisan standpoint, that will combat this narrative that Congress only exists to help certain groups of people.
Overall, I would say serving as a member of Congress provides a good vantage point to hear from constituents of all different backgrounds and what matters most to them. It is truly an honor to work on behalf of Illinois’ 13th District by aiming to provide excellent constituent services and introducing legislation that will have a positive effect back home.
MM: What are your personal legislative priorities?
RD: I serve on the House Agriculture Committee, where I am Chairman of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee. Agriculture is very important to the economy of my district, so I fight for the rights of farmers and ag business owners and see to it that their industry has a voice in Washington. I also serve on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where we look to address our country’s aging infrastructure system. Aside from my committee assignments, I support legislation in Congress that grows the economy and creates jobs, increases government accountability and transparency, and simplifies our tax code.
MM: We’ve recently had a substantial change in the leadership of our country. What do you think this means for those in the construction and masonry industries?
RD: President Trump is a businessman and knows that the current regulatory regime is overly burdensome on the economy. Through his many years in real estate, the President understands that the construction and masonry industries are literally the foundation for economic growth. I believe there is reason for optimism that President Trump and his administration will prioritize the needs of the construction and masonry industries.
MM: What are your hopes for this new administration?
RD: I am hopeful that the Administration and Congress can work together to pass meaningful reforms to healthcare and the federal tax code. For too long, Obamacare and our current tax code have been burdens on small businesses and economic growth. However, this will take Republicans and Democrats working together to make Washington work for the American people. I hope this happens.
MM: What are some of the items that you’d personally like to see change in order to help our members?
RD: We are working to reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which would help to strengthen training for in-demand jobs. There are currently 6 million jobs in America that cannot be filled due to a lack of workforce development. We need to do what we can to address this jobs gap in Congress. I have also introduced legislation that would give companies an incentive to hire more apprentices. As I’ve said before, success doesn’t always require a four-year college degree. Many students will benefit if the advantages of attending a technical training institution are clearly communicated to them and Congress supports such an effort.
MM: What are your opinions on the upcoming implementation of the upcoming silica rule? What are your concerns about what it might do to our industry?
RD: I have voiced my opposition to the proposed OSHA silica rule. In fact, back in January of this year I, along with 90 of my colleagues in Congress, signed a letter to President Trump asking him to delay or nullify the rule. My concern is that OSHA has not given any indication that a mandatory decrease in the PEL for silica exposure would be economically or even technologically feasible for businesses. If this rule goes into effect, some businesses may be forced to close down or move overseas. To continue the steady growth of the U.S. economy, and in the spirit of avoiding overly burdensome regulations, President Trump should direct the Department of Labor to nullify this proposed rule.
MM: What advice would you give to a young person who’s been told college is the only path for them?
RD: For many young people, a 4-year college may not be the best route to achieve the American Dream. It is certainly true that the stigma surrounding community and technical education colleges is misplaced and factually incorrect. I would like to see more high schools take the necessary steps to further encourage students to consider these alternative paths post-graduation. For those already enrolled in these programs, I would strongly encourage you to actively seek out an apprenticeship program. These programs not only give you great insight into your respective industry or trade but can also usually lead to a paying job upon completion of the program. Ultimately, in an age of escalating student debt, we need to make sure students have well-paying and stable jobs in order to secure their future.
MM: What has been your proudest moment since being a Member of Congress?
RD: One of my proudest moments came when the House of Representatives passed overwhelmingly and was signed into law by President Obama. This bill came from an idea that was proposed by a veteran in my district to help more veterans find work. It was also one of the only bills to roll back Obamacare to be signed into law last Congress. It showed that it’s possible for Congress to work together to fix our broken health care.
More recently, and on this same theme of bipartisanship, I was also pleased to see Democrats and Republicans come together after the horrific shooting that happened last month while other members and I were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. We have reached a boiling point when it comes to political rhetoric in this country – and that must change. Members of Congress need to set their political differences aside and send a message of reconciliation, tolerance, and unity. We can disagree without being disagreeable.