With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, workforce shortages and global unrest, U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz from Indiana’s 5th District is staying busy as she finishes the first half of her first term. She visited with Current in Carmel to discuss these issues and what’s next on her agenda.
States and municipalities are handling COVID-19 measures, such as mask and vaccine requirements, in many different ways. What role should federal politicians play in preventing the spread of the virus?
I’m a big believer in local control and discretion. The more power is centralized, the more ineffective it becomes, because one size never fits all. I think Congress can provide tools and mechanisms and help states provide guidance and be more transparent on some of the issues so people actually trust in us a little bit more, but ultimately, the decision should be on the local level.
If you take the state of Indiana, Marion County is very different than Grant County or Hamilton County, for example. There are very different (situations) on the ground, and giving local control and discretion for people on the ground will be much better.
Plus, if (local elected officials) do something wrong, it’s much easier to get rid of them than get rid of your president, whether you like him or not.
What is your view on the COVID-19 vaccine? Should it be mandated?
For most people, the vaccine can prevent very serious illness, and I think it’s important for us to promote that, but it should always be a personal choice what you want to put inside your body. You should never have the government tell you what (to put in your body).
Plus, people have different circumstances, and I think people need to be given information they can discuss with their doctor and look at risk and rewards.
Across the nation, school boards are facing increased scrutiny from parents over issues that include diversity initiatives and mask mandates, among other measures. What is your reaction to this increased interest among constituents?
I believe it’s good to have that local community discretion, but it involves citizens actually being involved. We probably need to have more civil debate on issues. Sometimes, we get too aggressive and are not willing to listen to each other, but it’s good to have people engaged. It’s good to see that people do care, and I think boards need to really start paying attention, too, because I think a lot of them are not used to (increased attention from the public).
Many businesses are having trouble finding workers, and some believe federal COVID-19 unemployment relief programs are to blame. What do you think?
Definitely the current relief package didn’t help. We had some challenges, with employee shortages and workforce development (before the pandemic), but we were getting better, and we were trying to retrain people. Indiana did a great job with new innovative workforce development programs to retool people and get them back in the workforce, but this problem before the pandemic didn’t exist in this scale we have right now.
The incentives for people not to work caused a lot of problems. It’s all across my district, even though I have a very diverse district, and it’s all across the country. When I get together with my colleagues, it’s a huge problem, so we have to figure out how we’re going to deal with it.
How can the workforce shortage be addressed?
We need to be able to think about how we can obtain better skills in K-12. We need to expose more kids to internships and apprenticeships during high school and give them the ability to learn different skills and decide which paths they can try.
What issues will be focus areas for you in the coming months?
One of the material issues is health care affordability and access. The pandemic showed how many problems we have, so I’m working on the Healthy Future Task Force to deliver (Republican) policy solutions. We cannot just do the talk, we must do the walk.
Another big issue I’m working on as a member of the judiciary committee is antitrust and big tech. We need to be thinking about how we are going to protect people’s rights to data privacy, data security and ownership. Then we need to strike the right balance so we can still have innovation but have people have rights to their data.
As a CPA, I am trying to at last revive the conversation about the long-term fiscal health of the country. I’m trying to revive our CPA caucus and maybe talk about some fiscal issues, because this level of (federal) spending is unsustainable. It will create a lot of inflationary trends and it’s not good for the long term for our country.