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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: Congressman Dan Kildee Says State has "Moral Obligation" on Flint Water Crisis

AP-SarahHekmati.jpg
Jacquelyn Martin, The Associated Press
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Representative Dan Kildee says Congress doesn’t have a lot of time, but should be able to tackle some big issues this year. 

The Democrat from Flint says there is bi-partisan agreement that criminal justice reform is needed. Kildee says it would have to be done in the first half of the year. That’s because the political parties’ convention schedule begins earlier this year. He says that combined with the election recess will mean fewer session days this year. Kildee joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans Thursday morning. On other issues:

Amir Hekmati

Kildee has been calling attention to Amir Hekmati, the Marine veteran from Flint has been held in an Iranian prison since 2011. Kildee’s guests for Tuesday’s State of the Union Address were Hekmati’s sister Sarah and her husband Ramy Kurdi. Kildee says he would have liked to hear President Obama say Hekmati’s name Tuesday night and mention other prisoners being held in Iran. But Kildee says he thinks the administration is doing all it can to get Hekmati and others released. The Flint Congressman says improved diplomatic relations with Iran may help get Hekmati and others get their freedom.

Flint Water Crisis

Governor Rick Snyder recently announced that the National Guard will be deployed to Flint to address the crisis over lead in Flint’s drinking water. Kildee says that’s a positive step, but should not have taken this long.

But Kildee says children who have been exposed to high levels of lead in drinking water need support from the state. He says that could include early childhood education and help with nutrition. Kildee says the state has a moral obligation to help those students who could be facing developmental challenges.

Asked about the Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight of the Flint water crisis, Kildee says they should have informed the public about problems in Flint. But he says state officials should not try to push their responsibility off on the EPA. Kildee says he plans to pursue changes in federal law to strengthen the EPA and increase transparency over potential health issues.

The most recent development in Flint is a reported spike in cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in Genesee County. Kildee says federal agencies should get involved in the response to the outbreak. He says the lesson for federal regulators should be not to trust the state when it comes to protecting public health.

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