PITTSBURG — Republican U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins fielded a variety of concerns from Pittsburg area residents on Wednesday during an informal question and answer session that focused on challenges facing U.S. industry, rural health care and issues for people with mental issues and their families.

Local businessman Ron Marrone said he represents a business hoping to pass operations to the fourth generation. He told Jenkins he is concerned with the large number of Southeast Kansas manufacturing plants which have been shuttered over the years with those jobs going overseas.

"When are we going to make the playing field level equal to international competition," Marrone said. "They don't have to contend with OSHA, the EPA and other regulatory agencies."

Jenkins said a level of regulation is necessary to ensure consumers have safe water, food and clean air.

"But we have unreasonable regulation," she said.

In addition, she said, the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.

"We have bills drafted to get things fixed," Jenkins said. But as long as President Barack Obama continues to veto and threaten to veto such legislation she is not optimistic Marrone and other small business and industry operators will see much improvement on the global competitive front.

"We're going to have a new president next year who will hopeful work with us in Congress," she said. "I know we can do it but it's going to take another election cycle."

Jenkins said one of her top priorities in Congress for the coming year is helping to pass legislation which will assist the nation's health care industry — especially in rural areas.

"I think the rural health care bills in Congress are among those with the best chances of passing this year," she said. "I believe there is a better way to handle health care. I don't believe the debate is over yet" and once there is a change in the White House Jenkins is hopeful meaningful change will come about.

On the issue of reforming the nation's tax structures, Jenkins said she is optimistic the nation's leaders can come to compromises. But she does not see those changes happening in this election year under the current presidential administration.

"We're probably looking at two-to-four years before we see any movement on tax reform," she said. 

One of the questions fielded to her Wednesday focused on the long waiting time of between five and 10 years for individuals with intellectual disabilities to have their housing and other needs met. Jenkins said those issues needed to be addressed at the state level.

"Your most effective call is not me in these cases," Jenkins said. "Reach out to your state representatives and senators and invite them out to view what's going on."

Jenkins' meeting at the Pittsburg Public Library Wednesday was one of four similar stops she had during the day in the region.

— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at melswick@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ mike_elswick.