Katie Porter

Congresswoman Katie Porter speaks to Frederick Judd's business law class on campus Monday.

Rep. Katie Porter (D - Irvine) came to Orange Coast College Monday to speak with students about issues affecting the country as well as how she has approached her first months as a representative from Orange County.

Porter brought up topics ranging from student homelessness and debt, to the need for civic engagement among young peopleduring business law professor Frederick Judd’s class Monday.  

“Register to vote, then actually vote,” Porter said. “Your vote is your voice. If you chose to give up your voice, you give up one of your fundamental American freedoms." 

Porter spoke at length about student loan debt which affects many OCC students. While much of the media coverage of student loan debt focuses on people with six figures of debt, Porter said the average student loan debt is about $10,000. There is currently $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt in the country, she said. 

Porter cited a proposal by her former law professor and current presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, as a potential solution. Warren’s plan would provide debt relief for about 95 percent of the 45 million people with student loans with approximately 75 percent of student loan holders having their debt entirely forgiven. 

Porter noted several studies indicate that forgiving student loan debt would help stimulate the economy. Similar to the trickle-down economics theory of the Reagan era of the 1980s, Porter extrapolated that people would spend the money freed up by debt forgiveness on economy-stimulating purchases like cars and homes.          

Another major issue affecting Orange County is homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. Porter sees the astronomically high costs of living in Orange County as one of the main problems fueling the homeless epidemic. 

She said she wants to rectify the problem by offering tax incentives for private builders to build affordable housing. She also said she sees a need for increased spending on mental health care and views garnering mental health funding as outlined in the Affordable Care Act as a goal for her time in office.

Porter unseated Rep. Mimi Walters in the November mid-term election and became the first Democrat to represent California’s 45thdistrict. The district which includes Irvine, Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills has about 800,000 constituents. 

Porter jokingly referred to her Member of Congress pin, which she prefers to wear on a chain as a necklace, as a $6.6-million piece of jewelry, in reference to how much was spent on her campaign. 

“But it didn’t cost as much as Harley Rouda’s,” Porter said.

A single mother of three, Porter is from Irvine and a tenured professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law and serves on the Financial Services Committee. As the author of a textbook on consumer laws, also sits on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions.

In Porter’s short time in Congress, she has taken on issues like net neutrality, climate change and gun violence prevention in addition to sponsoring legislation on consumer protections and campaign finance reform. She echoes the sentiments of many progressives in disavowing corporate donations though she said she understands the financial demands of running a campaign.  

Porter has also introduced several amendments to the bill that overturned net neutrality, including an amendment to increase transparency from the Federal Communications Commission in reporting fines and violations. The FCC was collecting a small percentage of the fines levied at corporations for violations.  Porter sees this lack of enforcement of regulatory practices as largely benefiting corporations over the consumer and as a part of a larger deregulatory trend across the Trump Administration. She explained that her ultimate goal is leveling the playing field between companies that follow the rules and those that don’t.

Porter said she takes pride in the passing in the House of two gun violence prevention bills aimed at expanding background checks before being able to purchase a gun. She spoke with visible frustration when noting that these bills have yet to pass in the Senate.

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