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If you were to ask a teenage Rodney Davis if he would run for Congress, he would’ve thought you were crazy. “I had no intention of running for office when I was a kid,” Davis said. “The friends I went to high school with still laugh and shake their head, wondering how I got into politics.”
Davis grew up working in his parents’ fast food restaurant. Though his mother was a high school dropout and his father had a high school degree, they wanted better for their children. “I thought I would work in the family business, but they made us go to college,” Davis told us. “It was at college in Millikin that I got interested in politics and government, then I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.”
Growing up, Davis always had an interest in Social Studies. He recalled his mother and father talking about what was going on in Washington and decisions in Springfield and how they would affect their ability to hire people at their restaurants in Taylorville, Vandalia, Shelbyville and Pana.
“I got interested in government politics because they would always link governing and how it affected us as a family.”
In 1998, Davis met former representative John Shimkus and managed his first re-election campaign. After a successful campaign, Shimkus gave Davis a position on his Congressional staff. “I worked for John for sixteen years before I got into Congress.”
Part of Davis’s job allows him to travel to different schools in his district. Due to the Congressional redistricting, Chrisman is now in Congressman Davis’s district. “I really enjoy coming to schools like this and talking to the next generation. They have to understand that we have such a privilege in this country to be able to choose our own leaders,” Davis said. “I also want them to not just see me in newspapers, TV, or hear me on the radio. I want them to see me in person and get to know and understand they can have access to anybody that represents them and that voting is important.”
Congressman Davis paid a visit to the Chrisman School District on April 19th. Superintendent James Acklin discussed how the district was spending the COVID money. One project that the district voted on was the installation of solar panels at both the junior high/high school and elementary campuses.
After a brief tour of the school, Davis spoke to Mr. Alex Barnes’ Civics and Social Studies classes. Davis introduced himself to the students and quizzed them about their knowledge of how the government works, then students were allowed to ask any questions they had.
With Davis being a Republican representative, one question a student asked was what he thought of the Democratic party. “I think we have better solutions and a better idea of governing. One that would be a soft touch approach and one that has a smaller hand of government intervention,” Davis said. “What I have found is the government doesn’t solve all of the problems in a cost effective way. Student debit is one of those.”
Davis has four public universities in his district as well as three kids in college, so he is familiar with the student debt issue that’s facing students. On average, students are left with around $36,000 debt once they graduate.
A popular issue among the Democratic party is the idea of canceling or ex-sponging all student debt. “Not gonna happen, so don’t believe it,” Davis told the students. “If someone says something is free, all they’re doing is eating steak and making you pay for it later.”
To help graduating college students with debt, Davis passed a law that allows every employer in the nation to help pay down student debt for their employees. This law can also be used as a hiring point, especially for districts that are facing a teacher shortage. Students will also be able to get a tax exemption on the amount paid.
Teachers and administrators that currently have student debt can qualify for this as well. “This is a voluntary private sector incentive approach that every single employer in the nation can use today to help tackle student debt,” Davis said. “This is a great recruitment and retention tool.”
Congressman Davis also helped President Trump write the tax cut bill. “The last time we made a big change in the tax code was when I was a kid back in 1986.” The tax code gives incentives to small businesses to be able to put more money into their business and hire more people in small towns similar to Chrisman.
“COVID was a big scare for us because we didn’t know how that was going to affect small businesses around the country. The government told them to shut down and that’s never happened before,” Davis said.
After the shut down, that’s when the Republicans provided the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan process to be able for small businesses to keep their employees with a job and keep their businesses operating. “Once they proved they did that, they were able to get that loan forgiven.”
During his time in Congress, Davis has established himself as an effective lawmaker. In 2018, he successfully passed legislation reforming FEMA’s disaster declaration process to help level the playing field for rural communities in Illinois.
Congressman Davis has also served on both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Agriculture since first becoming a Congressman.
His leadership on two Farm Bill Conference Committees has helped produce farm bills that provide certainty to farmers, protect crop insurance, strengthen agricultural research and improve protections for organic products.
For the Hire More Heroes Act, Davis’ bill to help small businesses hire more of our nations Veterans by changing Obamacare passed with overwhelming support from the House with more that 400 supporting votes and was signed into law July 2015.
Davis’s political career took a terrifying turn when himself, along with several Republicans were attacked by a gunman while practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. Congressman Steve Scalise and several other teammates were injured, but due to the heroic actions of Capitol Police Officers David Bailey, Crystal Griner and the Alexandria Police Department, there were no fatalities.
After the shooting, Davis made it his mission to promote more civility in politics.
Currently, he is an active member of the bipartisan Civility Caucus and Congressional Study Group on American Democracy and Civics, which focuses on promoting civility in politics to young voters.
Originally from Taylorville and his current home, being involved in Washington politics takes Rodney away from his family for long periods of time. No matter the party, this is a frustration with many members of congress.
Though he spends time way, his political career is one to be proud of, especially from someone who had never considered a political journey.
“A bunch of guys sitting around in a bunch of non air conditioned buildings back in the 1700’s came up with the Constitution that allows a small town kid like me to go be your Representative.”