While much of the post-State of the Union discussion has centered on whether President Barrack Obama's economic plans will grow the economy or kill jobs and increase the deficit, it was gun control, health care costs and gas prices that had the attention of 15th Congressional District residents taking part in a telephone town hall shortly before the president's speech Tuesday.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers conducted the hourlong call-in session open to residents of the entire district, including those in Ross County.
Stivers said he thinks the top issue facing the president and Congress during this term is jobs -- particularly bringing both sides of the aisle together on legislation that gives businesses certainty and leads them to create jobs.
"We need to give them certainty on taxes, on health care costs, on energy costs and on regulation," Stivers said. "That way, they'll choose to invest in their own businesses and can create jobs and, hopefully, make a profit."
According to a poll of callers, 30 percent of participating district residents rated jobs as the top issue they hoped Obama would address in the State of the Union.
But the issue was hardly brought up by the about 20 callers who were able to ask Stivers a question. Instead, they wanted to focus on the future of Social Security, Medicare, gun control and America's energy future.
David, a caller from Frankfort, said he recognizes the crisis surrounding the budget deficit didn't happen overnight and certainly won't be fixed overnight but that he hopes the solution won't involve cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
"I'd hate to see Social Security, Medicare, things like that cut, but there's got to be some way to reduce expenses on it," David said. Last names of callers were not used during the town hall.
Stivers said it's not so much cuts to the programs that are needed as it is changes to them.
"I don't think we have to cut current seniors on Medicare or Social Security, but we might have to modify the programs as people live longer," Stivers said.
Several callers expressed concerns that the administration is looking to infringe upon their Second Amendment rights and that recent gun-related tragedies such as the school shooting in Sandy Hook might provide the means to do so.
Ben, from Wilmington, said he opposes any attempt to restrict the rights of gun owners and that any attempt to do so is a violation of the Constitution.
Fellow Wilmington resident Randy said it's not a gun problem that exists in the United States but the media's portrayal of a mental health problem as a gun problem.
Stivers agreed, saying better enforcement is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of people proven through background checks to pose a risk.
"I think our background checks right now aren't working the way they should, and we need to make them work better," Stivers said. "I'm very pro-Second Amendment. I just think we need to fix our background checks."
Herb, a Kingston resident, asked about what government can do about rising fuel prices. Stivers said increasing fuel and natural gas refining capacity in the United States, allowing more drilling for domestic sources of oil, taking advantage of a new pipeline project in the works, and limiting the different types of gasoline needing refining all could make a difference.
Creating a strong national energy policy, however, is a step that needs to be taken, he said.
Other concerns voiced on the call were about health care costs and how savings might be realized by encouraging more preventive care and connecting payment procedures to outcomes; whether welfare reform is needed; and what role the federal government should play in education.
In the poll of participants, 42 percent were looking for Obama to address government spending in his State of the Union address, while 30 percent wanted to hear him talk about jobs, 15 percent gun control, 7 percent taxes and 6 percent immigration.