BIG RAPIDS — Six weeks into his first term in Congress, Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, is excited about what the future holds for America.

After serving in the Michigan Legislature for 10 years, Moolenaar was elected in November to fill Dave Camp’s seat. Camp represented Michigan’s 4th Congressional District for 22 years.

Moolenaar has been assigned to the House Committees on Agriculture, Budget, and Science, Space and Technology.

“We’ve signed 24 bills since January,” Moolenaar said. “I got to hear my first State of the Union address in person in January and heard the president’s proposal on fighting ISIS. We also have been discussing how we can work out some trade agreements.”

One of the proposals President Barack Obama rolled out in the State of the Union address was free community college – an idea Moolenaar said sounded great on the surface but the details were troublesome.

“Free community college sounds great,” Moolenaar said. “But then you have to ask, ‘If it’s free, who’s paying for it?’ We are $18 trillion in debt, and this doesn’t help balance the budget at all.”

Moolenaar suggested a holistic approach to paying for college.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at how we deliver a college education,” Moolenaar said. “Some states have early college education programs. Such a program keeps costs down and is right for the states implementing such programs.

“We need to look at schools which offer best practices with keeping costs down. Ferris State University is one of the most innovative schools when it comes to working with community colleges. When we have a discussion on how to reform college education, I want FSU President David Eisler in that discussion.”

Healthcare is another major discussion topic since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. Moolenaar’s first vote on the house floor was in favor of repealing the law. He is certain President Obama will veto the bill.

Still, Moolenaar believes Congress can eliminate portions of the Affordable Care Act he and other Republicans believe weaken America’s economy and create disadvantages for small business owners looking to hire new employees.

“The House voted to repeal the law, and we have passed legislation to make some changes to the law,” Moolenaar said. “The American people haven’t felt the full effect of the law yet.

“We need to look at the best practices, and figure out how to keep costs down,” Moolenaar said. “The Affordable Care Act simply allows more money in the system and does nothing to keep costs down.”

Moolenaar feels Congress and the President can work together on trade agreements he thinks would be a benefit to Michigan farmers.

“Dairy is an important part of the economy, and export of agricultural products is an important asset to the dairy industry,” Moolenaar said.

According to a report from the Agricultural Committee, U.S. agricultural exports have increased by more than 58 percent since 2009, setting a record with $152.2 billion in sales in fiscal year 2014.

“We can work with the president on trade initiatives that will allow more markets for local farmers to sell their products,” Moolenaar said. “We also can work on regulatory reform. Farmers are concerned about Environmental Protection Agency regulations. We need to have sensible regulations that protect the health and safety of our crops and livestock, while we are making strides to increase productivity.”

On other matters, Moolenaar said the passing of the medical marijuana proposal can create a slippery slope that opens the door to other, more harmful, drugs.

“I don’t support legalization, and I didn’t support the ballot proposal for legalizing marijuana,” Moolenaar said. “Certain medical professions say it can help, but I don’t think the results we are seeing now are what the ballot proposal read.”

Moolenaar opposes any further legalization of drugs.

“People have come up to me and said we need to legalize all drugs,” Moolenaar said. “I think that’s too dangerous to consider. We need a regulatory framework that provides safety for our citizens.”

Overseas, Congress is monitoring the Islamic State’s spread and use of violence – a growing concern around the world – and in America – following the death of American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller and the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

“We heard the president’s proposal with the authorization on the use of force with ISIS,” Moolenaar said. “The president is asking for three years, but I think it is too limiting. It limits the flexibility to execute a strategy and navigate a comprehensive political discussion. I think a timeline removes the flexibility to have boots on the grounds that are needed to solve the problem.”

Moolenaar recognizes some Americans are skeptical about another overseas military conflict after the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but he feels more and more Americans will support intervention after learning more about ISIS’ actions in the Middle East.

“When you see the expansion of ISIS; from Syria, Iraq and Libya, people become more aware of what the issue is,” Moolenaar said. “I see the U.S. leading with a coalition of other nations. King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are reliable partners that can provide us a perspective of what is happening there.”