Feb 19, 2012
Senator Doug Whitsett’s Newsletter – H.R. 4019 “The Federal Forests County Revenue, Schools, & Jobs Act of 2012″
(Note: This is a bill that should have many cosponsors and nationwide support! It impacts everyone with National Forest land in your state! Please contact your U.S. Representative by calling 202-224-3121 and ask that they follow “Doc” Hastings’ lead and immediately cosponsor this very important piece of legislation! More important information in Doug’s column and research following below.)
February 17, 2012
Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls, District 28)
900 Court Street NE, S-303
Salem, Oregon 97301
This week Washington Congressman “Doc” Hastings introduced a bill in Congress that, if enacted, will make enormous strides toward restoring economic vitality and stability to Oregon’s rural communities. This federal bill — H.R. 4019, “The Federal Forests County Revenue, Schools, and Jobs Act of 2012″ http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-4019 – would create a County, Schools and Revenue Trust Fund that would provide a perpetual dependable source of revenue for counties containing National Forest Land.
The purpose of the Trust would be to perpetually provide a dependable source of revenue for each beneficiary county containing National Forest System Land.
The fund would be established with $875 million to help bridge the financial void left by the discontinuation of funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The timber counties would receive the same payments in the 2012 fiscal year that they did in 2010. That payment would be reduced by 25% in 2013.
The Trust would continue to be funded by annual appropriations either equal to 60% of the average annual gross receipts from the National Forest System units located in each county between 1980 and 2000, or a minimum contribution equal to 50% of the average chargeable timber volume sold during the same 20-year period.
Two thirds of that revenue would be distributed to the counties and one third to the General Fund for the benefit of the Forest Service.
One percent of the Trust Fund contribution would be paid as an incentive to Forest Service employees who successfully execute minimum sales within a fiscal year.
Future funding for the Trust would come from earnings derived from Trust projects on National Forest System land. The Trust projects may include timber sales, issuance of grazing permits, issuance of special use permits involving land use, mineral development, power generation or recreational use and projects implementing a community wildfire protection plan.
Projects would not be allowed on Wilderness or other lands where removal of vegetation is specifically prohibited by Federal law.
However, any project conducted in response to a catastrophic event on forest land can be designated a Trust project.
The criteria for the Trust projects are carefully designed to avoid delay, unnecessary expense and litigation. A strict timeline is developed for implementing the Trust projects. The Secretary of Agriculture will prepare an environmental report for each project within 30 days.
The cost of that report will not be allowed to exceed one-third of the estimated value of the receipts of the project. Any review of the Secretary’s decisions is to be limited to administrative consideration.
Subsequent judicial review is expressly prohibited.
Both Oregon and California (O & C) Railroad grant lands and Coos Bay Wagon Road grant lands are included in the H.R. 4019 Trust funds projects, by definition.
The failure of the provisions of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act to create private sector jobs has always been its weakness.
Communities simply cannot be sustained without the stability of adequate family wage jobs.
This Federal Act would not only provide consistent reliable funding to federal timber reliant counties, but would also create tens of thousands of direct natural resources-related family wage jobs.
The additional generation of indirect jobs would be expected to exceed the direct jobs created by the Trust projects.
H.R. 4019 truly has the potential to restore our once vibrant rural communities.
The importance of enacting this legislation for residents of Southern and Eastern Oregon cannot be overstated. We should all make the concerted effort to both directly ask our Congressional delegation to support H.R. 4019 and also to thank Congressman Hastings for his thoughtful and appropriate effort to put rural Oregon back to work.
H.R. 4019: Federal Forests County Revenue, Schools, and Jobs Act of 2012
Introduced February 14, 2012
112th Congress: 2011-2012
“To increase employment and educational opportunities in, and improve the economic stability of, counties containing Federal forest land, while also reducing the cost of managing such land, by providing such counties a dependable source of revenue from such land, and for other purposes.”
For the comprehensive source on all things Klamath and most things related to the Klamath Basin in northern California and southern Oregon: http://www.klamathbucketbrigade.org
Feb 6, 2012
The Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) is located in the Lewis and Clark University Law School in Portland, Oregon. The independent non-profit organization was founded by law school professors, alumni and students in 1969 allegedly to protect the environment and the natural resources of the Northwest. It has a long history of initiating litigation to preserve, and therefore to often deny the use of, Oregon’s abundant natural resources.
The citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act provides that any citizen may commence a civil action on his own behalf against any person alleged to be in violation of the Act. A few years ago NEDC used that provision to sue the Oregon State Forester and various timber companies contending that they have violated the CWA. NEDC alleges that the forest owners must secure National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for mostly rainwater runoff that flows from logging roads on the Tillamook State Forest into ditches, culverts and channels that eventually discharge into forest streams and rivers.
As I understand the basic premise of the lawsuit, it contends that storm water that accumulates over large areas as diffuse “non-point sources” of runoff suddenly become a “point source” when the flow is channeled into a culvert under a logging road.
The District Court reached the common sense conclusion that storm water runoff does not suddenly change in volume or composition when it is diverted into a culvert under a logging road. The Court ruled that the non-point source runoff is exempt from the NPDES permitting requirement under the Silvaculture Rule. That rule was developed by EPA under the CWA specifically to regulate runoff associated with forest management activity.
NEDC appealed the District Court decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The federal appellate court reversed the district court ruling concluding “that storm water runoff from logging roads that is collected by and then discharged from a system of ditches, culverts, and channels is a point source discharge for which an NPDES permit is required”.
If allowed to stand, this appellate ruling has the potential to devastate what is left of Oregon’s timber industry. This decision would create virtually insurmountable economic barriers to timber harvest on both private and state owned land. Just the cost of acquiring the federal NPDES permits for potentially thousands of “point source” culvert discharges would be exorbitant. Moreover, the prospective cost of defending each permit against citizen challenge through civil lawsuits brought by organizations such as NEDC would be truly prohibitive.
In jeopardy is the preservation of Oregon’s nearly eleven million acres of privately owned forest land. The opportunity for reasonable economic returns on investment is necessary to preserve any business including our forest product industries. What is more, active management of those lands for forest production is essential to provide wildlife habitat as well as to maintain access for hunters, anglers and wildfire suppression first strike capabilities. One motivation for the lawsuit may be to remove people from the forests by reducing or eliminating the roads that access the forests.
More than 120 thousand family wage jobs are supported by Oregon’s working forests. Those privately owned forests create timber product sales of nearly $12 billion and support private sector payrolls in excess of $4 billion. Timber harvest, family wage jobs and private sector payrolls supported by businesses that harvest state owned forests are also in danger of being extinguished. In fact, those state owned forests are the first named target of the NEDC litigation.
“Environmentalist” organizations like NEDC have succeeded in virtually closing our federal forests to timber harvest. The direct consequence of litigation concerning the allegedly endangered Northern Spotted Owl is a 90 percent reduction in timber harvest from federal lands. That near elimination of federal timber harvest has resulted in virtual cultural genocide for many timber dependent rural communities. The NEDC suit appears to be focused on completing that destruction of Oregon’s timber products industry.
Congress included a temporary funding restriction in the 2011 omnibus Appropriation Act to stop the permitting process by prohibiting EPA from funding a forest roads permit system. Bi-partisan legislation was also filed in both congressional chambers to adopt into public law existing EPA Silvaculture rule that treats diffuse runoff from precipitation as non-point source.
The Ninth Circuit Court “Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown” decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the State of Oregon and other defendants. The Supreme Court has asked the Solicitor General for help in deciding whether to review the petition challenging the appellate court decision by determining the federal government’s views on the issue.
We have the opportunity to both help persuade the Supreme Court to review the Circuit Court ruling as well as to encourage Congress to adopt a common sense amendment to correct the problem created by the NEDC lawsuit.
First we should write to ask the Solicitor General and the U. S. Supreme Court to review the NEDC v. Brown appellate court ruling.
Second, we should write and call our congressional delegation to urge them to amend the CWA by adopting the Silvaculture rule language into public law. Congress has already specifically exempted agricultural irrigation return flows from the NPDES requirement in 1997. They should do the same for forest practices.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one will.
Jan 24, 2012
R- Klamath Falls, District 28
The Jackson County Republican women have an ongoing project to place a copy of the United States Constitution in the hands of all Jackson County public and private school students. This year they invited Senator Alan Bates and me to participate in more than two hours of conversation concerning the Constitution with senior students and faculty at the Eagle Point High School.
I told the students that what I admired most about the Framers and their efforts to create a Constitution was their foresight. The Framers thoughtfully developed a document that has endured for nearly 225 years. It is still just as relevant today as it was when ratified by the states in 1788.
The Constitution is a wonderful example of how much the selection and use of words matter. The Framers carefully developed language that delineated the core principles of exactly the government that they wished to establish. The entire document, including the first ten amendments, can easily be printed on twelve pages. Yet it is so complete, and so concise, that the people have found it necessary to functionally change the document only fifteen times. The first ten of the twenty seven amendments were included in the original document. The eighteenth amendment establishing prohibition and the twenty first amendment abolishing prohibition cancel one another.
We discussed at length how the Constitution describes the proper role of government. It provides that public laws and federal policies will be enacted only by elected representatives. Those representatives must have been selected by the voting citizens of the states and districts they are to represent. It limits the authority of the federal government to only those powers that the people being governed have consented to give to the federal government. It is designed to insure those limitations by a system of checks and balances in the delegation of government authority between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government.
We debated at length what we consider to be the most precious right described in the Bill of Rights. I believe that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is critical. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and seek redress of grievances, protections against unreasonable search and seizures, the right to a trial by a jury of our peers, the right to own and use private property as well as many other reserved rights are also vital.
From my perspective, the Fifth Amendment right to own and use private property is essential because it provides the financial means for the citizens to maintain and defend all the other rights reserved to the people. Our reserved rights cannot be maintained against an oppressive central government without the financial means to access the courts and to carry out a strong defense of those constitutional rights.
The students asked what I think are the most important change to the Constitution by the amendment process. There have certainly been several critically important amendments.
The thirteenth amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment provided all citizens equal protection under the law and the fifteenth amendment provided that no citizen of the United States can have the right to vote denied on account of race, color or condition of previous servitude.
Incredibly, it required another half century to ratify the nineteenth amendment that gave women the right to vote in 1920. That change essentially doubled the number of people allowed to participate in government. It rightfully elevated women to an equal status with men in establishing and carrying out policies that govern all men and women.
We discussed how the seventeenth amendment functionally changed our government from a representative republic to a democracy. Previous to that 1913 change, U. S. Senators were elected by the legislatures of the states they were to represent. The purpose was to have legislators that were elected by the people select the most qualified person to represent the state in the congressional upper chamber. The amendment bypassed this constitutional provision of a republic by creating the election of U.S. Senators by popular vote.
What I hoped to help the students clearly understand was that the Framers’ primary purpose was to create a government that the people to be governed could control. To that end, their first concern was to limit the authority of government and the rule that it was to have over our lives. While the Constitution they wrote does confer certain powers to the federal government, it specifically reserves to the people and to the states ALL powers not specifically conveyed to the federal government.
Congress and the Courts have unquestionably used the “commerce” and “necessary and proper” clauses found in Article I to circumvent those constitutional limits. Broad interpretation of those two clauses has resulted in the expansion of federal government authority and powers far beyond what I believe the Framers had in mind.
Our government of the people and by the people was designed by the Framers to serve the people. Their greatest fear was to establish a government that ruled the people and that the people had cause to fear. From my perspective, their fears were well founded.
Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.
Jan 14, 2012
January 13, 2012
Senator Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls, District 28)
900 Court Street NE, S-303
Salem, Oregon 97301
Oregon state revenue collections continue to decline. The November revenue forecast was about $300 million less than the amount predicted to be available at the end of last June. We fully expect that the next revenue forecast in February to predict further reductions.
The primary causes of the decline in revenue are our stagnant economy as well as our ongoing high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Tax revenue is sharply down, because businesses are not making as much taxable profit and fewer employees are paying taxes on their wages. In fact, for the past two two-year budget periods, the actual amount of General Fund and Lottery revenue available to spend has decreased.
At the same time, the cost of paying state employees will increase by about 7 ½ percent during this budget period. When we add inflationary costs, increased debt service on borrowed money, plus the expense of expanded case loads, the cost of maintaining current state services will swell by about 12 percent.
This sobering reality will result in Oregon state legislators searching for ways to reduce the cost of state government during the upcoming February Legislative Assembly.
It is readily apparent that there simply will not be enough money available to continue all programs and services at their current levels.
I believe that we must thoughtfully prioritize those programs and services. We then must drastically curtail or eliminate the services and programs determined to be the least important.
In my opinion, the cost of state advertising and communications is one area of spending that is ripe for reductions.
A recent investigative report by the Oregonian newspaper determined that Oregon employs at least 220 public affairs specialists, design shop employees, and communications and public relations managers.
The cost of their combined biennial salaries and benefits approaches $40 million.
For instance, in 2009 the Department of Human Services (DHS) was divided into two agencies in a cost-reducing effort. At that time, the agency had 16 advertising and communications employees.
Two years later the two smaller agencies, DHS and the Oregon Health Authority, have more than doubled their communications staff to 39 employees.
Moreover, Oregon’s top nine state agencies are scheduled to pay outside consultants about another $40 million during this biennium for public outreach and advertising campaigns.
For example, the Department of Transportation employs 22 people devoted to communications. Yet the agency claims to not have the expertise or industry contacts to perform its advertizing and communication needs. It routinely pays outside consultants over $100 per hour for outside creative direction, media purchases and copywriting. A single five-year traffic safety advertising campaign will cost the agency $5 million.
It seems we may be paying both state employees and private company staff tens of millions of dollars to perform what are essentially the same tasks.
Further, where is the wisdom in advertizing for greater public participation in programs that current budget constraints prevent maintaining at current service levels?
Oregon agencies produce and publish myriad magazines, pamphlets, brochures, catalogs and other outreach periodicals. These publications are usually printed on the highest quality paper with magnificent multicolor graphic design and extensive photography. The purpose for many of these periodicals is often not clear. We do not know who or how many people actually read the material. We often do not know what the agencies are trying to accomplish through their publications — or whether they are achieving that purpose. Moreover, we often do not know the cost of developing, publishing and distributing this material. We do know that the cost is significant and amounts to tens of millions of dollars.
The Oregonian report did not focus on the additional substantial cost of state-sponsored radio and television advertising.
Hardly an hour passes when we are not exposed to some form of media advertisement promoting some government program, service or social position. Media advertising is expensive. The primetime hours when we often hear and see these advertisements are very costly.
Most egregious, the Department of Administrative Services – that is charged with the responsibility of accounting for government costs — admits that it has no current means of accurately accounting for or quantifying the costs of state government advertising and outreach.
The Oregonian used multiple public records requests and their own investigative skills to estimate those costs in [only] nine state agencies.
Oregon has more than 60 state agencies, boards and commissions that all have some advertizing, outreach and communications roles.
The fact of the matter is, we have no idea how much the state actually spends on these activities.
Further, we have no current means of measuring the benefits derived from those expenditures.
Our Ways and Means General Government Subcommittee is working with the Department of Administrative Services in a concerted bipartisan effort to find the answers.
Please remember: If we do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one will.