Thursday Roundup: What Farm Bill?

Bureaucrat gone wild • Crucified on a cross of solar panels? • McConnell encourages Kentuckians to avoid tough questions about the future of coal  • Sales-tax bill allows tribal groups to audit merchants.

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Work on the Farm Bill continues, Jerry Hagstrom reports. It could come to the Senate floor as soon as next week, according to New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand.

Well, maybe not that soon. Markup of the bill will come next Tuesday. But Majority Leader Harry Reid only says he wants to take up the bill this month. And Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, says the bill won’t appear on the Senate floor before June.

Hagstrom writes in DTN that proposed cuts in food stamps are a hang-up. Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow has proposed a 10-year $4.1 billion cut in the food program, but others are vowing to fight this measure.

Senators are also working on a dairy amendment, Hagstrom reports.

But She “Gets My Work Done.” Bureaucrat-gone-wild award goes to Jeanette Hanna at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A new report found that a 775 day posting of the Oklahoma BIA official to Washington , D.C., cost taxpayers $178,000. There was $30,000 for the SUV and $33,000 for the hotel room she rented even though she spent 283 days of the detail back home in Oklahoma.

Hanna was a trip. While BIA regional director in Oklahoma, she had 40 new security cameras installed, so that she could keep an eye on employees.

Her boss, Paul Tsosie (chief of staff to the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs) likes Hanna fine. “All I know is she gets my work done,” Tsosie said.

A “Direct Assault” on Rural Colorado. Democrats in the Colorado legislature are near to passing a bill that would require rural electric cooperatives to double the amount of electricity they produce from renewable sources, reports The Goat’s Sarah Gilman.

Under the bill, rural co-ops (which serve 70 percent of the state’s land and 25 percent of its residents) would have to have 20 percent of their power coming from renewables by 2020.

Co-op officials and rural legislators say this will cost too much. This is “a direct assault on rural Colorado,” Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, said. “Shame on you for raising rates on rural families when this does not affect you or your constituents.”

Another Colorado representative, Lori Saine, R-Dacono, exclaimed: “You will not crucify us on the backs of windmills and solar panels.”

Urban power generators, however, already have more strict requirements. The power company that supplies electricity to Denver must generate 30 percent of its power from renewables by 2020.

Fewer Platitudes from Sen. Mitch. The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reacted this week to Minority Leader Mitch McConnel’s Coal Jobs Protection Act, which the senator says would help revive the moribund eastern coal industry.

The paper’s editorial board is not impressed with either the bill or the senator who wrote it:

Market forces, not the regulators reviled by McConnell, are what’s killing the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky. And the industry is not rebounding any time soon, say experts, because the region’s thin seams are too costly to mine and therefore can’t compete on price.

That a big chunk of people also hold out hope that a coal boom could be ignited in Central Appalachia, if only Congress reined in the Environmental Protection Agency, is not surprising. Human nature craves simplicity over wrestling with complex, scary questions about the future. … 

What’s becoming unforgiveable is the eagerness of politicians like McConnell and his co-sponsor, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and a slew of Kentucky Democrats to oversimplify and demagogue the challenges facing the coal-mining regions of Central Appalachia.

Not even the coal industry blames recent layoffs on the EPA holding up mountaintop mining permits, as McConnell did during his trip.

Sales-Tax Bill and Native Americans. Tribal governments would be allowed to audit big Internet retailers to make sure they are collecting sales tax under the terms of the Marketplace Fairness Act. The legislation, which passed the Senate this week but faces a steeper climb in the House, would require merchants who sell more than $1 million worth of merchandise a year to collect and distribute state sales taxes.

The Senate bill includes “tribal organizations” in the list of entities allowed to audit online merchants to make sure those retailers are complying with the act.

The Wall Street Journal, of course, views this development with alarm. They see an administrative burden for online retailers if they have to answer to tribal auditors, in addition to state auditors. 

The Journal’s opinion piece doesn’t bother to provide the perspective of tribal leaders. But we imagine that telling tribal governments to just relax and let the feds take care of it isn’t a very reassuring.

 

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