Government agencies depend on funding from lawmakers to carry out their functions and tasks. Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson sits on two panels, the House Budget Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, that set the budgets for federal agencies. This week, Simpson used the power of the purse strings to try to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
During a House subcommittee meeting Thursday, Simpson successfully added an amendment saying that the committee opposes an EPA rule that would require dairies to develop plans to prevent milk spills. The rule, intended to prevent oil spills in large containers contaminating water, would apply to milk because of the fat in milk.
“Frankly, I find it absolutely ridiculous that, in its zeal to respond to the crisis in the Gulf, the EPA has decided that milk is an environmental hazard,” Simpson said in a news release.
The EPA has told the National Milk Producers Federation that it will delay implementing the milk spill regulations until next year.
Simpson failed in another effort to limit the EPA’s regulatory authority. He offered an amendment to the EPA’s budget that would have prevented it from using tax dollars to expand its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act to cover non-navigable waters. A stalled plan in Congress is attempting to expand the EPA’s oversight by removing the term “navigable waters” from the Clean Water Act.
Simpson said that expansion is a bad idea. “Most farmers and ranchers I talk to are scared to death about the possibility that the EPA would be able to regulate their irrigation ditches, drainage ponds, and even groundwater, and I understand why,” Simpson said. “In the West, water is critical to our way of life.”
Idaho lawmakers passed a memorial earlier this year condemning the expansion of the Clean Water Act. The legislation in the U.S. Senate, sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, has had no action since June of 2009.
The subcommittee ultimately approved on a $10 billion budget for the EPA, which would be $271 million less than it received last year, and $2 million less than was requested by President Barack Obama. It now heads to the full House Appropriations Committee.
Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com.
State has spent $5,000 so far on health care lawsuit
Idaho has already doled out $5,000 to cover the early costs of its share of a lawsuit against the federal government over recent health care laws approved by Congress.
That expense is the result of the Idaho Health Freedom Act, One one of the most controversial pieces of legislation to be approved by the Idaho Legislature this year. during its 2010 session was the Idaho Health Freedom Act, which The legislation gave the state's attorney general the power to sue the federal government if health care reforms requiring individuals purchase private insurance as a requirement of citizenship be given the OK by Congress. Shortly after Gov. Butch Otter signed the law, Congress passed the reforms and Idaho's attorney general, Lawrence Wasden, joined with 13 (check, I think it’s up to 20) other states sued the administration of President Barack Obama federal government, contending the mandate is unconstitutional.
NEW GRAF Idaho has spent $5,000 so far on the legal challenge and one official with Wasden’s office is unsure of how much the suit will cost the state.
Kriss Bivens-Cloyd, temporary spokesperson for Wasden's office told IdahoReporter.com Friday that Idaho paid $5,000 into a cost-sharing agreement with the other states involved to cover the initial expenses of the legal challenge. She also said that is unsure if all the states were required to pay the same amount to participate in the lawsuit. The money, she said, went to Washington, D.C.-based attorney David Rivkin, who will be arguing the side of the states in their case against the Obama administration. Bivens-Cloyd said that there may be additional expenses as the state continues the lawsuit, but that her the attorney general’s office has no way of anticipating those costs.
The Idaho Health Freedom Act, sponsored by Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden, Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, passed the Idaho House on party lines and cleared the Senate on a 24-10 vote. The act allows the state to pay up $100,000 to sue the federal government.
Most Republicans in the Legislature were satisfied with the potential cost of the bill, but Democrats and some Senate Republicans argued against it, saying it was too much a waste of money during times of fiscal hardship for taxpayers and the state. “It’s not going to cost us $100,000, because [state lawyers] are going to be forced to defend the state of Idaho to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Sen. Charles Coiner, R-Twin Falls, during the final hearing on the bill. (Did he vote against it? Say if he did. I can’t remember.)
NEW GRAF Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, said during House debate on the measure she couldn't support it because it would "deplete state resources." Higgins advocated using the money instead to hire teachers.
For Republican supporting the measure, the potential price tag is worth it an acceptable cost. "Our rights are worth more than $100,000 per year," said Clark during a committee hearing on the bill.
NEW GRAF “I guess I would ask you as Americans, what is our freedom worth?” asked Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth. “At $100,000, I guess it’s a pretty cheap buy.”