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Simpson wants to reform wildfire funding; Labrador targets refugee resettlement

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By Betsy Z. Russell

Both of Idaho’s congressmen introduced legislation late last week, 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson on reforming funding for fighting the nation’s wildfires, and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador on limiting refugee resettlement.

Both were reintroductions of measures the GOP congressmen had proposed earlier.

Simpson’s bill targets “fire borrowing,” in which federal agencies are forced to borrow from other areas when costs soar for firefighting – including forest management and fire prevention. “It is time to acknowledge that catastrophic wildfires should be funded like natural disasters so we can ensure that land managers have the resources they need to properly manage our forests,” Simpson said in a statement.

Simpson                                                  AP

Wildfire costs for the U.S. Forest Service have grown from 16 percent of the agency’s budget in 1995 to 56 percent in 2016; by 2025, they’re expected to grow to nearly 70 percent if the budgeting process isn’t changed – leaving little left for fire prevention.

Simpson’s Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which he’s co-sponsoring this year with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, also was introduced in the two previous sessions of Congress, and drew 150 co-sponsors from both parties and the support of more than 300 organizations. Sixteen members of Congress from both parties have signed on as original co-sponsors this year, including Labrador and Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash.

Labrador’s legislation, dubbed the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act, would reduce the maximum number of refugees resettled in the United States from 110,000 to 50,000 a year, as called for by President Trump; gives states and localities veto power over any refugee resettlement within their borders; steps up security monitoring of resettled refugees until they qualify as permanent residents; and requires a review of all prospective refugees’ social media postings, among other provisions.

Labrador                                                                               AP

“I support America’s refugee program, but it needs to be modernized to keep up with the security challenges of today’s world,” Labrador said in a statement. He said his bill “will make common-sense reforms to fix our broken refugee program.”

Labrador’s bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Goodlatte said the bill would “curb fraud, strengthen national security and public safety, and restore integrity to the program.”

Labrador’s bill so far has drawn one other co-sponsor, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

Labrador introduced a similar bill last year, setting the maximum number of refugees at 60,000 a year. It drew 25 co-sponsors, all Republicans, and passed the Judiciary Committee last March, but didn’t proceed beyond that.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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