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Posts tagged: Mike Crapo

Sen. Crapo selected once again to head the ‘Committee on Committees’

It’s the sixth time in 12 years that this has happened, but somehow it still sounds funny: Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo has been selected for the prestigious post of chairman of the Committee on Committees for the Senate Republicans. That’s the panel that’s in charge of committee assignments for the upcoming Congress; Crapo’s been selected for the once-every-two-years post five times before. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Mike is a trusted advisor and has the respect of his colleagues. He has a proven track record and the entire Republican conference is honored to have him once again leading our negotiations on committee assignments.”

Senate votes to back Obama on Syria; Risch, Crapo both vote ‘no’

The U.S. Senate has voted 78-22 in favor of President Obama's plan for the U.S. military to train and equip Syrian rebels for a war against Islamic state militants. Like yesterday's 273-156 House vote, support for the president's plan was bipartisan - but both Idaho's senators voted no, as did both of Idaho's congressmen yesterday. Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo issued these statements on their votes:

Risch:

“I have real reservations about choosing from over 200 different ethnic and religious groups within Syria and arming those that are labeled ‘moderate’ by some in our government. I am not convinced there is a group of ‘moderate’ rebels in Syria.  There is no easy choice here, but President Obama has not laid out a clear strategy, instead the strategy I have seen is not in my opinion destined to succeed, but drag us further into the mire.  I want to support a winning strategy, but I cannot support his $500 million proposal without a better plan.”

Crapo: 

“ISIS poses a very real threat to the United States and our national security. The President’s announced action leaves many questions for the American people and Congress.   Unless the Administration provides more details about a comprehensive strategy, I cannot support it.”

Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.

 

Firefighting costs continue to eat into Forest Service management budget, while disaster funding bill languishes…

A new report out today from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that costs allocated to fighting wildfires have grown from 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s overall budget in 1995 to 42 percent today. “This has led to substantial cuts in other areas of the Forest Service budget, including efforts to keep forests healthy, reduce fire risk, and strengthen local economies,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement today as he released the report.

Those percentage figures don’t include so-called “fire borrowing,” he noted, in which the Forest Service borrows from other areas of its budget once it’s used up its allocated amount for firefighting but blazes are still going. Vilsack renewed his request to Congress to allow an existing disaster funds to cover firefighting costs in years when they exceed allocated amounts.

A year ago, Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, along with Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, gathered at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise to kick off a push to end the borrowing and instead tap disaster funds when firefighting costs balloon over allocated amounts. Their bipartisan legislation had been picking up support in both houses – Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson is among the House sponsors, along with Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon – but paradoxically suffered a setback earlier this year after President Barack Obama not only endorsed it but included it in his budget.

“That spurred some folks to be cautious about it,” said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo’s press secretary. “Honestly, it’s been kind of bottled up. It’s been affected by politics.” The House version of the bill has 131 co-sponsors, including Idaho 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador. The Senate version has 18 co-sponsors including Risch.

In the House, “Some folks are concerned about changing the spending matrix, primarily Paul Ryan, head of the budget committee,” Nothern said. “We did go out and get a CBO report that showed it is budget neutral, because we already spend disaster money on disasters such as this.”

He added, “There is support for it among leadership in both the Senate and the House, on both sides of the aisle.” But on its first attempt at passage, Nothern said, the proposal got lumped in with other issues including the president’s border proposal, and it didn’t pass. “We are hoping for a stand-alone bill, and then the only opposition we have is Ryan.” He said backers of the measure are hoping they can persuade Ryan to drop his opposition by showing it won’t spend new money.

Vilsack strongly agreed. “Bipartisan proposals to fund catastrophic fire like other natural disasters could help ensure that efforts to make forests more healthy and resilient and support local tourism economies aren’t impacted as significantly as they have been in recent years,” the secretary said. “These proposals don’t increase the deficit, they just budget smarter by allowing existing natural disaster funding to be used in cases of catastrophic wildfires.”

Nothern said there’s a slim chance the bill could be brought up in the September session, but it’s more likely that it won’t get considered until the “lame-duck” session that follows the November election. He’s confident, though, that it will pass. “It’s a question of when,” Nothern said. “We’re out of money again this year. It shows the need to do this.”

The new USDA report shows that staffing for managing national Forest Service lands has dropped by 35 percent since 1998, while fire staffing has increased 110 percent. Even before fire borrowing is taken into account, funding to support recreation has dropped 13 percent; funding for wildlife and fisheries habitat management is down 17 percent; and research funding is down by more than $36 million. Funding for maintenance and capital improvements has been cut by two-thirds since 2001, showing the impact of the shift of resources to wildfire suppression. The full report is online here.

Crapo says he’ll seek another term

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo says he will seek re-election in 2016. In making the announcement Friday in Lewiston, the 63-year-old Republican says he's committed to resolving a number of critical issues to the country. The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/XqzcMO ) that Crapo was elected to the Senate in 1998 to succeed Sen. Dirk Kempthorne. He is serving the fourth year of his third term and is ranked 39th in seniority in the Senate. A member of the minority party in the Senate, Crapo is the ranking member of the Senate's Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and serves on the Budget and Environment, Public Works, Indian Affairs and Finance committees. There had been speculation by some political observers that Crapo would retire from the Senate after his current term.

Idaho senators torn over deal that brought long-sought release of Idaho soldier

Idaho senators who have pushed for years for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan are now in the odd position of both objecting to the deal that bought Bergdahl’s freedom, and joyfully welcoming his return. “He needed to be released, but not at this price,” Sen. Jim Risch said Thursday, aiming sharp criticism at the Obama Administration over the release of five high-ranking Taliban officials held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in exchange for Bergdahl. “The price that was paid was too high. Those five people are people that have a lot of blood on their hands.”

Sen. Mike Crapo told Eye on Boise, “I have problems with this specific trade. But I’m not about to say that I’m still not very glad that we have been able to recover Bowe.”

As the political rhetoric has escalated in Washington, D.C., congressional Republicans have faulted the administration for failing to inform Congress of the swap 30 days in advance, as required by law; for releasing the Guantanamo prisoners; and for statements supportive of Bergdahl amid questions about how he fell into his captors’ hands and whether he deserted his Army post.

“Unlike Benghazi, I’m not so sure this one’s going to go away on them,” Risch said. “It’s caught the attention of the American people, it’s caught the attention of the media, and they’re not letting go.” Both Risch and Crapo have been relentless for the past five years in pushing the administration to secure Bergdahl’s release; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Ads target Crapo over mortgage reform bill

A negative-ad campaign is targeting Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and six other members of the Senate Banking Committee because of a bipartisan bill that Crapo co-sponsored to reform the mortgage finance industry, Idaho Statesman reporter Zach Kyle reports. The $1.6 million ad blitz from the “60 Plus Association” is aimed at protecting the interests of shareholders in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-created mortgage finance companies; the bill would phase them out of existence.

“First, it was Obamacare,” says the narrator of the TV ad. “Millions of Americans had health care plans canceled. Now, Mike Crapo is teaming up with Obama to take over the mortgage industry.” Crapo said the ad misrepresents the bill as big-government and him as liberal. “The people of Idaho know me better than that,” Crapo told the Statesman. Kyle’s full report is online here.

Risch: ‘They look at you like you got three heads’

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are addressing the Senate and House today, and the two – both of whom are former Senate presidents pro-tem – entered the Senate chamber together, rather than separately. “It’s really an honor to be here today, although my remarks can be really short if I’m supposed to give you some of the wisdom from Washington, D.C.,” Crapo said.

He told the Senate, “There are those in Washington who say that because we’ve been able to bring down our deficit … that we have solved our problem. We have not solved our problem,” because the federal debt continues to grow, he said. “The bottom line here is we still need a comprehensive plan.” Crapo called for tax code reforms that broaden the base and reduce rates, “and then major entitlement reform that puts these programs that are now screaming toward insolvency on a pathway to solvency.”

Risch told the Senate, “The financial condition of the country is just awful. … The bad news is there’s really nothing on track to turn this around. I’ve been in public service all my life, and very few things shock me any more, but the cavalier attitude that people have about money back there is just absolutely staggering.” He said when anyone proposes less spending, “They look at you like you got three heads – the only way they’re willing to compromise is if you agree to spend more money to increase programs and what have you, but if you want to start rolling things back, you don’t get a seat at that table.” Risch said, “In the long haul, I am incredibly optimistic for this country. In the short haul, things don’t look very good.”

Crapo, Risch sponsor bill to make state concealed-gun permits valid in other states

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are co-sponsoring legislation to let those with a state concealed gun permit carry a concealed weapon in other states, too, as long at the state they’re in allows or doesn’t prohibit concealed carrying of firearms. “Idahoans and law-abiding citizens across the country should not be denied the fundamental right to self-defense while they are traveling or temporarily away from home,” said Crapo.  “This bill protects state sovereignty and does not establish national standards for a concealed carry, nor does it veto laws in those states that prohibit concealed carry permits.” Risch said, “Lawful gun owners should not have to face a labyrinth of gun laws the second they cross into another state.  This bill will ensure citizens who are able to carry concealed weapons can exercise that right in any state that has also passed a concealed carry law.”

The measure has three other co-sponsors, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; John Thune, R-S.D.; and David Vitter, R-La.; you can see the full Crapo-Risch statement here.

Idaho senators both oppose budget deal, which clears Senate, 64-36

Idaho's two senators both were in the minority today, as the Senate voted 64-36 in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law. The deal, brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sets federal spending on domestic and defense programs and averts the threat of a government shutdown for the next two years; it makes modest changes in spending levels, replaces about $63 billion in automatic sequester budget cuts, and adds new fees on airline passengers and increases federal workers’ pension contributions.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo called the deal “the wrong direction for our fiscal policy and our economy,” and Idaho Sen. Jim Risch called it “a step backward.” The deal leaves in place the bulk of the $1 trillion in sequester cuts through 2021, but eases an especially harsh set of cuts scheduled to hit in 2014 and 2015 on the Pentagon, domestic agencies and Medicare providers. All 53 Democrats in the Senate voted yes, along with two independents and nine Republicans; all 36 “no” votes came from Republicans. The pact earlier cleared the House overwhelmingly, with majorities from both parties supporting it. Here are Crapo and Risch’s full statements on their votes:

Crapo:

“This deal unfortunately falls into the same promises of future budget cuts that never materialize, and then raising new revenue to offset increasing spending.  The bottom line is that Americans end up paying more to justify bigger spending by Congress.  It is the wrong direction for fiscal policy and our economy; that is why I could not support the agreement.”

 

Risch:

“This deal raises federal spending at a time when we should be cutting spending. Under present law, with the sequester, the federal government is actually cutting its spending for the first time in decades. This deal reverses that with a promise it will cut spending later. The deal also provides for having to borrow about one-third of every dollar spent. This is all simply irresponsible. In addition, along with many other problems, this deal cuts retirement benefits previously promised to veterans. This is just wrong. The bill that passed the Senate today is a step backward and I could not support it.”

Click below for a look at the deal's likely impact on the U.S. economy, from AP economics writer Josh Boak in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Crapo ‘healing OK’ after furniture-moving mishap causes facial injury

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is drawing some second looks this week, but not necessarily because of his comments in the Senate. Instead, it’s the rather dramatic facial injury he’s sporting. “He took a fall while moving furniture at his Idaho Falls home the day after Thanksgiving,” reports Crapo’s press secretary, Lindsay Nothern. “Took some stitches to close – left a bruise, but he’s healing OK.”

This shot on C-SPAN was posted by the Daily Caller, which ran an item headlined, “What is the cut on Sen. Crapo’s face?” The online outlet reported that C-SPAN junkies noticed the facial injury when Crapo was speaking yesterday against confirming Rep. Mel Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Their post drew an array of responses, including one commenting, “Looks like someone knocked the Crapo out of him.”

Crapo teams up with Colorado senator on wildfire-prevention funding amendment

Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet today filed legislation to launch a five-year, up to $30 million wildfire mitigation pilot project, to be carried out by FEMA in consultation with the Forest Service, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is currently under consideration in the Senate. The two senators introduced the bill in August; it’s considered deficit-neutral, as it taps FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Fund for competitive grants to state and local officials for wildfire preparedness and mitigation projects. Those state and local agencies would have to provide matching funds; the projects could occur on federal, state or private land.

 “Instead of waiting until more towns are evacuated, homes threatened and our firefighters lives put at risk, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to pass the PREPARE Act amendment to help states like Idaho reduce and prevent catastrophic fires,” Crapo said in a statement. Bennet said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  By directing more resources toward fire mitigation on the front end, we can not only help prevent and reduce the severity of future disasters, we can also save millions of dollars in recovery costs in the long-run.” You can read the two senators’ full announcement here.

Crapo, Risch say anti-discrimination laws best left to states

When the U.S. Senate voted 64-32 last week in favor of legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians, 10 Republicans joined 52 Democrats and two independents to support the bill, but Idaho’s two senators both voted against it. “Number one, this is a state’s rights issue,” Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said. “Number two, this bill made insufficient provisions for employers who have First Amendment constitutional protections to exercise their religious beliefs.”

The bill, which would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, included an exemption for religious organizations. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., proposed an amendment to sharply expand that exemption to include a wide array of entities with some religious affiliation, but it was voted down, 55-43. Toomey still voted in favor of the bill, however.

Sen. Mike Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, said, “Sen. Crapo voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, on the basis that he has long been opposed to the expansion of the federal government’s power to handle such matters when states have a better handle on how to rightfully handle these issues, just as several local municipalities in Idaho have begun to do.”

Earlier in the week, Crapo said he supports allowing local ordinances to ban such discrimination, which conflicts with a resolution passed by the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee over the summer urging the state Legislature to overturn local anti-discrimination ordinances in seven Idaho cities.

“Moreover, a sweeping federal statute would not offer proper protections for religious liberties,” Nothern said. “Sen. Crapo believes all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity. … Workers should be hired and their employment maintained on the basis of their skills, abilities and how they accomplish their appointed tasks.”

The bill may not get a vote in the House, where Speaker John Boehner opposes it; you can read my full column here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

Crapo to be in on budget conference talks

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo reports that he has been appointed to the budget conference committee that will work to reconcile the differences between House and Senate budget proposals; he’s one of 21 senators on the 29-member panel, which is headed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “While I could not support the budget that was passed by the Senate earlier this year, I believe there are ideas and policies in both versions that we can mutually agree on and start the process of putting us on a sustainable fiscal path,” Crapo said in a news release.

The budget conference was agreed to as part of the deal to end the government shutdown and stave off default on the nation’s debt; Crapo voted against the deal, but called the budget conference “an enormous opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on a more sustainable budget path for our country.” The panel includes the entire Senate Budget Committee, on which Crapo serves, along with four House Republicans and three House Democrats. You can read Crapo's full news release here.

Catching up: From Denney eyeing higher office to extension of county payments…

Catching up on some of the news from while I was gone over the past week:

DENNEY EYES HIGHER OFFICE:  Former Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, filed initial paperwork to run for Idaho Secretary of State, an office long held by incumbent Ben Ysursa, a Republican; you can read an AP report here on Denney’s move. Ysursa hasn’t said yet whether he’ll be seeking re-election; in an email to Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, he said, “I intend to make my future plans known within the next few weeks. Until then I really have no comment.”

STATE SURPLUS BIGGER THAN REPORTED? Former state chief economist Mike Ferguson has analyzed state revenues and concluded that in an apples-to-apples comparison, Idaho’s surplus is actually bigger than has been reported. At the close of fiscal year 2013 on June 30, the state’s general fund had an ending balance of $165.3 million, $105.3 million higher than expected at the end of the 2013 legislative session. After transfers to reserve accounts and taking into account law changes, Ferguson concludes, “The current DFM General Fund revenue forecast for FY 2014, at 2.1% growth over FY 2013 revenue, appears to be unduly pessimistic. At 3.1% revenue growth the ongoing General Fund surplus estimate would be $74.1 million, and at 4.1% revenue growth the ongoing surplus estimate would be $111.6 million.” You can read his full analysis here.

ONE INSURER WITHDRAWS: The only for-profit insurer scheduled to offer plans on Idaho’s exchange withdrew on Sept. 26; with Altius' exit, Idaho's remaining insurers will offer 61 plans for individuals, 55 small group health plans for small business, 13 individual dental plans and 17 small group dental plans. You can read about that move here.

COUNTY PAYMENTS EXTENDED: A one-year extension of the county payments under the Secure Rural Schools Act, the remainder of the Craig-Wyden law that has been offsetting millions lost to rural counties and school districts since federal timber harvests fell, cleared Congress and headed to the president’s desk – tucked into a bill about helium. “Passage of the Helium Stewardship Act is a victory for the entire state of Idaho,” said Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo; rural schools and counties would get $270 million under the bill. “This fix does not change the need for a long-term solution that provides a consistent mechanism for the federal government to meet its obligation to rural communities accommodating federal lands, and I will continue to work with Senator Risch and all my colleagues to achieve this objective,” Crapo said; you can read his full statement here

Risch, Crapo both set ‘tele-town hall’ meetings next week

Both of Idaho’s senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, have scheduled “tele-town hall” meetings in the coming week; Risch’s will be on Monday, and Crapo’s on Wednesday, both starting at 7 p.m. MT, 6 p.m. Pacific time. Any Idahoan who wants to can participate, but you need to sign up online in advance. Crapo says he’ll take questions and offer insights on issues Congress must deal with this fall, including potential military intervention in Syria; Risch says he’ll give a brief update on issues being discussed in Congress and take questions for the bulk of the hour-long session. Risch also will ask participants to respond to poll questions on various issues.

To sign up for Crapo’s tele-town hall, go to his website here, and click on the tele-townhall icon on the right side under “Action Center.” That’ll take you to a townhall page, where the signup box is located in the middle of the page; there’s more info here.

To sign up for Risch’s tele-town hall, click this link.

Idaho congressional delegation wary of strike against Syria

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were deeply skeptical of President Obama's plan for a strike against Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure. In responses this week, Republican U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador all expressed wariness such a strike would enhance U.S. power or bring a swifter end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. Risch committed to opposing a strike. Obama says Assad's government was responsible for numerous gas attacks, including one Aug. 21 said to have killed 1,429 people. In Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, however, Risch worried a post-strike Assad would emerge stronger. Republicans including House Speaker John Boehner support a strike. Though Simpson is usually a Boehner ally, the Idaho Republican's spokeswoman said he's “strongly leaning against supporting military action.”

Read a report here from S-R reporter Kip Hill, including comments from Idaho and Washington senators; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Senators say nation’s wildfire prevention system needs ‘bold reforms’

Idaho's two GOP senators joined with Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden today to launch a new bipartisan push to use the fall budget negotiations in Congress to reform the way the nation funds wildfire prevention. “In my view, the fires that are ripping their way through Oregon, Idaho, California and much of the West are proof that the federal government’s policy for fire prevention is broken,” Wyden declared in a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. That’s because it taps fire prevention funds to fight raging fires, landing the nation in a vicious circle as it does less prevention, he said.

“And I say that given the heroic efforts that have been made by our firefighters,” Wyden said. “The reality is simple: For western members of Congress in the House and the Senate, there is no higher priority this fall than fixing this broken system.”

Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, on which Risch also serves; Crapo and Wyden both serve on the budget committee. Wyden quipped that 3 percent of the U.S. Senate is already on board with the new push – the three of them – and said they’ve also gotten enthusiastic  support from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has been working to make sure the Forest Service is first in line for seven tanker plans that should become available from the military this month to boost firefighting efforts.

Wyden said there’s “no better time to bring about these changes than this fall,” as Congress grapples with the budget sequester, the need to raise the debt ceiling and the end of the fiscal year. “This brings front and center the debate about what our priorities are and what our choices are,” he said; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. 

Crapo raises alarm over data collection by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo held a Boise press conference today to press his concern about collection of consumer financial data by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an issue on which he’s requested a GAO investigation that’s now under way.  Crapo acknowledged that the CFPB has been at the center of partisan battling in Congress and that he opposed its formation, preferring to keep regulation of consumer finances with that of the safety and soundness of banks and other financial institutions; Crapo, the ranking minority member of the Senate banking committee, lost that fight.

But he said revelations of the amount of consumer financial data the new agency is tracking should be of concern to all, particularly in light of concerns over NSA tracking of phone calls and other federal agencies’ use of data about Americans. The CFPB has “very, very little political oversight,” Crapo said. “It has the ability to run its own agenda. … This agency is run by a single individual.”  

Crapo was joined at his Idaho Capitol news conference by fellow Idaho Sen. Jim Risch; Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden; Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group from Washington, D.C.; and John Zarian, a Boise attorney who handled major California litigation over misuse of personal credit report data by Trans Union Corp.

Zarian warned of the dangers of identity theft and fraud from misuse and security breaches of individuals’ data; Fitton told of how Judicial Watch pressed Freedom of Information Act requests to find out the extent of the data the bureau was collecting on 5 million Americans. Crapo said although the CFPB says it is not collecting data that identifies individuals – “personally identifiable” financial information on consumers, which the law creating the agency forbids gathering – the scope of its data collection could lead to that. “This agency was created to watch out for Americans, not to watch Americans,” Crapo declared.

Wasden said, “Privacy in this day and age is a valid concern.” He praised Crapo for raising the alarm, and said the GAO investigation should show “whether CFPB’s data collection and use of that data is lawful.”

The agency has said it is collecting data so it can track fraud to protect consumers; it’s also developed a database of consumer complaints about a variety of financial services, from credit cards to mortgages to credit reporting, and posted that online for public use. Risch said, “If you like government, you will love this agency.” Fitton said, “For all the noise in Washington about the NSA, our real damages in Washington as far as privacy abuse resides in the Consumer Financial Protection Board.”

Crapo, Bennet insert clause in FEMA budget designed to prompt more focus on wildfires

Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet have gotten a provision added to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill designed to prompt FEMA to prioritize wildfire prevention. The bill directs FEMA to develop a report identifying any funding obstacles and detailing its wildfire mitigation efforts over the past five years; the two termed the move a “first step” toward getting FEMA to put more priority on wildfire and its prevention. You can read the two senators’ full announcement here.

Idaho one of 4 states selected for Greek yogurt pilot program in school lunches

Idaho will join three other states in a pilot program to serve Greek yogurt as part of school lunch programs. Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo hailed the decision, saying in a statement, “Greek yogurt is one of the country’s fastest growing industries, and I hope USDA will continue the important process of making this healthy food option increasingly available to young Americans. Idaho, already a leading producer of milk and other yogurt-related ingredients, recently became home to the world’s largest Greek yogurt manufacturing plant in Twin Falls. … Our state is ideal to serve as a part of this pilot project.”

The other three states are New York, Tennessee and Arizona; the USDA opened a solicitation to vendors this week for the four states, with bids due July 22. If the pilot program is successful in the four states, it could expand nationwide. You can read Crapo’s full statement here; the Twin Falls Times-News has a full report here. Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Crapo, said schools already were serving other types of yogurt, but Greek yogurt, which is higher-protein, wasn’t on the USDA’s list until it was approved in January as a protein. “I don’t think the schools are planning to take meat off the menu and replace it with yogurt,” Nothern said. “None of this makes the schools do anything. It just offers up yogurt as part of the protein offerings they can make in schools.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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