Posts tagged: Mike Crapo
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.”
Idaho's dairy industry is applauding the Senate passage of bipartisan immigration reform legislation - and scolding Idaho's two senators for voting against it. “This legislation, should it become law, will greatly assist the largest industry in Idaho with the ability to grow and increase productivity,” said Brent Olmstead, director of Milk Producers of Idaho. “We are disappointed that Idaho’s two senators chose to not join in the bipartisan effort to fix the current immigration system. We have been and will continue to work with the Idaho delegation in the House to keep the current momentum on immigration reform going.”
Tena Petter, the group's chair, said, “There is no issue more important to the Idaho dairy industry than this legislation.” Click below for the Milk Producers' full statement.
The U.S. Senate has voted 68-32 in favor of the bipartisan immigration reform bill, sending the measure to the House. Both Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo were among the 32 Republicans who voted no; Risch tweeted, “Our country needs immigration reform. But, this bill overreaches and I did not support it.”
Fourteen Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill, along with every Senate Democrat. The Hill reported, “Senators took the rare step of voting from their desks to mark the occasion while Vice President Biden (D-Del.) presided from the dais. The Senate used the same formal procedure to pass ObamaCare three years ago. The bill’s authors fell just short of their goal to win 70 votes for the legislation but said the robust bipartisan vote creates a strong mandate for the House to act next month on the issue.” Read The Hill’s full report here.
Crapo issued a statement, saying in part, “It is clear that reforms are past due. However, S. 744, the Border Security, Stabilization and Modernization Act, would not provide the types of reform to stop illegal immigration at the border while ensuring fairness for both current Americans and immigrants alike. Unfortunately, the current Senate bill bears striking resemblance to laws passed in 1965, 1968 and 1986. Americans need and deserve better, and we cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes of the past.” You can read his full statement here.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted against ending debate and moving to a final vote on the immigration reform legislation in the Senate today. “The triggers in this bill with regard to border security are not strong enough,” Crapo said. Risch said immigration reform is needed, but called the bipartisan reform bill “just a political Band-Aid” that he said “commits U.S. taxpayers to turn over their hard-earned money to someone who is not a citizen.” You can read the two senators’ full statement here.
The vote to invoke cloture, ending debate, passed 68-32, and a vote on final passage is expected later today.
Local officials from rural communities throughout Idaho said today that federal public lands have major and direct impacts on their everyday operations and challenges.
During a panel at the McClure Center’s symposium at the Capitol Auditorium this morning, Owyhee County Treasurer Brenda Richards said, “There isn’t a decision that we make that doesn’t bring federal lands into the aspect, in some of the issues that we’re facing.” When moderator Marty Peterson asked her about the impact of the numerous recreationists who visit the county, Richards noted that it has few gas stations or convenience stores. “Most of the time, if you’re coming to visit Owyhee County you’re going to fuel up, you’re going to bring your provisions in from another county.” The county, though, bears costs for search and rescue, she said. “That’s hit us very hard.”
She said, “We do enjoy having people come out to Owyhee County and share in that … but there is an impact. Counties are required to provide services, and it doesn’t matter who’s visiting your county, you have to provide for that.”
Soda Springs Mayor Kirk Hansen drew a laugh when he said, “I always thought Soda Springs was quite cosmopolitan.” Explaining, he noted that mining operations on public lands in the region surrounding the eastern Idaho town draw hundreds of residents there. “We’re not the so-called always have mud on our boots type miners,” he said. “We have electrical engineers, geologists, environmental engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers - we have highly educated people who move into these areas to live and to work. … They enhance the betterment of the community in which we live.”
Hansen said the mining operations are “providing the standard of living that exists, and using the resources that in my mind are God-given. … We need to be very wise in the stewardship of what’s there.” Describing a situation in which a mine leached selenium into the environment and killed several horses, he said the mines now follow strict federal regulations to avoid polluting the water and land. “We need to collaborate very well with the federal agencies, and the land of many uses is very critical,” Hansen said. “We have thousands of people who are dependent upon the uses of public lands – the proper usage, that we take care of the resources that have been given to us, that they’re available and for the betterment of everyone.”
Woody Woodford, superintendent of the Kellogg School District, said, “Eighty percent of Shoshone County is state and federal lands. … They are the largest landowner in Shoshone County. As a direct result, we have 20 percent of our property owners pay 100 percent of our taxes, that burden is huge. … We believe in responsible management of federal lands, but there has to be some kind of a balance.” Shoshone County, which long was a prosperous mining area, now has a big car dealership as its major business. “Our county needs the kind of industry where we can afford to buy those cars at Dave Smith’s, and it simply doesn’t exist,” Woodford said. He said the small tax base is increasingly pinched trying to cover the costs for required services.
Valley County Commissioner Gordon Cruickshank discussed the community forest trust, in which a collaborative trust is seeking to manage 200,000 acres of federal forest land to both improve its health and make money for public services. The community has to provide for schools and roads, he said, and needs a way to generate money now that historic logging on public lands has dropped. The project is “a model, a way to show it can be done,” he said.
The University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research is holding a symposium on fiscal issues this morning, featuring Congressman Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo. The symposium is examining federal fiscal issues and their impact on local government; it’s taking place at the Capitol Auditorium from 9-11:30 a.m.; you can listen live here, and see the full agenda here.
Marty Peterson, McClure Center director, is the moderator today; two panels of local officials are addressing public lands, and infrastructure and regulations. This morning's introduction came from Don Burnett, University of Idaho interim president.
The second procedural vote to clear the way for debate in the U.S. Senate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill passed just like the first earlier today, and the debate can now start. The vote was 84-15, little different from the earlier 82-15 vote; again, both Idaho senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, were in the minority. Crapo said in a tweet, “#Senate is officially on the #immigration bill. We need an open amendment process & significant changes before I can support the bill.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter David Espo in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate voted 82-15 today to clear the way for debate on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, turning back an attempted filibuster. The 15 “no” votes all came from Republicans, including both of Idaho’s senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo. A second procedural vote also is scheduled today; if that goes like the first, several weeks of debate are then expected before the Senate takes final votes on the bill, proposed by a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” but likely to see various amendments. Click below for a full report from the AP in Washington, D.C.
The “Gang of Eight” includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, and John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona; and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durban of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado.
Sen. Mike Crapo held a press conference at a Boise gun shop today, where he blasted Congress' and President Barack Obama's bid to tighten gun laws while promoting reauthorization of a 2004 law that, among other things, directs federal taxpayer money for mental health courts. The AP reports that Crapo is using the latest congressional recess to emphasize his reputation as a serious policy maker, not a man on his heels after his December drunken driving arrest and this month's disclosure that his campaign lost $250,000 on a loan-gone-sour.
Despite the turbulence, Crapo said he hasn't thought of retiring or considered consequences for his 2016 re-election. “No, the answer is definitely not,” Crapo told the AP. “I think serving in the U.S. Senate is an incredible honor. I've been very engaged in the 'Gang of Six' and the other efforts to deal with our national debt crisis. I'm still fully engaged in that and all of the other aspects of my responsibilities in Washington, D.C.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is defending his former campaign manager who lost $250,000 in campaign funds in a risky investment, while also calling the incident “discouraging” and “deeply distressing.” Crapo’s then-campaign manager, Jake Ball, loaned $250,000 in campaign funds in 2008 to a longtime friend’s now-defunct investment company, Blueberry Guru LLC, which invested it into real estate ventures in Nevada and California that promised a quick profit. Instead, the money disappeared.
Crapo said he wasn’t informed about the bad loan until late 2010; he worked with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office to try to pursue the matter, but to no avail; now, he’s filed amended campaign finance reports for 2008 and 2009 to reflect the loss.
In his quarterly telephone town hall meeting with Idahoans this past week, Crapo addressed the issue before taking questions on other matters. Among his revelations: Crapo said 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador was informed about the investment loss when Ball left Crapo’s staff to become Labrador’s district manager in Idaho in December of 2010. “At that time, my staff informed me that he had informed Rep. Labrador about the circumstance,” Crapo said. When the news of the investment loss surfaced two weeks ago, Ball quit his job with Labrador, saying he wanted to pursue a business opportunity.
“Jake had been working for me in different capacities since about 2002, starting as an intern and holding positions in Washington, D.C. and in Idaho, in my Senate office before moving to my campaign, and he had always exhibited good judgment in those positions,” Crapo said. “In fact, during his tenure as campaign manager, through traditional investments which are government-backed CDs, he had brought in over $300,000 in interest payments. But this one bad loan was made and it was very discouraging.”
Crapo said he’s “taken steps to ensure nothing like this ever occurs again on my campaign.” Now, he said, “At least two separate individuals review and approve any expenditure.” Plus, an accounting firm, Professional Data Services, has been hired to oversee all campaign expenditures and reports. “This is a very discouraging circumstance,” Crapo said. “I deeply appreciate those who have contributed to may campaign over the years. And it’s distressing to have to report this matter not only to those donors, but to all Idahoans.”
Crapo’s quarterly tele-town halls are posted as audio on his Senate website, but you won’t find these comments there; they’ve been edited out. The reason: “It’s because we can’t post on the Senate’s official website anything of a campaign nature,” said Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern. “We had a big discussion about that, because we wanted to put (up) the whole thing, but we checked with the Ethics Committee,” and it wasn’t permitted.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said earlier that the $250,000 investment loss his campaign suffered in 2008 - and just now disclosed - came at a time when the campaign was between treasurers, so only then-campaign manager Jake Ball authorized the expenditure, in the form of a loan to a longtime friend. But William Corbett, who was Crapo's volunteer campaign treasurer at the time, tells the AP he was never informed about the transaction. “Obviously, if I would have, it would have been reported,” Corbett said. AP reporter John Miller reports that aides for Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch say their campaigns have safeguards and internal controls to protect donor money from a similar fate; among other things, investments such as the ones Ball said he employed with his friend would be forbidden. Click below for Miller's full report.