Congress

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Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Last year, it looked like Idaho could have been in line for a third congressional representative and another vote in the Electoral College. But new projections are casting doubt.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s newest member of Congress, Russ Fulcher, got divorced from his wife of more than 30 years during his campaign for an open seat in the House of Representatives.

CREDIT BRUCE REICHERT / IDAHO PUBLIC TELEVISION

The Land Water Conservation Fund was established in 1965 by Congress to provide funds and grants to governments at all levels to purchase of lands for preservation and conservation. The program is funded by off-shore drilling leases and seperation fees. In 2015, Congress chose not to renew the LWCF, and it will run itself out sometime this fall. We discuss the role of the LWCF in preserving the West and its contribution to preservation and conservation in Idaho.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

As many politicians have retreated from facing constituents in person at town hall meetings over the last few months, Idaho's Raul Labrador is bucking the trend by scheduling two town halls later this month.

The first public event the Republican congressman will hold is Wednesday, April 19. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Meridian Middle School Auditorium. Labrador's second town hall will be held at Mission Aviation Fellowship in Nampa on April 24; it also starts in the evening at 6:30.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

President Barack Obama last week signed a $200 billion Medicare bill that reforms payments to physicians. Tucked inside that massive Medicare bill was a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools Act, a federal program that pays rural counties and school districts with a lot of non-taxable forest land.

Some sportsmen's groups and conservationists say they're frustrated with votes by both of Idaho's Republican senators on a budget resolution the groups say is a first step to federal land transfer or sale.

U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both voted late last month to establish a procedure for selling, exchanging or transferring to the states federal lands.

Idaho's Rep. Labrador Votes Against Secure Rural Schools Funding

Mar 26, 2015
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's two representatives split their votes on a bill that was overwhelmingly supported in the U.S. House Thursday that reauthorizes timber payments to rural counties with a lot of federal land.

The Secure Rural Schools Act reauthorization was tucked inside a $214 billion bill that blocks cuts in doctors' Medicare payments.

Just 37 House members voted against the bill, while 392 supported it. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was one of the 'no' votes.

Oregon's congressional delegation is hoping to secure a two-year extension of timber payments to rural counties. The Secure Rural Schools provision is tucked in a bill the U.S. House is voting on this week.

Congress let the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expire in the fall of 2014, leaving Idaho counties and school districts with $26 million less than expected.

Idaho counties will bear the brunt of this loss. Seventy percent of Secure Rural Schools money goes to counties for things like road maintenance. Thirty percent goes to school districts.

Data from the Idaho Association of Counties shows Idaho County will lose more money than any other county, nearly $7.3 million.

Mike Crapo
U.S. Senate

A bill to renew federal subsidies to timber counties has been filed in the Senate.

The Secure Rural Schools program made up for federal timber revenues that declined as environmental protections reduced national forest logging, but it expired last year. Efforts to renew it failed in the lame-duck session of Congress.

The latest version was filed Thursday by Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's Rep. Raul Labrador is one of nine U.S. House Republicans this week who announced the formation of the House Freedom Caucus. The group includes some of the most conservative members of Congress.

Labrador says the formation of the new caucus is a way for the its members to better represent their constituents. 

Labrador has been part of a similar, but larger group in the Republican Study Committee. He says having his voice – and that of his constituents in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District – heard will be easier as part of the new Freedom Caucus.

Rick Gerrard / Idaho Public Television

Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch derailed a 2010 wilderness bill but says he's working now with U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson on a scaled-down version as others attempt to persuade President Barack Obama to designate a central Idaho area a national monument.

Risch, a Republican, tells the Idaho Statesman in a story on Sunday that he's looking forward to carrying a bill that he says is a collaborative product.

USFWS

The future of the greater sage grouse, already uncertain, may get even murkier because Congress is considering delaying protections for the Western bird.

Congress is considering a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would keep the federal government from shutting down. A legislative rider in the bill would put the brakes on protecting the bird.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Republican Idaho Sen. Jim Risch says the U.S. Senate should not have released a report on CIA interrogation practices following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The report that became public Tuesday says the CIA tortured prisoners, did not get much valuable information from doing so, and lied to Congress about it.   

U.S. Forest Service

 A slow wildfire season in the U.S. means the Forest Service won’t have to dip into other parts of its budget to cover firefighting expenses. The federal government’s fiscal year ends Tuesday. It’s the first time in three years the agency’s firefighting allotment will cover actual costs.

The Forest Service exceeded its firefighting budget by $505 million last summer, and $440 million the year before.

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