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Legislation aimed at the middle of the extremes

As this edition of County Lines rolls off the press we are fast

approaching two new legislative sessions—both of which may have profound implications on county government. I’m speaking, of course, of the 2013 sessions of our state’s General Assembly and the United States Congress. At both the state and federal levels the debate over type and amount of government is ongoing. One side advocates for a bottom up, limited government with an emphasis on free market solutions to most of life’s challenges while the other emphasizes a more top down, bureaucratic notion as to the more effective government. One extreme sees all govern- ment as limiting personal free- dom, hence an evil, necessary to be sure, but an evil nonetheless, while the other sees government as an indispensable good, provid- ing the rules and the structure that insure personal freedom. Te truth, as in most things, probably resides somewhere in the middle and the middle is where county government, most certainly, finds itself in this battle royale. Te question for county officials is, “how do we craft legislation that will appeal to, or at least not offend, members of both schools of thought?” Te answer, I would suggest, is by providing a balanced legislative approach at both the federal and state levels. Tis is exactly the plan for a bold legislative initiative we are currently advocating at the national level that would replace the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Community Self-Determination Act funding currently received by counties and schools. At the federal level your association is a member, and sits on the

hence an evil, necessary to be sure, but an evil nonetheless while the other sees gov- ernment as an indispensable good, provid- ing the rules and the structure that insure personal freedom.

“O ”

board of directors of, the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition (NFCS). Te coalition has been instrumental in success- fully reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) for 2012 through its Partnership for a Rural America campaign. By successfully reauthorizing SRS we were able to avoid a loss of almost $10 million to counties and schools in Arkansas. Tat’s the good news as regards SRS, however, the downside is the reautho- rization was only for one year and cost the members of the NFCS over $1 million in organizational/lobbying fees—not including the revenues expended by members on travel to and from Washington, D.C. lobbying their individual members of Congress as well as the


Obama administration. In addition, SRS was created as a way to insure counties and schools, who formerly had received a portion of the rev- enues derived from timber harvests in national forests, were held harmless when these revenues began to dry up due, in large part, to efforts by some of the more extreme elements of the environmental community. In essence

ne extreme sees all government as limiting personal freedom,

Legislative Corner

Jeff Sikes AAC Legislative Director

SRS was the federal government paying counties and schools not to cut timber. Tis resulted in a double loss to the fed that is, mathematically, unsustainable over the long run and, more importantly, devastat- ing to those communities that counted on the forest products industry for their livelihood. Clearly the structure of SRS and the expenditure of time and money necessary for even a one- year reauthorization is not the best way to run a railroad. Tat’s where the balance comes in. We will be proposing legisla- tion in the next Congress to replace SRS with a better system of managed timber harvests in

our national forests. Using the best available, peer reviewed science we will argue that

more efficient timber management practices support overall forest health by promoting healthy timber growth while preventing the spread of disease and beetle infestations, promote a greater diversity of wildlife and prevent the occurrence and spread of forest fires that have plagued our forests but have particularly devastated the West in recent years. By implementing a policy of best management timber practices in our national forests, nationwide, we will begin to revitalize those communities that have been devastated by a loss of their main industry as well as putting vitally needed dollars into our county and school infrastructures. With a balanced approach the environment as well as our citizens

win. Without balance we will continue to get what we’ve always got—more unhealthy forests, more disease and beetle infestations, more forest fires, less diversity of wildlife and crippled communities full of tax consumers rather than taxpayers.


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