Smith - breakin' biscuits at OST
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
To keep his fingers on the pulse of his Hill Country constituents, United States Rep. Lamar Smith hosted an informal breakfast for Bandera's community leaders on Friday, April 19, at the OST Restaurant.
Before breaking bread - or rather homemade biscuits - Smith offered a précis of the important issues currently facing Congress and the American people. Amid the din of early morning diners, he reiterated his points consistently and clearly.
As Judge Richard Evans pointed out, "That's what Republicans do - they stick to their message - and everyone knows what it is."
As newly minted chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Smith has jurisdiction and oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of Energy, among other agencies.
As Smith's first order of business, he plans to "rein in" the EPA, an agency, he feels, promulgates unnecessary rules and regulations that burden and stifle small businesses. "EPA (bureaucrats) have refused to release to the committee the scientific findings on which their rules and regulations are based," Smith said. He added that 80 percent of ERA rules and regulations have been driven by a political agenda.
"EPA administrators refuse to give us the data they used to reach conclusions on regulatory issues. This is very suspicious. We need more transparency in this area" - and he expects to obtain it.
Smith said that in the last 22 years, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee had issued no subpoenas. "Since I took over the chairmanship, we have issued three subpoenas."
He also plans to convene a hearing on fracking, which, contrary to popular belief, does not contaminate groundwater. "The EPA had to back off their contentions of groundwater contamination three times because they couldn't prove it," he said.
Smith also harbors hope that the United States will jumpstart its space program, noting, "Currently, we have to pay Russia $63 million to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station."
On Thursday, May 2, Smith will host a real time downlink from the space station for students at Fredericksburg high School. More than 1,000 students are expected to participate in the event.
Smith will kick off the discussion with the space station and speak to students about the importance of space exploration and science education.
American astronaut Chris Cassidy will answer questions from students via a live television downlink to teach students about living and working in space. Cassidy began his stay on the International Space Station in March. Veteran NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to command the Space Shuttle, will join Smith to answer questions.
As Smith explained during his breakfast meeting, "This is one of the perks of being chairman of the House committee that oversees NASA."
As a strong supporter of a balanced budget, Smith noted that the one offered by President Barack Obama included $1 trillion in new taxes and would only cut the deficit by half in the next 10 years. By contrast a proposed House budget contains no new tax increases, and, with spending cuts, would eliminate the deficit within the next decade. "We're now borrowing 25 cents for every dollar we spend. That's the road to insolvency," Smith said.
Smith also expressed reservations about immigration reform proposal crafted by the so-called "Gang of 8," a bipartisan group of Senators. While ceding that exceptions should be made for a worker program, highly trained and skilled individuals and children brought to the United States "through no fault of their own," he opposed offering "blanket amnesty" to 10 million illegals without a guarantee to secure the southern border with Mexico. "Without a secure border, another wave of illegal immigrants will be encouraged," he said.
"With amnesty, American workers will be compelled to compete with another 10 million workers," Smith said. "This is unfair to those who abided by the law and played by the rules."
On Friday, April 26, he today introduced the Legal Workforce Act - HR 1772 - a bipartisan bill that shuts off the jobs magnet that attracts so many illegal immigrants to the United States. The bill expands the E-Verify system and makes it mandatory that all US employers protect American jobs for citizens and legal immigrants.
"Illegal workers compete with American workers for jobs and drive down their wages. The nationwide use of E-Verify could increase wages and open up millions of jobs for unemployed and underemployed Americans. E-Verify will help ensure that jobs are reserved for citizens and legal workers," Smith said.
The use of E-Verify has been effective at helping employers avoid illegal workers. It immediately confirms 99.7 percent of work-eligible employees, according to Smith.
He also pointed out that Mexico has more stringent immigrations laws than does the United States.
Calling about the defeat of the latest gun control measure in the Senate as a "great victory for law abiding citizens," Smith said,
"A very biased media had predicted a victory and certainly got their comeuppance."
As the breakfast concluded, Smith and Outreach Coordinator Logan Chism were off to another United States District 21 meeting with another cabal of dignitaries. The following day, however, the Congressman was looking forward to attending Kerrville's homecoming celebration for 2012 Heisman trophy winner Johnny "Football" Manziel - "along with 3,000 other people," Smith quipped.
Pictured: Bandera Mayor Don Clark, center, and Central Appraisal District Chief Appraisal Wendy Grams listen as Congressman Lamar Smith made a point during an informal breakfast meeting last month.