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2016-08-25

Smith on Farm Bureau, EPA & bees Guess which two items he prefers?

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

After covering someone for nine years, one might think there would be nothing new under the sun about which to write. Well, that’s not the case.
On Monday, August 22, United States Congressional District 21 Representative Lamar Smith gave constituents from Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Comal, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr and Travis counties a legislative update and chance to discuss matters relevant to them.
During his remarks, Smith mentioned that he had been a beekeeper since the 1970s when he had come across the book, “The Gentle Art of Beekeeping.” Serving sopapillas drenched in the good stuff, he said, “I haven’t bought honey for decades,” noting that hives still buzz happily on his ranch in South Texas.
“When I decided to begin beekeeping, I contacted agencies that were called upon to remove swarms of wild bees,” Smith explained. “When I told them I would take the bees, they were more than happy to let me have them.” During subsequent springs, Smith – with helpers, presumably – set already-constructed hives under unwanted wild swarms and, after some machinations by Smith et al, the bees dropped conveniently into the hive.
“That’s how I got all my bees,” he said.
The crowd at El Rio restaurant in Boerne were appreciative of the reminiscence because they were all members of the Texas and various county farm bureaus – and probably had bees of their own.
Considering himself “in good company,” Smith described the assembled crowd as “the salt of the earth.” And the Congressman was their “friend” ¬– literally. To be considered a “Friend” of the Texas Farm Bureau, a congressman must have a 71 percent voting record on key issues that affect the organization and pertain to the ranching and farming industry. Smith, for the record, has a 100 percent voting record. “I like to be a 100 percent-er, but it’s always nice to be confirmed,” he quipped.
Addressing his constant battle with the US Environmental Protective Agency, he said his issuance of subpoenas has now reached 24. “Our committee (Smith serves as chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee) intends to hold this administration accountable for the burdensome and overreaching regulations put forth by the EPA,” Smith said, “regulations that are based on political correctness rather than good science.”
Hand-in-hand with his criticism of the EPA’s “business-as-usual” methodology is Smith’s Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 – HR 1030. This bill would prohibit the EPA from “proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”
“This bill would force the EPA to disclose the data used to formulate their regulations.” Smith explained. “It awaits action on the Senate floor.” He said that even Democrat politicians and EPA officials have agreed the data should be released.
However, the behemoth EPA, as a whole, is reluctant to release their scientific and technical data – hence the subpoenas. “This bill would focus the spotlight on the regulations and underlying data and would have far-reaching consequences,” Smith said.
With a supermajority of 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass the Secret Science Reform Act, Smith indicated the bill might be included within a larger bill that would be approved without a filibuster or veto.
Regarding another of the EPA’s controversial regulations, he also noted that, due to court decisions, 13 states are not currently subject to the EPA’s Waters of the United States regulation, an expanded version of the Clean Water Act. This Waters of the US rule has been criticized because many view it as a draconian expansion of government power that ultimately translates to burdensome regulations for private landowners.
Many feel the rule would not only hamper development, but also saddle landowners with increased costs when making improvements to their property.
Speaking about immigration, Smith opined that next year would bring an immigration bill in Congress. “I recognize the need for guest workers, but not if they displace American workers,” he said. “And I do not support amnesty because it would only encourage more illegal immigration.”
Responding to other queries, Smith:
• did not expect to see a balanced budget in the foreseeable future, so the current $19 trillion debt continues to increase.
• noted it was “only after the fact and after the favors” that former President Bill Clinton decided to cutback on the speeches he makes on behalf of the Clinton Foundation and stop the foundation from accepting more foreign contributions.
• predicted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would see a rise in his poll numbers if he would “stay on message.”
Before concluding, Smith returned to the bee theme, explaining, “It was while working with wild bees that I learned how to deal with members of Congress.”