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NACo PILT Fly-In and White House Briefing Recap

L to R: Bryan Elliott, Gem County; Kent McClellan, Minidoka County; Tom Dale, Canyon County; Vice President Pence; Mark Rekow, Gem County; Bill Butticci, Gem County

More than 20 Idaho County Commissioners accepted the invitation from President Trump to attend a White House briefing on September 10, as well as participate in the NACo PILT “Fly-In” on September 11.

It was very encouraging to hear the reports of the progress that is being accomplished under President Trump’s administration.  We heard remarks on numerous successes that do not get into the media reports from several high ranking Administration officials, including Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, and Administrator of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler.  Overall, the economy is thriving.  The good news is that more than 157 million Americans are working today, more than at any other time in our history.

This is a President who understands that all government rides on the wheels of local government, and is working diligently to give local government officials the freedom to effectively work for their constituents. The administration is working hard to deregulate wherever they can. As an example, since 2017, 26 Federal EPA regulations have been eliminated, and only 2 have been created.  At the time EPA was created on December 2, 1970, during Richard Nixon’s administration, 40% of the waters of the U.S. failed clean water requirements.  Today, 90% pass.  There has also been a 74% reduction of the 6 EPA identified air pollutants since 1970.  Among the world’s leading industrial nations, the United States is the least polluting.

We were informed that the controversial Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule, (WOTUS), was scheduled to be repealed on Thursday, September 12, and it was! That’s a win for all of us, particularly in Idaho’s rural areas where agriculture is the dominant economic activity.

Regarding Trade, we learned the President is working on a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, known as USMCA, as a replacement for NAFTA. (Marine Corps veterans gotta love that acronym!)  This agreement is nearing finalization and will be beneficial for all three countries.

We also heard from Kendel Ehrlich, Deputy Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  The administration has committed $34 Billion towards the Opioid epidemic.  She reported that since commencing this effort, opioid deaths have dropped by 5%.  She also commented on studies that are showing, (surprise,) that vaping is pretty bad for people, and that, (surprise, surprise,) smoking pot is really bad for people. Here’s a link to an excellent article from Imprimis entitled: Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence.

On the second day of the trip, more than 100 Western Region County Commissioners met at the NACo headquarters for a briefing on PILT and SRS.  Following that briefing, we went to Capitol Hill to speak to Congressional members on stabilizing these programs and making them permanent. During those conversations, discussions about the management, or the mismanagement, of Forest Service and BLM lands were quite lively. Regarding Federal Lands, President Trump is working to allow the vast wealth of timber and minerals to be harvested much more freely than in recent history.

One highlight of the time in our nation’s capital; after the Tuesday briefing in the EOB, a group of us Idaho folks went to the area between the White House and the EOB.  As we were standing there, Commissioner Mark Rekow said, “Look – there’s Vice President Pence!”  This, of course, caused us all to hurriedly move to intercept him.  We had a nice time talking with him for a few minutes and got some good pictures.  Our Vice President is an incredibly humble gentleman, who personifies a true public servant.

Overall, the trip was worth the time and expense.  We were able to gain valuable information and make our voices heard on Capitol Hill.  Kudos to William Crozier and all the NACo staff members who worked so hard to make these events successful.

Submitted by Tom Dale, Canyon County Commissioner