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California assemblyman: Dams should stay

Jim Nielsen back in Sacramento after 18-year absence
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 8/9/09
     SACRAMENTO — If California Assemblyman Jim Nielsen has his way, the Klamath River will remain dammed.
   “We should not be taking out dams. We need to be building dams,” said Nielsen, whose sprawling district includes Modoc and Siskiyou counties. “I’ve taken a stand solidly with the county to retain the dams.”
   Three of the four dams proposed for removal as part of the proposed Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement are in Siskiyou County, where supervisors and others have loudly opposed removal.  
   Turned 65 recently
   Nielsen, who recently turned 65, talked about Klamath River dams and other topics at his Sacramento office in the State Capitol. He returned to elected office this year after an 18-year absence. He was elected to the first of his three terms in the state Senate in 1978, and was Senate Republican leader from 1983 to 1987.
   He touts himself as a tough-on-crime, reduce taxes conservative, and believes his background encouraged his views. Raised on a small family farm in the San Joaquin Valley, he earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business from Cal State-Fresno, worked as a ranch foreman and for many years operated a 200-acre family cow-calf ranch.
   During his years away from elected office, he and his wife raised their children and focused on ranch operations. Nielsen stayed involved in conservative issues, serving as chairman of the California Board of Prison Terms and advocated keeping hardened criminal in jail.
  Jim Nielsen, whose California State Assembly district includes Modoc and Siskiyou counties, is back in politics after an 18-year absence.
    His return to politics came after serious debate.
   “My wife and I prayed about it for three weeks … That’s how I make big decisions,” he said. “I realized I love the land and the people, and I love leadership. I love making a difference.”
   Nielsen said his doubts were erased seeing a working farmer flying an American flag on his equipment.
   “That’s who I’m doing it for, people who fly the American flag on their Harvesters,” Nielsen said.
   California’s term limit restrictions won’t affect his political future. He can serve six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, but he doesn’t see trying for another 14 years.
   “I am not looking beyond the six years in the Assembly,” Nielsen said.  
Nielsen wants rural voices to be heard     
   California Assemblyman Jim Nielsen believes rural voices must be heard in an ever-increasing urban state.
   As an assemblyman and senator, he claims the record of having represented more counties — 16, from Vallejo to Sacramento to the California-Oregon border — than any other California legislator.
   “That is the biggest problem, we don’t have the voters. We have to work a lot harder and expertly to be sure rural counties are represented,” he said.  
   Budget fight
   In the recently completed budget session, he said he successfully fought to prevent rural counties from losing highway tax payments, to retain funding for narcotics task forces, opposed proposals to charge counties to use state crime labs and helped prevent small hospitals — including the Modoc Medical Center in Alturas and Surprise Valley Hospital in Cedarville — from being forced to take 10 percent cuts in medical payments.
   He was disappointed the final budget eliminated payments for the Williamson Act, which helps farmers and ranchers to preserve agricultural lands through reduced property taxes. He’s already met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff to restore funding.  
   Nielsen has also revived his Rural Renaissance plan that he originally developed in the 1980s to provide economic incentives for agriculture- and resource-based economies in rural areas by providing enhanced Internet access.
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