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From U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, Oregon, 1/4/11


Happy New Year! I hope you were able to spend a little time with loved ones over the holidays.

We’re finally just one day away from the swearing in of the 112th Congress. As I’ve told you in recent newsletters, the morning after Election Day I organized a team of 22 lawmakers to re-write the rules that govern how the House of Representatives operates and scour the operations on Capitol Hill for inefficiencies.

The effort was unprecedented both in terms of its size and inclusiveness, with newly elected members and Democrats giving their input. We received suggestions from thousands of Americans who submitted their ideas through the transition team’s website.

We approached the challenge of reforming a centuries-old institution with a simple premise: for too long, both parties have run Congress the wrong way. The backroom deals, the rushed multi-thousand page bills, and the explosion in spending borrowed money happened too frequently under the leadership of both parties.

Reforms for Congress

In December, we unveiled our new rules for Congress. They include the following reforms:

  • Require all bills be posted online in a searchable format for at least three days before receiving a vote on the House floor. No longer will bills be dropped in the middle of the night and voted on the next day.
  • Require that all bills include a citation of constitutional authority so that Congress respects the limits imposed on it by our founding document.
  • To begin to control the explosion in spending, we’re clamping down on the budgetary sleight-of-hands that hide spending beyond the first ten-year window of a bill (like the health care bill passed into law last year). Any legislation that is projected to increase the deficit by more than $5 billion in any single 10-year window out to 50 years will be subject to a point of order.
  • A new “Cut-Go” rule requiring any suspension bill that increases authorizations or creates new programs make equal or greater cuts elsewhere.
  • A new legislative calendar to ensure that members will be back home listening to their constituents for at least one week each month.
  • Ending the practice of passing "comprehensive" or "omnibus" bills that package unrelated legislation together in an effort to avoid public scrutiny.
  • Require all committees to webcast their hearings and markups and make them available online. They will have to post votes, adopted amendments, and committee rules online so all Americans can see what their Congress is working on.

With these and more reforms in place, Americans will be able to watch the new majority fight to permanently end the threat of job-killing tax hikes and end the wasteful Washington binge.

For a full summary of the new changes to the rules governing how the House operates, click here.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal editorial board had to say about the new rules (you can read their full editorial here):

“House Republicans are pledging to cut spending, and one early sign they're serious is the rules package they are bringing to the House floor tomorrow. More than the last time it held power, the GOP is changing the rules to make it harder to tax and spend.”

The five percent cut – just a start

Last night, we introduced - and posted online - the text of a resolution to reduce the operating budgets of House committees, leadership offices, and individual member offices. A key recommendation of the House transition team, these five percent budget cuts will save taxpayers an estimated $35 million in the first year alone.

The House is expected to take up the measure on Thursday. Further cost savings are expected to be announced throughout the 112th Congress.

In our Pledge to America, Republicans promised to cut spending, and with this measure we are leading by example. While only a first step, these cuts provide real savings for the American people and demonstrate our commitment to ending the culture of spending here in Washington.

This $35 million serves as just the first installment of savings produced by the new majority, and our work to provide oversight and ferret out waste here in the House will continue throughout the 112th Congress.”

New role as chairman of the communications and technology subcommittee

As I wrap up my responsibilities as the chairman of the transition team, I’m tackling a new role as the chairman of the communications and technology panel on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and telecommunications policy spanning the Internet, broadcast, radio, wire, and satellite.

Communications and technology related industries support nearly 10,000 jobs in Oregon’s Second District, and more than 50,000 statewide.

As we've seen from the establishment of Google in The Dalles, the new Facebook project in Prineville, the first cell tower in Fossil, and a long list of other projects in the state, communications and technology play a critical role in the economy and quality of life in rural Oregon.

These are industries that play a major role in the health of the state’s economy and, with the correct policies in place, hold promise for private sector growth and new jobs for Oregonians. The challenge of delivering high-speed Internet, broadband, and technological capabilities to communities and schools all across rural America and Oregon will be handled in this subcommittee.

Billions of dollars have been allocated to expand broadband in unserved and underserved areas across the country. With that much money going out so quickly, taxpayers need to know how it’s being spent and what they’re getting for it. We will conduct oversight on those expenditures and will also review the existing regulatory policies and new regulations under consideration by various agencies.

Energy and communications policy expert Ray Baum joining my staff

I was delighted to formally announce last week that Ray Baum, a longtime Oregon public servant, will provide a very helpful hand in my new role as chairman of the subcommittee as my senior policy advisor on communications, technology, and energy issues.

Ray has a wealth of experience. A native of La Grande, he was elected to the Oregon legislature in 1988 where he later served as Majority Leader. Baum was appointed chairman of the Oregon Public Utility Commission by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), a position which he will step down from on Jan. 16 to assume his new role in Washington, D.C.

Ray brings a thorough understanding of communications and energy policies as they affect the marketplace and consumers. With roots in eastern Oregon, he fully appreciates what we face in the rural areas of the state and nation when it comes to making sure we're not left off the high-tech highway.

Having served together in the Oregon Legislature, I know how much Ray cares about people and public service and how effective he is at moving good policy forward.  As my senior policy advisor, Ray will work on communications and energy oversight and legislation with an eye toward helping me cut government waste, reduce costs, and grow private sector jobs.

A simple fix at Bowman Dam to create new jobs in Prineville

What’s wild and scenic about a dam?

That’s a question residents of central Oregon have been asking since it was discovered that the boundary line for the 17.8-mile long Crooked River Wild and Scenic River Area in Crook County runs right down the middle of Bowman Dam.

In recent years utility companies have expressed desire to build a small-scale hydropower facility at the base of the dam that could create dozens of construction jobs and create enough carbon free energy to power 4,500 homes.

The catch, of course, is that you can’t build new hydropower projects in wild and scenic areas.

BLM officials have admitted that the dam’s inclusion is likely a drafting error. There’s no commonsense explanation for putting the dam in the protected area.

To fix the problem, Congress needs to pass a law. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll introduce a bill to redraw the wild and scenic boundary just below the dam.

Moving the boundary line is a no-cost solution to taxpayers that would lead directly to much-needed new jobs and economic development in Crook County.

And the small-scale hydropower project would not affect the flow of water to fish downstream.

Additionally, part of the legislation would allow the city of Prineville to utilize 5,100 acre feet of water needed to meet future growth needs and allow it to attract new job-creating business opportunities like that of Facebook, which recently came to Prineville.

Currently, there is around 80,000 acre feet of unallocated water in Prineville Reservoir. The 5,100 acre feet for Prineville represents a small fraction — just two basketballs’ worth of water flowing per minute — and will help create jobs and improve business opportunities.

The extra allocation for Prineville will not impact the flow of water downstream for fish.

Crook County’s unemployment rate of 19.2 percent is the highest in the state.

Prineville should have the necessary tools to assist in creating jobs and new economic opportunities. This small amount of water will help do just that.

That’s all for now. Have a great week. 

Best regards,
Greg Walden
U.S. Representative
Oregon’s Second District

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              Page Updated: Friday January 07, 2011 03:28 AM  Pacific

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