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Liberty's Scorecard: Congress in 2003

By Peyton Knight
web posted January 12, 2004

Liberty's Scorecard is the American Policy Center's review of key pieces of federal legislation, taking stock of the wins and the losses of the previous year's efforts to protect America's sovereignty and other priorities.
H.R. 1146: The American Sovereignty Restoration Act

On July 15, 2003, the House of Representatives once again considered the weighty issue of whether or not the U.S. should continue to be a member of the United Nations. When word came that Congress would vote on adding Rep. Ron Paul's H.R. 1146 as an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, advocates of national sovereignty and American liberty sprang into action. Phone calls were made to Representatives, urging them to finally rid the U.S. of its most entangling alliance. In the end, however, far too many Representatives refused to listen to the pleas of their fellow Americans. The amendment was voted down, 350-74, However, progress was made. Twelve more Members voted to get the U.S. out of the U.N. than in the previous year! So while we're gaining ground, we still have a long way to go. LOSE.

H.R. 1427: National Heritage Areas Policy Act

This land rights disaster, sponsored by Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), would officially create a National Heritage Areas (NHA) program. If passed, it would only be a short matter of time before every county in the U.S. is a National Heritage Area. Greens in Congress have been trying unsuccessfully to pass this bill in one form or another for almost a decade. Property rights advocates have thwarted them year after year, though the land use Nazis continue to gain ground. Although there has only been a House version of H.R. 1427 up to now, that could very well change in 2004 as the Senate takes up the issue.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) seems to be taking up the Greens' pet cause. As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, he's requested the General Accounting Office (a federal investigative bureau) to gather information on Heritage Areas and issue a report. In a letter he wrote to the Director of the National Park Service, he said, "The National Heritage Areas program is here to stay. By working together, we can define the overall purpose of the program—where it is today and where we hope to see it going through the end of this decade." Well, Chairman Thomas. Allow us to answer your questions:

1. Purpose of NHA program? To place as much land, local land use planning and zoning under the control of the National Park Service and radical Green groups.

2. Where is the NHA program today? Many of the currently existing Heritage Areas are still siphoning tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to carry out their dirty work, despite "funding sunsets" that should have expired years ago. They can't become self-sufficient because there isn't the level of local support that proponents insist is there. So they continue to bleed an already cash-strapped Park Service that can't handle its current workload, let alone more Heritage Areas.

3. Where do we hope to see the NHA program going through the end of this decade? The way of the dodo bird, Jimmy Hoffa, and plaid leisure suits.

The Heritage Areas debate has grown more contentious than ever this year. The anti-property rights crowd is going to make a SERIOUS push to get the NHA Policy Act passed next year. We must remain vigilant and prepared to act. DRAW.

H.R. 280: To establish four new Heritage Areas and one National Historic Site

This massive land grab would devour property in several states by creating: The National Aviation Heritage Area in Ohio; The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area in Georgia; The Oil Region National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania; The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area in Massachusetts and Connecticut; and The Steel Industry National Historic Site in Pennsylvania.

This massive land and power grab would put affected counties under the control of the National Park Service and extreme Green groups. Heritage Areas are, in effect, Federal zoning. Federal money for Heritage Areas is administered through the National Park Service to radical preservation groups that are directed to preserve everything within the boundaries of the Heritage Area. In other words, the Park Service teams up with local Greens to take away property rights and to influence local zoning laws. Local citizens lose their influence over the land use decisions in their county.

Unfortunately, property rights advocates were unsuccessful in stopping this horrendous bill in the House of Representatives. However, we were successful in stopping it in the Senate—for now. As soon as next year's congressional session convenes, there promises to be a major battle over H.R. 280. Grassroots activists across the nation, especially those in the affected states, must make their voices heard! DRAW.

S. 139: The Climate Stewardship Act

This year was perhaps the worst year for the global warming scaremongers in recent history. The Kyoto Protocol is all but dead, the final nail in the coffin was delivered by the Russian Federation which backed out of its original promise to ratify the treaty. It seems more and more politicos are reviewing sound science and realizing that there is no convincing evidence that the global climate is even warming—let alone, warming at the hand of mankind. Even the data of the UN's own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a pseudo-scientific organization that exists solely to further the UN's global warming agenda, shows that the Kyoto Protocol would not be worth the destruction it would wreak on the world's economy.

Unfortunately, publicity-hounds John McCain and Joseph Lieberman continue to use the global warming issue to court the reliably hysterical media. They introduced S. 139 in 2003 and forced a full Senate vote on the issue. S. 139 would absolutely destroy the US economy by enacting "Kyoto" here in the U.S. It mandates that America reduce its "Greenhouse gas emissions" to year 2000 levels by 2010. The Senate rejected The Climate Stewardship Act by a count of 55 to 43. Though 43 votes in favor of such lunacy would normally be cause for serious alarm, it is important to note that the majority of those voting in favor of S. 139 likely did so because they knew the bill would not pass and therefore it was an opportunity to score cheap political points with the extremist Green lobby.

After S. 139 was defeated, Senator McCain vowed vengeance: "I want to assure my colleagues we will be back." However, one of the Senate's true heroes, Jim Inhofe (R-OK) had a more rational take on the vote: "A majority of the Senate today told the American people that mandatory carbon dioxide reductions are unacceptable, and rightly so. The science underlying this bill has been repudiated, the economic costs are far too high, and the environmental benefits are nonexistent." Sen. Inhofe has always been a consistent voice of reason on the global warming issue. We could use more Senators like him. WIN.

H.R. 2671: Clear Law Enforcement and Criminal Alien Removal Act (CLEAR Act)

There is perhaps no other current issue that is more infuriating and frustrating to Americans than the condition of our nation's borders and our government's schizophrenic immigration policy. Illegal immigration is, well, illegal, yet our federal government refuses to enforce the laws on the books. In fact, Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge would give criminal aliens blanket amnesty.

Enter Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) and his CLEAR Act. This bill directs State law enforcement entities to enforce federal illegal immigration laws, or lose federal funding. Very simple. Investigate, arrest, detain and remove illegal aliens or go hungry. Though only introduced in July of 2003, the CLEAR Act already has 112 cosponsors! Every single American who is concerned about the security and integrity of our nation must urge their Representatives to support and pass this bill. DRAW.

H.R. 7: Charitable Giving Act ("Faith-based Initiative")

The American Policy Center has long warned that the so-called "Faith-based initiative" (H.R. 7) is nothing but a federal Trojan Horse designed to allow government into the private practices of faith-based institutions. H.R. 7, however well intentioned, will spell disaster for private charities that accept federal money. These institutions will lose a great deal of their autonomy to a myriad of federal rules.

Liberal, non-faith-based groups are also trying to use H.R. 7 to score goodies for themselves. The Senate version of the "Charitable Giving Act" includes a provision that would allow wealthy land trusts and federal agencies to offer a 25% capital gains tax break to those who sell land to them. This tax break would not apply to any other land sales. This nasty provision would allow Green groups to corner the market on land sales, as no one else would be able to compete with them. Property values would plummet and more and more land would be locked up in Green and government hands.

Thankfully, the House version of the Charitable Giving Act includes no such provision for the multibillion-dollar land trusts. This is thanks in large part to Congressmen Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Wally Herger (R-CA) who have stood up to the slick Green lobby. The battle over this unfair tax favoritism for land trusts is sure to heat up early in 2004 as the House and Senate try and put forward a single bill. We were successful in keeping this horrid provision out of the House bill, and have even defied odds by making it a major point of contention between the two houses of Congress. The Senate provision for land trusts must NEVER pass. If it does, private property will be swallowed in gigantic swaths. DRAW.

Continuity of Government (COG) Amendment VS. "The Continuity in Representation Act"

Worried about what might happen should terrorists wipe out a substantial number of Representatives, some constitutionally-clueless members of Congress have devised a scheme called the Continuity of Government Amendment (COG) and appointed a commission to look into its viability. This amendment to the Constitution is a danger to elected representation as we know it. COG proposes that, if a substantial number of Members are either killed or incapacitated, then either Congress or state governors should be permitted to appoint people to fill vacancies!

The House of Representatives is the "People's House." Never in our nation's history—not once—has a non-elected House Member taken the oath of office. Our Founding Fathers specifically mandated replacement of deceased members by election—in order to maintain direct ties with the people.

Thankfully, Rep. James Sensenbrenner has a more constitutional, level-headed solution. Rep. Sensenbrenner has proposed H.R. 2844, "The Continuity in Representation Act." This bill "requires States to hold special elections to fill vacancies in the House of Representatives not later than 21 days after the vacancy is announced by the Speaker of the House of Representatives in extraordinary circumstances." In other words: H.R. 2844 ensures that the "People's House" remains just that!

Proponents of the COG Amendment had hoped to vote on it sometime around the symbolic date of September 11th of 2003. However, we were successful in beating them back for the time being. Nevertheless, 2004 will likely see a resurgence of the issue. It is therefore important that all concerned patriots let Congress know that the COG Amendment stinks, and "The Continuity in Representation Act" is the way to preserve constitutional order. DRAW.

Peyton Knight is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. © American Policy Center 2004

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