Helium bill floats “Secure Rural Schools Program” for another year

Secure Rural Schools program invested over $400,000 in Grays Harbor County in 2012

WASHINGTON D.C. – A bill meant to prevent a worldwide helium shortage will also keep a federal subsidy to timber-dependent counties afloat for another year.

The Federal Helium Program, which provides about 42 percent of the nation’s helium, was set to shut down Oct. 7th. The Senate passed the bill Thursday, a day after the House. Attached to that bill was an extension of the Secure Rural Schools Program.

Twenty-Seven Washington counties will receive $22 million through the extension, counties in 41 states will receive an estimated $329 million total.

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  • Senate Passes Extension of Cantwell-Championed Rural Schools, Roads Program

    Secure Rural Schools program invested over $400,000 in Grays Harbor County in 2012

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate passed an extension of a key program championed by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that is critical for roads and schools in Washington state’s forest-dependent counties. The bill, as amended by the Senate and approved on Thursday by a 97-2 margin, would extend the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program.


    Cantwell called for the program’s extension during a March committee hearing and has long been a leader on continuing SRS payments to rural counties across Washington state and the nation.


    SRS helps compensate counties for revenue lost from declining U.S. Forest Service timber harvests on federal lands near forest communities. The Senate bill would extend SRS for one year and invest $263 million into the program. The legislation now heads to the House for a vote. Unless the House acts, counties will not receive any support from SRS this calendar year.

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  • Federal Definitions Could Smolder Roll-Your-Own Legislation

    OLYMPIA, Wash. – As Washington’s Revenue Department prepares to clamp down on about 60 Roll-Your-Own Tobacco stores statewide, proposed federal legislation could squash the loophole used by the rolling-machine stores across the nation.

    Kelsy Tikka from U-Count Tobacco in Aberdeen has been watching two key bills “they’re trying very carefully, to slip it through without anybody noticing, to get the wording of what a manufacturer is. [If] they change it federally, it will shut all these businesses down through the states.”
    The Secure Rural Schools amendment added to a U.S. Senate transportation bill would categorize retailers providing roll-your-own machines to customers as “mainstream cigarette manufacturers” for federal tax purposes.
    If that doesn’t make it, House Resolution 4134, would amend the definition of a tobacco manufacturer to include “any person who for commercial purposes makes available for consumer use a machine capable of producing tobacco products,” HR4134 is in committee.

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  • U.S. House could vote this week on “Healthy Forests” bill to increase logging of federal forest lands

    PORTLAND, Ore. – Legislation that would greatly increase logging on public land could be on the U.S. House floor by Friday.
    Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings tells KBKW “The Healthy Forests Act would allow for more economic activity on federal timber land. After all federal timber lands were designed to be multiple use, but over the years – as you in Southwestern Washington know – timber harvests have declined.”
    HR 1526 would also exempt some timber sales from federal environmental laws that Hastings said have tightened the choker on logging. “Principally in the Northwest it’s because of the Endangered Species Act – and the spotted owl specifically. But in other parts of the country it has been regulations and red tape that has essentially caused timber harvests nationwide in the last 30 years to decline by some %80. – more in the Northwest.”
    Opponents of the measure say it could bring back clear cutting, and would incentivize local jurisdictions to liquidate their forests.
    Hastings said he expected bipartisan support for the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. If it passes the House floor, it would move to the Senate for review.
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