Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The House Rule Change on Selling Off Public Lands that Went Unnoticed

House Republicans on Tuesday changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring Federal lands to the States and other entities, a move that will make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede Federal control of Public lands.

The Provision, included as part as a larger rules package the House approved by a vote of 233 to 190 during its first day in Session, highlights the extent to which some Congressional Republicans hope to change longstanding rules now that the GOP will control the Executive and the Legislative branches starting Jan. 20th.

Under current Congressional Budget Office Accounting rules, any transfer of Federal Land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury, whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities, has a cost. If Lawmakers wanted to give such land to a State, Local Government or Tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow.

The language in the new Rules package would overturn that requirement, saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending, or increasing outlays.”

The immediate impact of the Rules change is that Lawmakers cannot raise a budgetary point of order if a Land Transfer bill comes to the floor. Under existing House rules, any measure that costs the U.S. Treasury money must be offset by either Budget cuts or a Revenue raising provision.

While the official GOP platform endorses the idea of transferring Federal land to the States, neither President-Elect Trump nor Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), his pick to Head the Interior Department, embrace that approach. Zinke quit his post as a GOP Convention Delegate this past summer over this issue, and Trump expressed opposition to the concept a year ago in an interview with Field & Stream magazine.

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