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Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. Mr. Chair, the bill that the House is considering contains a very troubling provision. It would place a $5,000 fee on anyone who wants to protest a lease of federal lands.
The language in this legislation is very clear: it refers to this as a ``protest fee'' and it costs $5,000. Clearly, a $5,000 fee places a higher burden on citizens who might seek to delay or prevent oil and gas development.
Mr. Chair, my colleagues are well aware that the first amendment says that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
This fee violates that most basic freedom and it violates the spirit of the first amendment. My amendment, Number 13, offered by Mr. Connolly of Virginia as my designee, would fix that.
I am not a lawyer Mr. Chair, but I have experience in non-violent protest. I have experience in petitioning the government over a grievance. And I believe this provision is unconstitutional.
I have seen firsthand the power of the first amendment--The power of protest. My experience has taught me that this is our sacred right as Americans. It is a protection from oppression. It is a protection from tyranny and injustice. On more than one occasion, my friends and I put our lives in its care for what we believe. We must protect that right.
In the past three years there have been members of this body who have protested the policies of the administration. While I disagree with them on many issues, I deeply respect their right to peacefully and non-violently protest. Some of them may be new to protest but I know that every member of the Tea-Party Caucus will support my amendment.
Mr. Chair, the ability to protest was the foundation of our country. Protest has shaped and reshaped our society. Again and again. If the courts review this policy, we should make clear that this provision should not stand. I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this amendment.