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View From the Capitol - Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's Newsletter for the Week of March 10-14, 2014

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Good Day,

This week, the House passed several important pieces of legislation including a bill to protect communities served by volunteer fire departments, another to support Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory reform to better serve small farmers and ranchers, and still others to require that the President observe and respect the laws passed by Congress.

The Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act, H.R. 3979, addresses a provision in the President's health care law requiring all businesses with at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees to provide employer-sponsored insurance. Unfortunately, the IRS has categorized volunteer firefighters as employees, which would make it cost prohibitive for many small fire protection districts to stay in operation. The simple fact is that many smaller communities in Missouri's Fourth Congressional District and elsewhere throughout the country rely on volunteer fire departments for fire protection and emergency medical services.

It is vital we keep them open. That is why we passed legislation to explicitly exempt volunteer fire departments. The International Association of Fire Chiefs has warned that more than 780,000 volunteer firefighters could be subject to the health law's rules, leading to volunteer fire departments closing or severely curtailing their emergency response activities. Our bill will ease the concerns of many of our citizens in smaller communities across Missouri and the country.

The House also approved a bill this week to push back on the EPA's new regulations forcing small farmers and ranchers to make costly infrastructure improvements to oil storage containers. Their onerous new regulations require these farmers and ranchers to construct a containment structure around above-ground oil tanks, which must retain 110 percent of the maximum stored oil capacity. This requirement applies to most farmers and ranchers across the country, including small-scale producers who simply cannot afford it.

I was proud to co-sponsor the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship Act or FUELS Act, H.R. 311, to address and solve this problem. Our bill modifies the exemption level to be more reflective of a producer's spill risk and financial resources. In addition, it places a greater degree of responsibility on the farmer or rancher to self-certify compliance, instead of having to hire professional engineers. A University of Arkansas report estimates this will save the agriculture community up to $3.36 billion in compliance costs. It is a common-sense bill that I urge the Senate to act on quickly.

On another matter, the House acted this week to require the Executive Branch of our government to respect the laws that have been passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The Faithful Execution of the Law Act, H.R. 3973, would require the Attorney General to report to Congress regarding the implementation of any policy that results in the failure or refusal of any federal official to enforce a law or final court ruling. My colleagues and I also approved the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law Act or the ENFORCE the Law Act, H.R. 4138. It authorizes Congress to bring civil action against a President or other federal official who implements a policy to refrain from enforcing, applying, or administering any federal law. We do not live in a dictatorship. Laws passed by Congress must be respected by all Americans -- including the President and federal officials. I call on the Senate to follow the lead of the House in passing these laws to require that Executive Branch actions do not violate the Constitution of the United States.

Finally, I met this week with Brigadier General John J. Elam, Commander of the 102nd Training Division (Maneuver Support) at Fort Leonard Wood. We had a very good discussion regarding the state of the Army Reserves and the importance of a strong Reserve component force as part of the Total Army mix.

I very much appreciated Brigadier General Elam's visit. We share the strong desire to meet our current challenges and to maintain military readiness during a difficult budget environment. I am very proud of the work Brigadier General Elam and others at Fort Leonard Wood are doing to help us accomplish this goal.

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