'Land Grab' Bill Passes House Committee
By Pat Taylor
July 26, 2001
(CNSNews.com) - The House Resources Committee passed the controversial Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) late Wednesday, after defeating every amendment that would have protected private property rights, water rights, and local control.
Private property rights advocates refer to CARA as the "Land Grab Bill." They believe it is the biggest threat to private property rights since the Endangered Species Act.
But the bill has many supporters, primarily because of what opponents call its huge "pork-barrel" aspect.
On Wednesday, CARA opponents proposed approximately 30 amendments during the six-hour debate over the bill, which guarantees $47 billion in federal funds over the next 15 years for the acquisition of private land and other government projects.
A solid block of Republican committee members voted in favor of virtually every amendment. But they were outvoted in almost every case by a solid block that consisted largely of Democrats, with three notable exceptions: Committee Chairman James Hansen (R-Utah); W.J. (Billy) Tauzin (R-La,), whose state stands to gain almost $5 billion - more than any state except California - if CARA becomes law; and Don Young (R-Alaska), who authored the bill.
An amendment that would have given federal agencies the option of using some of the funds for maintenance on lands already owned by the government also went down to defeat.
"You guys are just knee-jerk -- no, no, no -- no matter what it is," said a frustrated Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), one of the bill's leading opponents, as amendment after amendment was voted down.
"This is about land acquisition at any cost," said Pombo. "You want the federal government to buy as much land as you possibly can."
Pombo summed up the opposition to CARA. "I believe the federal government owns too much land now," he said. "If the government wants to buy more land, they should sell some and use the proceeds to buy more."
Pombo pointed out that the federal government already owns about a third of the nation's land, and more than half of the land in the Western states.
It appears that the bill's momentum may have slowed somewhat since the committee hearing was held June 20. At that time the bill had 223 cosponsors, and Young boasted that he would have more than 300 by the time the bill reaches the full House.
Since that time, only 12 more cosponsors have signed on.
"We hope that as members learn more and more about CARA, they will see more and more reasons not to sponsor the bill," said Pombo spokesman Doug Heye.
A date has not yet been scheduled for the full House to consider the bill.
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