My Legislative Wish List

My U.S. Congressman, Randy Weber, is on a mission.

He recently introduced legislation that would permanently end tax credits for renewable biofuels made with animal fats. Thank goodness!

When the governrnment introduced such tax credits in 2006, it inadvertently upended a previously harmonious market whereby soap and cleaning supply companies purchased animal fats at what they deemed to be reasonable prices. The tax credits opened a new market for animal fats, which soared in price by more than 100% since 2006. Something had to be done!

But nothing will happen. The bill has a mere 2% chance of passing because it strikes a chord with almost no one.

I’m not a fan of tax credits in general, or any use of the tax code to encourage or discourage behavior.

We already have a system for that, it’s called legislation.

But Rep. Weber’s bill, H.R. 1866: Stop Animal Fat Tax Credits Act of 2017, makes little sense.

There’s almost no reason to go after something that caused a $299 million problem in a $61 billion industry that most Americans don’t care about. Except, of course, that less than 10 miles from me, as a crow flies, are chemical plants, and I’m guessing Weber will beat those constituents over the head with his unpassed bill.

The sad part is that Weber had to know ahead of time it wouldn’t pass, and yet spent his time on it anyway.

There are better things on which a U.S. Congressman should focus. Why not propose legislation on which Americans agree? It’s not that hard to find such items…

Background Checks – 84% of Americans agree that anyone buying a gun, be it from an authorized dealer, at a gun show, or anywhere else, should go through a background check. And 75% of National Rifle Association members agree with such checks. Yet lobbyists have such a stranglehold on Washington, such legislation never makes it to the floor.

Immigration Reform for Minors – This is a hot topic, but the core issue isn’t controversial. 87% of Americans believe illegal immigrants brought to the country as minors should have a path for remaining here. This doesn’t mean people agree on citizenship, or chained migration, it simply means that most Americans think a 4-year-old who grew up in the U.S., brought here illegally by his parents, should get a break.

Medical Marijuana – 86% of Americans support prescribing marijuana for medical purposes. No one has ever overdosed on the drug, and it has widely acclaimed uses for seizures, glaucoma, and muscle pain, although studies are scarce because the U.S. governrnment classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, just like heroin and LSD, and more restrictive than the classification of opioids that have swept the nation.

Eliminating Mandatory Sentences for Non-Violent Offenses – 77% of Americans want to give judges more leeway when it comes to sentencing non-violent offenders. Mandatory sentences have stuffed our prisons with such inmates, with little sign of reforming them. Instead, we seem to be introducing them to seminars on how to be repeat criminals.

But, no, my representative doesn’t focus on anything where we have broad agreement.

And I think I know why.

Bringing up non-controversial topics doesn’t get you re-elected.

In the days leading up to the governrnment shutdown, as well as during the shutdown itself and the immediate aftermath, I heard politicians and pundits rail continuously about what this means for the 2018 mid-term elections.

Will voters know who to blame? Will they forget who they blamed?

I would think that at some point we have to get on with actually running the country, but recent history has proven me wrong.

Every election is followed by a spate of self-congratulatory speeches by the winning party about their mandate to change the nation, and hand-wringing by the losers who vow to fight to the death. Then they both beat on controversial topics where the nation is split almost evenly, and talk about the next election.

Maybe that’s why there’s one more area on which Americans widely agree that will never make it to the floor of the house or senate – term limits. 74% of Americans want to make sure that no one becomes a career politician, which is clearly at odds with the goal of every politician.

Maybe I can convince my congressman to introduce a new bill fashioned after President Trump’s administrative directive on regulations. The president requires any agency that proposes a new regulation to recommend two regulations that can be eliminated.

For Congress, any bill on a topic with less than 60% approval must include another topic on which more than 75% of us agree.

I have no idea if this would work, but it might move us in the right direction of getting things done.

Rodney Johnson