Policy Update, January 2017

Policy Update, January 2017

The 2017 calendar year is already off to a busy start. For a calendar of legislative sessions in our member states and islands, please see our CWSF calendar. 

This month’s policy update focuses on the convening of the 115th Congress and the commencement of President Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Term. 

115th Congress

The 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017 and is already off to a speedy start. New members include seven Senators and over 50 House of Representative members. The Republican party controlled chambers have noted a number of items that they hope to address in the opening months of 2017. Included in that list are repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, repealing numerous federal regulations promulgated under the President Obama administration, considering infrastructure reform, addressing federal appropriations, and in the Senate, completing the confirmation process for President Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) were both re-elected to their leadership posts in the lower chamber. Senate leadership elections were held late last year with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) securing a second term while Senate Democrats elected Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to Minority Leader, replacing retired Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Additional leadership roles in the House and Senate can be found here and here.

Both the House and Senate are slated to spend more time in DC this year with the Senate tentatively planning for approximately 37 weeks and the House scheduled for roughly 35 weeks. The House calendar can be found here and the tentative Senate calendar here.

House and Senate Committee Assignments

Information on House and Senate committee assignments continues to be made available as the new Congress becomes organized. In late December, Senate Democrats released their full Senate committee assignments. Senate Republican leadership released their membership rosters for the full committees in early January 2017. Subcommittee assignments have not yet been released. The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry has added Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) with no other changes to Western senator representation on the committee. There are no changes to Western representation on the full Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has gained Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The House of Representatives committee information is being released periodically. The House Committee on Agriculture welcomes Republican Representatives Don Bacon (NE-2) and Roger Marshall (KS-1) and Democratic Representatives Tom O’Halleran (AZ-1) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20). The Committee majority and minority party press releases can be found here and here. House Agriculture subcommittee information is not yet available. The full House Committee on Appropriations has added Representative Pete Aguilar (CA-20) to the Democrats roster. Republican membership on the full Committee and the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee have not changed. Democratic membership on the Appropriations subcommittees is not yet available. The House Committee on Natural Resources welcomes Republican Representatives Liz Cheney (WY-AL), Steve Pearce (NM-02) and Scott Tipton (CO-03) and Democratic Representatives Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01), Nanette Barragan (CA-44) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20). The Committee majority and minority party press releases can be found here and here. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) has been elected to serve as Ranking Member to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

New Administration

On January 20, President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States of America. The new Administration plans for a busy first 100 days with issues such as healthcare, infrastructure improvement, energy policies, repealing Obama Administration regulations, trade, etc. having been indicated thus far.

As part of President Trump’s White House cabinet, Montana Representative Ryan Zinke has been nominated to be the Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Most recently, former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue has been nominated to be the USDA Agriculture Secretary, completing President Trump’s cabinet level selections. As part of the confirmation process, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held its nomination hearing of the Honorable Ryan Zinke on January 17, 2016. The archived webcast can be found here. A confirmation hearing in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry for USDA Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue has not yet been scheduled.

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) submitted a Presidential Transition Plan that highlights the numerous benefits that the nation’s trees and forests provide to the American people along with recommendations to the new Administration and Congress. NASF touts trees and forests as America’s fundamental infrastructure, calls attention to the critical importance of state forestry agencies, and addresses the need for active management to improve and sustain forest health across our landscapes.