WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015 – With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House today passed legislation that includes a two-year extension of a program that provides assistance for schools, law enforcement, and infrastructure in rural forested communities that lack a tax base to adequately fund such activities.
The extension was included in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2), which contains reforms for how doctors are paid under Medicare and reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The bill was approved in a 392-37 vote.
Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said he would have preferred a permanent fix, but a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program will still be helpful for forested counties.
“What we’re doing today is providing a lifeline to our schoolchildren in classrooms in rural counties that are forested under federal land, and making sure law enforcement have the resources they need,” Walden said. “This will even protect some counties [in Oregon] from going bankrupt because of lack of management and activity on our federal lands,”
The two-year extension now goes to the Senate. The provision falls under forest reform policy approved twice by the House last year, but the Senate never voted on a reform plan of its own.
In a speech after the passage of the bill, Walden said President Barack Obama has committed to signing the bill and urged expedient action by the Senate. Speaking from the House floor, Walden pledged action to find a permanent solution for reform to federal forest policy, but in the meantime he said the Senate “must pass this lifeline right away.”
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