The 111th Congress, with the strongest Democratic majority in years, was seated on January 6 and already the body is at work on legislation of significant importance to landowners nationwide.
Some lawmakers want to roll back rules put in place by the Bush Administration. Others want Obamaâ€™s White House to put more money into land and less into tax breaks as a means to boost the economy.
Hereâ€™s a rundown on several key legislators and their committees â€” all of whom are worth watching as the year progresses. A complete review of the key players will beÂ featured asÂ the cover story ofÂ the Spring 2009Â Land Report.
COMMITTEE: Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
RETURNING CHAIR: Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico
RANKING REPUBLICAN: Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico
BATTLE LINES: Though heâ€™s an advocate of â€œgreenâ€ policies, Bingaman hasÂ introduced a $10 billion legislative package that bundles 160 different bills into a single proposal. A single proposal that runs 1,300 pages long, that is. The Omnibus Lands Management Act seeks to capitalize on the new weakness of Senate Republicans, who have blocked some of the 160 measures it contains.
COMMITTEE: Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
RETURNING CHAIR: Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.Â
RANKING REPUBLICAN: Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia
BATTLE LINES: We know this: There wonâ€™t be a fight over President-Elect Obamaâ€™s choice of agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack. Harkin has already thrown his support behind Vilsack, a fellow Iowan, and Harkinâ€™s committee will hold Vilsackâ€™s confirmation hearings.
COMMITTEE: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
RETURNING CHAIR: Barbara Boxer, D-California.
RANKING REPUBLICAN: James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma
BATTLE LINES: Boxer, like Harkin, also will ask the Obama Administration to ramp up spending to boost the economy. In particular, sheâ€™ll seek more funds for waterway projects.
COMMITTEE: House Committee on Energy and Commerce
NEW CHAIR: Henry Waxman, D-California.
RANKING REPUBLICAN: Joe Barton, R-Texas
BATTLE LINES: Waxman toppled Dingell in part because he promised to push for stricter laws on greenhouse gas emission. That may mean a crackdown on coal producers, whom Waxman has targeted in previous legislation.
COMMITTEE: House Committee on Natural Resources
RETURNING CHAIR: Nick Rahall, West Virginia.
RANKING REPUBLICAN: Doc Hastings, R-Washington
BATTLE LINES: Though his party is now fully in charge of Congress and the White House, Rahall may still have a fight on his hands with Rep. Waxman on coal (see above) as well as with the outgoing Bush Administration.
COMMITTEE: House Committee on Agriculture
RETURNING CHAIR: Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota.
RANKING REPUBLICAN: Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia.
BATTLE LINES: Just a year into his chairmanship, Peterson led the charge in the House to buck President Bushâ€™s second veto of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, aka, the Farm Bill. In the current Congress, Peterson will be called on to press for more regulation of commodity futures markets, which have been extremely volatile in the current recession.