Washington — U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden, ranks as one of the most reliably and solidly conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives.
It’s true that his 2013 rating by the American Conservative Union slipped to 88 — down from a perfect 100 in 2012 — but that’s still considerably to the right of the average House Republican. And he was among the dozen tea-party types from the House who huddled with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in Cruz’s office last summer to plot how to push the House immigration bill further rightward.
So it’s something of a surprise that he wound up in the crosshairs — pun intended — of Americans for Prosperity, the political organization financed by the billionaire Koch brothers that backs conservative candidates and causes nationwide.
The culprit is HR5069, the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014. The relatively succinct measure provides for an increase in the price of “migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps” — aka duck stamps — to $25 a year. The current price of $15 was adopted in 1991.
Hunters are required to buy the stamps to shoot ducks, geese, swans or brant (a kind of goose). The money collected from the sale of the stamps goes to federal conservation of habitat for the birds. Since the debut of the duck stamp program in 1934, it has generated more than $900 million for the protection of more than 6 million acres. The competition to design the stamps is spirited, and the stamps are collectors’ items.
Fleming is the lead sponsor of HR5069, and the bill has drawn broad bipartisan support as well as the endorsement of both conservation and hunting organizations. But that’s not good enough for AFP.
The price hike would bring in an additional $120 million a year, increasing federal-government bloat, AFP said in a blog post. And when it comes to land management, the feds are simply incompetent, the organization said. So it announced it would “key-vote” the bill, meaning those who supported it on the House floor would get dinged in AFP’s own ratings.
The bill ended up passing the House earlier this month on a voice vote, meaning the yeas and nays were not recorded and AFP couldn’t issue demerits. But Fleming’s name is on the bill; in fact, it’s the first stand-alone bill with him listed as lead sponsor to pass the House since he took office in 2009, although he has put forth other measures that were incorporated in broader bills receiving approval.
HR5069 has moved to the Senate, where it may slide through without objection in the lame-duck session — no pun intended — and go to the White House for signature. But in 2012, a similar proposal ran afowl of conservative Republicans in the Senate who objected that it violated spending limitations adopted in budget agreements, and that legislation died.
Louisiana receives more than it gives
When it comes to federal grants, Louisiana is living large.
That’s the conclusion of a recent report from the National Priorities Project, a Massachusetts nonprofit that dissects the federal budget.
For the 2012 fiscal year, the $11.5 billion in federal grants to the Louisiana state government amounted to 44 percent of the total state budget, a share second only to that of Mississippi and well above the average of 31.6 percent for all of the states, the report said. That’s the equivalent of $2,492 in federal grants per person in Louisiana, which ranks sixth among the states; the nationwide figure is $1,688, the report said.
But the living is maybe not so large in East Carroll Parish.
The New York Times reported this summer that East Carroll ranks as one of the 10 “hardest places to live” in the U.S. That’s based on consideration of six statistical measures: education level (reflected in the percent of residents with a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity.
Six of the 10 counties or parishes at the bottom of the rankings are in eastern Kentucky, with the other four in the rural South. The South and Appalachia fare poorly in the rankings in general.
At the other end of the scale, six of the 10 highest-ranking counties lie in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Gregory Roberts is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @GregRobertsDC.