By: Katherine Trowbridge
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers made a stop in Connell on Tuesday, March 14 where she joined a variety of community members and leaders at a roundtable discussion in the NFSD Board Room. McMorris-Rodgers expressed this is new territory to the 5th district as redistricting moved our area from the 4th Congressional District into the 5th just in time for the last election season.
McMorris-Rodgers expressed she is the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a new assignment for her and she is really excited about it. “The issues in this committee are some that are at the forefront of research in Washington. Certainly, issues around energy, affordability, reliability, and so we have been working on a package of energy bills. The energy crisis has been one of the biggest drivers of inflation. When you think about gas, diesel, homes across the globe. . . We’re putting together a package of energy bills. . . focused on bringing down energy prices and unleashing American energy security, supply chains...” McMorris-Rodgers said she believes “there is a role for wind and solar, we also need hydropower and we can actually double hydropower in America without building the new dam. Only 3% of the dams produce hydropower and certainly for us in Washington State where 70% of our electricity is hydropower. Protecting our dams will continue to be a priority for me, it’s critical energy infrastructure that was put in place decades ago and we build a lot around that. That’s been the driver of agriculture, barging product up and down the river's flow, low cost electricity so that will continue to be a focus.”
McMorris-Rodgers moved on to discuss our border and the fentanyl crisis. She has worked on legislation to permanently schedule fentanyl and fentanyl related substances as illegal in the United States. She shared that it is shocking how much fentanyl has come into this country just in the last couple of years. Sharing that while fentanyl is outlawed in China there are over 160,000 chemical plants there that are producing the raw ingredients, making their way to Mexico and the cartels. and from there into the U.S. and all around the world. Her committee also gets into telecommunications and technology, holding big tech accountable. They are also working on closing the digital divide. McMorris-Rodgers gave opportunity for those gathered to share what their issues are and how she can help.
Jim Jacobs, NFSD Superintendent, spoke further on the digital divide and how COVID highlighted that divide. He also addressed our rural area and how that plays into the digital issue with areas that just don’t receive signals. Jacobs shared that this is not only an issue with the internet but also with radios for the school district and first responders. He said there’s places cell phones won’t reach as well. The discussion moved to what is being done like the PUD working with companies to bring internet but what may work for the populated cities doesn’t work for us. McMorris-Rodgers stated it may be time to reach out to the state broadband office and get on their radar.
Other topics of concern included the dams and salmon runs and a study Bevon Davis is doing on the topic, The City of Connell looked at the energy issues and solar and wind projects and how the Governor’s committee can override the city’s preferences.
On the policing side of things, Undersheriff Monty Huber and Connell Police Chief Chris Lee both shared concern with the laws that tie their hands and let criminals off. Huber spoke further on the fentanyl crisis and how Franklin County is in desperate need of some sort of detox facility. Chief Lee said, “It is very difficult for us to police in this state, we can’t pursue people. The stricter we are on a national level, the better for us... It’s a slow erosion of our abilities to do our job.” McMorris-Rodgers stated, “America believes in the rule of law. In America self-governance leads to responsibility and freedom. There has to be law and justice.” Eric Mauseth spoke to the wildland fire issues and how they are trying to do what they can with less volunteers. Ben Cochrane echoed everything that had been said, adding that Congresswoman Perez of WA on the Ag Committee could learn that it is not just her district that is affected by her decisions but her whole state. Cochrane spoke on crop insurance, the world food supply with the world on edge, and irrigation with the Odessa Aquifer not going to last forever.
Terry Utecht also echoed what was said adding the issue of Fentanyl is reaching our schools and it needs to be fixed. Jamie Utecht spoke about the cutbacks in SNAP food stamps and how one person she serves through the food bank was cut from $1400 to $400 per month with six kids. Utecht said, “It’s a struggle for people.”
Mr. Bauman expressed, “This is America at its best, right here. Law enforcement, educators, we’ve got the press right here, and a friendly press . . .,” He went on to speak about the Columbia Basin Project as one of the best investments America made in itself, giving this desert life. His issues included a lack of qualified people to do the work and the cost of citizenship.
McMorris-Rodgers traveled from Connell to Ritzville for a farm bill meeting and continued her tour of the district. Her local office is located in the Spokane area and you can contact them with concerns or issues at anytime through email at: https://mcmorris.house.gov/contact