(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TALKS WITH NEWSPAPER: McMorris Rodgers will focus on recovery, broadband and healthy forests…
Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been Washington’s 5th Legislative District U.S. House Representative since 2005. After results came in on Election Night showing that she would be serving a ninth term, the Kettle Falls native will now look to the future and work on the direction that the country is heading.
McMorris Rodgers talked with the Chewelah Independent about what she will be working on in the next two years, with priorities including timber management, broadband in rural areas, working on an economy recovering from COVID-19 and veteran affairs.
NE Washington has been a particular focus nationally when it comes to timber management. In the A-to-Z project which has seen more private thinning of public lands in the Colville National Forest, the area has served as a national pilot program.
McMorris Rodgers along with other elected officials have supported the A-to-Z project.
“I believe that larger and larger fires can be attributed to forests that are diseased and overgrown,” McMorris Rodgers said. “If people would go out and walk these forests, they would see it’s basically kindling out there.”
McMorris Rodgers pointed to local programs in the Colville National Forest that have occurred or will begin in Stevens County and even in the Chewelah area. McMorris Rodgers said that the A-to-Z projects are collaboritive efforts that bring many stakeholders to the table for timber management, including those in the timber industry and conservation groups.
“The results speak for themselves, thinning of trees has a better outcome,” McMorris Rodgers said.
The Congresswoman also pointed to Congress and President Trump changing funding structures so that federal agencies wouldn’t have to “borrow” money from their budget to fight fires but rather have money earmarked for firefighting.
“I will continue to work in the legislature to make stewardship for flexible and the work we have done is very encouraging,” McMorris Rodgers said.
McMorris Rodgers said that the country needs to return to the booming economy that was occurring before the pandemic began. She pointed to the pre-COVID economy that had seen record unemployment lows under Trump. She said the key was to have lower taxes, better trade deals and energy friendly legislation.
She said that CARES ACT monies have helped people protect their payrolls in this time of crisis and said that Congress needs to continue to work to ensure they are helping Main Street.
“They have run into hardship due to no fault of their own,” McMorris Rodgers said.
Last quarter’s financial report shows the U.S. would be growing at 33 percent annually, which is a record for the country. McMorris Rodgers said there is still progress that needs to be made in distributing CARES ACT money to those that need it most.
McMorris Rodgers said to help better the broadband in rural Amierca, one step was to update the FCC map of broadband which lists Stevens County 100 percent covered.
“That’s obviously not the case,” McMorris Rodgers said. “In March we passed a bill that President Trump signed towards funding and updating these broadband maps.”
McMorris Rodgers said money needs to be distributed better to areas that need it most when it comes to broadband.
“That’s why these maps are important because it shows where the need is,” she said.
McMorris Rodgers is also a supporter of television broadcasting’s “White Space” which are airwaves that could be used for speedy internet.
“It’s a lot less expensive than trying to hook up fiber to everyone’s home,” McMorris Rodgers said,
She also said that the permitting process needs to be more streamlined and quicker.
McMorris Rodgers, also the co-chair of the rural health caucus, said one focus is working in getting more doctor residencies in rural areas.
“We need to get more doctors in rural areas,” McMorris Rodgers said.
She added she would work to bring more primary care, OGBYN and physical therapy resources to Eastern Washington.
One thing coming from the CARES ACT was the support of telehelp during COVID-19. McMorris Rodgers said that the feedback was very positive and that this could also be a resource patients and doctors could use in the future.
She said she also worked on the Mission Act that allows veterans to seek care locally and not have to travel to their Veteran Administration Healthcare Provider.