SILVERTON — U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) recently swung through Shoshone County as part of his unincorporated cities tour across the state.
Senator Crapo previously held town meetings in all 200 of Idaho’s incorporated cities and is now moving onto the unincorporated ones.
His first stop of the day on Aug. 6 was at Good Samaritan Society — Silver Wood Village in Silverton.
The senator spent much of his time fielding questions from audience members and even set some time aside to speak on the Shoshone News-Press podcast, SNP NOW.
One of the first questions posed by the audience was regarding Crapo’s stance of the tariff situation with foreign countries.
“I have mixed feelings on the tariffs,” he said. “China has been badly abusing the United States, and frankly the rest of the world, for years now in global trade. They’ve been doing it by manipulating their currency, they’ve been doing it with prohibitive practices … where they have impacted through tariffs or other non-tariff anti-competitive actions the ability for free trade to truly work.”
The senator expressed his displeasure with many of the trade deals the United States has had in place in the past (ones such as NAFTA, to China and Europe) and supported President Donald Trump’s use of tariffs to renegotiate them.
“I believe that it was the right thing to do for the United States to say to Canada, Mexico, China and Europe (particularly) that their anti-competitive trade practices with us have to stop and we need to negotiate new agreements.”
In the wake of more mass shootings occurring in the country, the senator also expressed his thoughts on possible “red flag” gun laws that President Trump has said he would support.
“Depends on what is a ‘red flag’ gun law,” he said. “If it means that we should get better at identifying those who are mentally ill or who are otherwise in a dangerous place in their mind, then take action to stop them from being able to use firearms — that’s something that I think is a supportable proposition.”
Where Crapo expressed reluctance though is with what he sees as anti-gun advocates trying to use this legislation to enable the “wholesale confiscation of firearms without a full showing in a judicial proceeding that the person who’s firearms are being taken from them is mentally ill and dangerous.”
Ultimately, his support will depend how the decision is made and he will continue to support laws already on the books that limit firearm access to the mentally ill and criminals.
In the one-on-one interview with the News-Press, Crapo spoke about more hyper-local issues such as robocalls, internet privacy and Secure Rural School funding.
Shoshone County residents are just a small percentage of the population that deal with the headache that robocalls bring. If you have been lucky enough not to experience this, a robocall is a phone call that uses a computerized auto dialer to deliver a per-recorded message. These messages can say anything, but generally involve trying to sell something or scam whoever picked up the phone.
“Robocalls are exploding with the increases in technology and so forth that we’ve had,” Crapo said. “We’ve passed a few laws that have helped some … but we still haven’t stemmed the tide. We don’t have the ability to give people the right to say ‘no.’ I still believe people have the right to put themselves on a ‘no call’ list and have that list enforced.”
The senator added that he is currently working with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to introduce legislation that, if passed, would allow phone providers the authority to shut-off robocalls that they identify.
In another area that affects our privacy, Crapo said he is hoping to give Americans more rights when it comes to online privacy and data gathering.
“People are increasingly becoming aware, but quite frankly not aware enough, of how much data about their personal lives is being collected about them on the internet,” he said. “They (data gatherers) are getting to the point where they can actually manipulate your behavior and this has to be stopped. It’s gone beyond just advertising.”
Legislation he is currently working on would, if passed, force data gatherers to tell people when and what information is gathered on them, then allow the people the right to opt out.
“We need a national law that gives people rights (on this issue) and gives those who collect data obligations and frankly penalties for violations.”
The last issue the senator spoke about was SRS and forest management.
The Secure Rural Schools Act was initiated in 2000 and has provided consistent funding for more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests across the U.S.
These funds have been vital to the existence of rural schools (such as those in Shoshone County) and roads over the past 16 years.
During 2016, the forest revenue (in the form of SRS) received by Shoshone County and applied to county roads was approximately $1.8 million.
Unfortunately for the institutions that rely on this funding, SRS must be reauthorized after a certain amount of time has passed. Funding from SRS has also been declining over the years due in-part to declining timber sales.
“As people painfully know, SRS is one of these programs that has to be continuously fought through in Congress every year or two,” Crapo said. “That causes great problems for our counties and the people in them.”
Crapo said that he and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) working to fix the SRS system by establishing a trust fund for the counties.
“Instead of them (counties) having to go with their hand out, we’d have the federal government create a trust fund and then fund that trust fund with a variety of different sources, but not the least of which being timber revenue.”
With the one-two punch of the trust and increasing timber revenue, Crapo hopes that the fund would become self-sustaining and build the economy in timber-dependent communities.
“Within the next year, you are going to see a significant increase in timber activity.”
To listen to the full interview with Sen. Crapo, check out Episode 6 of SNP NOW at snpnow.buzzsprout.com or on your favorite pod catcher.