Sen. Fischer provides updates on lake concessions, ag, internet issued

Sen. Fischer provides updates on lake concessions, ag, internet issued

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer stopped by the Gazette on Thursday. She provided updates on legislation she has been working on, including a wide variety of topics the farm bill, broadband connectivity, law enforcement staffing, defense, appropriations, and transferring management of lake home properties to local county governments.

Shary Skiles/McCook Gazette

McCook, Neb. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has allowed an extension on concessionaires contracts to give the Nebraska Congressional delegation more time to work on the transfer of management of Swanson Reservoir and Hugh Butler Lake concession areas to Hitchcock and Frontier counties where the lakes are located.

On recess from Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer told the Gazette Thursday that the Bureau allowed the extension on concessionaires contracts until February 2025.

She said her staff, as well as BOR staff, is working on language for a bill, which she hopes will be introduced after the August recess. She said there has been precedence in transferring management of federal land in a case in North Dakota, but that took several years to get through Congress. She is hopeful that this legislation will move faster, in part, because the Bureau is working together with the Nebraska delegation to accomplish the goal.

Before stopping at the Gazette, McCook city officials took Sen. Fischer on a tour of various projects in McCook, such as the expansion of the industrial park, the swimming pool, and the site of the Sports Complex. Theres a lot of exciting things happening here in McCook and thats nice to see for Nebraska, and especially for rural communities here in the state. And it ties in with some of the things were working on in Congress, Fischer said. She said federal programs like federal aviation authorization, the U.S. farm bill, and housing programs can help provide rural communities with tools that they need to grow and thrive.

The Farm Bill, up for renewal on Oct. 1, has been one of her top priorities. Sen. Fischer sits on the Agriculture Committee, one of six committees she serves on. Providing a strong crop insurance program for ag producers is a crucial element of the program. Another focus is streamlining disaster payments to expedite those funds to producers. She said the program also includes a bill dealing with precision agriculture, and another proposal contains a loan program that establishes loans through the USDA with lower interest rates to help small and medium-sized farmers access capital to upgrade technology. Conservation programs need to remain voluntary, not mandatory, for producers, so Sen. Fischer is dedicated to seeing that language be included in the bill.

Sen. Fisher said the current Farm Bill will probably have an extension as time is running out to meet the Oct. 1 deadline. Even so, she is confident that a strong, bipartisan bill will come out of the Ag Committee. Sen. Fischer told the Gazette that she recognizes the many struggles that ag producers face today from inflationary input costs, higher interest rates, and supply chain issues.

Sen. Fischer has also introduced legislation to expand broadband deployment that covers the last acre. She explained that the infrastructure bill, which she supported, focused on making sure communities and individual homes have broadband connectivity. As a result of that bill, $400 million has come to Nebraska to help expand broadband to underserved areas.

But precision agriculture utilizes technology in the field, and the Last Acre legislation would focus on expanding connectivity across farmland and ranch land. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.).

Sen. Fischer also introduced legislation to boost law enforcement hiring and retention. The Senate unanimously passed the bill which will allow law enforcement to use federal resources to reduce hiring costs, including background checks and psychological testing for applicants. The legislation also includes the creation of a new program to encourage voluntary partnerships between schools and police departments to foster a stronger local pipeline for law enforcement careers.

Sen. Fischer serves on six committees, more than any other senator. Four are policy committees: Agriculture, Armed Services, Appropriations, and Commerce. She also serves on the Rules Committee and the Ethics Committee. She credits her staff with keeping her informed about proposed legislation and how it relates to current law.

Through the Armed Services Committee, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act. Its the one big bill that Congress passes every year. I think thats a good story for people to hear – that we come together in a bipartisan way to meet our number one priority of the federal government, which is the national defense and security in this country. So thats important, Sen. Fischer said. The bill still needs to be reconciled with the House version through the conference committee.

She began serving on the Appropriations Committee at the beginning of this year because she wanted to see the Senate return to the established legislative process for considering and passing appropriation bills. She said the committee has reported all twelve appropriation bills to the full Senate, where they are waiting to be placed on the calendar for full Senate consideration and debate.

To me, thats just extremely important so taxpayers see debate, and they see how you vote on these issues, Sen. Fischer said. In the previous five years, appropriations bills have not been passed using the regular order legislative process, but rather a small group of senators decide what will be included in a huge omnibus bill. Thats why I wanted to be a part of the committee. Now it will be more open. Itll be more transparent. There will be more accountability.

Sen. Fischer went on to Cambridge, Arapahoe and Minden on Thursday.

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