Fulcher hears concerns in trip through region

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher, right, and his regional director Tim Kastning, paid a visit to Sandpoint Tuesday on their trip through North Idaho.

SANDPOINT — On a reprieve from Washington, D.C., Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher traveled around North Idaho on Tuesday, stopping in Sandpoint to meet with local officials and state legislators.

“We are trying to just open up communication, figuring out what challenges are in front of people that may have implications via federal channels and seeing if there are some things we might be able to do to help serve common constituency,” Fulcher said. “And it’s worked out really good — this was a great idea.”

Two of the main concerns Fulcher heard while in the area revolved around flood zones and prescribed burns, he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently imposed flood zone status in a lot of areas, Fulcher said, which has had “significant ramifications” to counties and citizens because it comes with mandatory flood insurance. The insurance is expensive and from what Fulcher has heard from local government in a number of areas, it is not warranted, he said.

“So that’s an area where we are going to get some more information and some involvement,” he said.

Regarding the prescribed burns, Fulcher said the U.S. Forest Service has been moving forward on those without any solicitation of local stakeholders. The desire, he said, is to have some warning, as well as a say in what regions and times the burns occur, such as during key tourist seasons. Fulcher’s regional director from Coeur d’Alene, Tim Kastning, said he was invited by the Forest Service to go out to some prescribed burns to learn the science behind it.

“I am trying to get on the ground and get ahead a little bit on this burning issue,” Kastning said.

Fulcher started his legislative career in the Idaho Senate from 2005-2014. He is a fourth-generation Idaho native, he said, and had a long career in the technology industry before entering the world of politics. He ran a commercial real estate business while in the Legislature as well.

This is his first term as a congressman, serving on the Natural Resources and Education and Labor committees. It has been “nonstop” in Washington, D.C., he said.

“We run hard,” Fulcher said. “... You hear a lot of negative, and there is a ton of it, and the polarization and the conflict is just as bad as you see on Fox News or CNN — but there is also good things. I think our agencies, across the board, are more open than they have been for a long time in being willing to work with states. Even some of my colleagues on the opposition party, we communicate reasonably well.”

On the federal level, the top issue is “very clearly” immigration, he said. There is progress, he said, as many have acknowledged that there is a crisis at the southern border.

“Pretty much everybody agrees there is a crisis — that’s a start — how to solve it is a different thing,” Fulcher said. “We have a lot of people who are attempting to get into the country from Syria, from Iraq, from China, and they are trying to come through that southern border ... I think everyone is acknowledging that now, and I’m hopeful that will lead to a more comprehensive solution or a change in policy.”

Also on the federal level, Fulcher said he recently introduced a “single-subject” bill. If passed, it would require Congress to address one issue at a time. For example, he said, when Congress voted on the appropriations bill recently, they were voting on a number of issues including healthcare, transportation, tax policy and immigration, among others.

“And you always have to weight the good and the bad, because there is good and bad in all of it,” he said. “My legislation would change that. That said, although we’ve got an impressive list of co-sponsors, I am not naive. The current speaker won’t hear that bill, but it’s on the table, it’s being exposed. It is part of the dialogue, and that is at least some degree of progress to force the issue that way.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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