Cemex Legislation Still Awaiting Hearing
Committee schedules biggest roadblock faced by Soledad Canyon Mine Act.
The Soledad Canyon Mining Act, proposed by Congressman Buck McKeon in April, may or may not be part of the legislation passed by the 110th Congress.
It has nothing to do with the bill’s merits; HR 5887, the legislation that would cancel contracts between mining company Cemex and the federal Bureau of Land Management, has met no opposition other than Congress’s capricious schedule. The bill is still waiting for its day at the dais in the Energy and Mineral Resources and Ways and Means Committees.
The 110th Congress is currently in recess, scheduled to return for three weeks in September. The next adjournment is Sept. 26, which may or may not be the end of this session.
“Congress can reconvene in November with a lame duck session after the election,” said Mike Murphy, Intergovernmental Relations Officer for the City of Santa Clarita and the city’s point man for the Cemex issue. “Or they may decide at the end of the September session to just end then and bring any budget issues back in January for consideration by the new President.”
If that happens, the legislation (HR 5887) will expire and have to be introduced anew in the 111th Congress, which convenes Jan. 3, 2009
“Our biggest challenge is the Congressional calendar,” Murphy said. “On the federal level, it is at the discretion of the committee chair as to when hearings will be convened. Originally our hope was that we’d get a committee hearing prior to the August recess, but that didn’t happen. It is no reflection on the merits of the bill, but is related to how they schedule hearings. We’re hoping for a date during the September session.”
A bill in its entirety can be heard concurrently in more than one committee, or portions can be heard in different committees, which may be what happens to HR 5887 in the Ways and Means Committee. One component of the bill is a tax waiver for the land swap between Cemex and the City of Victorville, so neither party is double-taxed. That could be accomplished without affecting the bill’s progress in any other subcommittee.
No opposition has surfaced, and McKeon is still trying to garner more support from the Democratic side of the aisle.
According to Bob Hauter, McKeon’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the offices of California’s Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have copies of the bill, but have not yet indicated their positions.
“When Congressman McKeon first proposed the bill, one of the comments he made at press conference was that we were working on a short timeline,” Murphy said. “His intention all along was if the bill didn’t get enacted that it would be the first piece of legislation he would introduce in the next session.”