Celebrating America’s Heritage Act Wins in House Committee in Mostly Party Line Vote

An update on this week’s action by the House Resources Committee on the Celebrating America’s Heritage Act, a step toward federal zoning (with pork attached). Peyton Knight contributes this update:

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Celebrating America’s Heritage Act, 23 – 12, on a mostly party line vote. The bill would create six new National Heritage Areas and significantly increase federal funding for nine existing heritage areas. Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) was the only Republican to join 22 Democrats on the committee in support of the bill.

Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) offered a commonsense amendment to the bill that would have excluded Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s (R-MD) and Rep. Virgil Goode’s (R-VA) districts from the controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area – one of the new heritage areas created by the bill. Congressmen Bartlett and Goode are rightly concerned that the Hallowed Ground heritage area, which is being pushed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), does not sufficiently protect the property rights of folks who own land and homes within the proposed boundaries of the area. In order to protect their constituents’ rights, they want no part of it. In a rather unprecedented move, Heller’s amendment was voted down, thus forcing a heritage area designation on two congressmen who don’t want it in their districts.

We’ve received reports that Rep. Wolf, a powerful senior member on the House Appropriations Committee, actually attended the hearing, despite not being a member of the Resources Committee, and sat prominently at the witness table, staring down his colleagues in an apparent effort to make certain his heritage area emerged unscathed.

In addition, we received word that an attorney from the D.C. law and lobby firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld also attended the mark-up to help lobby support for Wolf’s heritage area.

During the vote, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) made a compelling argument against national heritage areas, and read portions of the coalition letter(pdf) that the National Center for Public Policy Research delivered to members of the committee earlier this month, signed by over 100 influential think tanks, state policy groups, elected officials, sportsmen and grassroots leaders. The letter opposed the creation of any additional heritage areas. Rep. Bishop also entered the National Center’s letter into the Congressional Record.

As soon as the mark-up ended, Congressmen Bartlett, Goode and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) rushed to a meeting of the Republican Study Committee, where they informed their colleagues of the dangers (pdf) of national heritage areas in general and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area in particular.

To contact author Peyton Knight directly, write him at [email protected]


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