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108th Congress                                            Rept. 108-218
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                     Part 1
======================================================================
 
         PUBLIC LANDS FIRE REGULATIONS ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 2003

                                _______
                                

                 July 17, 2003.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Pombo, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            ADDITIONAL VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1038]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 1038) to increase the penalties to be imposed for a 
violation of fire regulations applicable to the public lands, 
National Park System lands, or National Forest System lands 
when the violation results in damage to public or private 
property, to specify the purpose for which collected fines may 
be used, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that 
the bill do pass.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 1038 is to increase the penalties to be 
imposed for a violation of fire regulations applicable to 
public lands, National Park System lands, or National Forest 
System lands when the violation results in damage to public or 
private property, to specify the purpose for which collected 
fines may be used and for other purposes.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Over the last ten years, human carelessness has been 
responsible for the ignition of just over one million fires, 
destroying an average of 100,000 acres per year. By comparison, 
lightning has been the cause of roughly one-tenth of fires, 
though lightning-caused fires have resulted in more acres 
burned. Stiffer penalties may be one way to help reduce the 
number of fires attributable to people violating fire bans.
    Current penalties for violating existing fire regulations 
specify a maximum fine of $500 dollars and six months 
imprisonment for offenders. However, the fines are generally 
assessed at a far lower level. In many cases fines levied are 
well below even $100--lacking any real deterrent to would-be 
violators. In at least one case in 2002, for example, a 
prospective visitor to a Colorado national forest contacted a 
district ranger about the potential fines for violating the 
recently imposed fire ban. When the visitor was informed that 
the fine for violating the ban was around $50, he asked if 
there was a way to pay the fine in advance.
    While H.R. 1038 was favorably reported from Committee by 
unanimous consent, it was done with the understanding that 
technical corrections would be made in consultation with the 
Minority, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, and 
Department of the Interior. The sponsor notes the possible 
burden of a jury trial with recognizing the need for technical 
changes to ensure the feasible implementation of the bill. 
Furthermore, the sponsor indicated that negotiations are needed 
to come to an agreement on the technical changes to the bill 
before it is taken up by the House of Representatives.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 1038 was introduced on February 27, 2003, by 
Congressman Thomas G. Tancredo (R-CO). The bill was referred to 
the Committee on Resources, and additionally to the Committee 
on Agriculture. Within the Resources Committee, the bill was 
referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and 
the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public 
Lands. On June 19, 2003, the Forest Subcommittee held a hearing 
on the bill. On July 9, 2003, the Full Resources Committee met 
to consider the bill. The Subcommittee on Forests and Forest 
Health and the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and 
Public Lands were discharged from further consideration of the 
bill. No amendments were offered and the bill was favorably 
reported to the House of Representatives by unanimous consent.

            COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations 
are reflected in the body of this report.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to enact this bill.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) 
of that rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
    2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2) 
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this 
bill does not contain any new budget authority, credit 
authority, or an increase or decrease in tax expenditures. 
According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 1038 would 
not significantly affect the federal budget. The bill would 
increase both revenues and direct spending by less than 
$500,000 a year.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does 
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not 
apply.
    4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause 
3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate 
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 15, 2003.
Hon. Richard Pombo,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1038, the Public 
Lands Fire Regulations Enforcement Act of 2003.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Megan 
Carroll.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1038--Public Lands Fire Regulations Enforcement Act of 2003

    CBO estimates that H.R. 1038 would not significantly affect 
the federal budget. The bill would increase both revenues and 
direct spending by less than $500,000 a year. H.R. 1038 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no 
costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    H.R. 1038 would increase fines and imprisonment terms for 
violating fire regulations on certain federal lands. The bill 
would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary 
of the Interior to spend, without further appropriation, 
amounts received from such fines to reimburse the appropriate 
department for certain costs incurred to respond to fires, 
rehabilitate damaged lands, and increase public awareness of 
legal requirements regarding the use of fire on public lands.
    Under current law, collections of such fines are recorded 
in the budget as governmental receipts (revenues) and are 
deposited in the Crime Victims Fund and later spent. Based on 
information from the Department of the Interior and the Forest 
Service, CBO estimates that increasing those fines and 
authorizing the agencies to spend them would increase revenues 
and direct spending by less than $500,000 annually. We also 
estimate that any increased costs for prison operations, which 
would be subject to appropriation, would not be significant.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Megan Carroll. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing 
law.

             ADDITIONAL VIEWS OF REPRESENTATIVE JAY INSLEE

    H.R. 1038, as reported by the Committee, is well-intended 
but seriously flawed legislation. While I agree with the 
sponsor's goal of deterring violations of federal regulations 
to prevent fires on national forests and public lands, the bill 
as presently written does not achieve that goal and instead 
would complicate and even discourage law enforcement.
    In a letter dated July 7, 2003, the U.S. Department of 
Justice detailed a number of serious concerns about H.R. 1038. 
Significantly, the Department notes that the increased prison 
term set forth in the legislation would guarantee every 
defendant a right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment to 
the United States Constitution, no matter how trivial the 
offense. Similarly, the proposed minimum fine of $1,000 may 
result in more challenges in court by those ticketed, draining 
both prosecutorial and court resources. Ironically, it could 
discourage the National Park Service or Forest Service law 
enforcement officers from issuing a citation notice or ticket 
for routine offenses.
    As a former prosecutor in the State of Washington, I am 
particularly concerned about the Congress acting haphazardly to 
tie the hands of law enforcement officers and to further clog 
the courts with cases involving minor infractions.
    At the markup of H.R. 1038, however, the Chairman assured 
Members that the legislation will be amended to address the 
Department of Justice's concerns when it is considered on the 
floor of the House. I preferred that the Committee postpone 
markup instead of knowingly reporting a flawed bill. But 
relying on the Chairman's assurance, I look forward to 
participating in the process of developing those amendments 
prior to it coming before the House.
                                                        Jay Inslee.