(PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.)
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
[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.
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
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
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
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
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing
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.