Senator Mike Enzi (ME) -- It's an exciting week coming up and we just finished an exciting week. Part of that has to do with the tremendous progress that we are making on the OSHA bill that I've introduced. We were able to reach an agreement with another one of the Republicans and put in a few of his provisions into my bill. We've got a markup date scheduled for that bill now of October 22. It's a pretty amazing feat to have a markup scheduled. Another thing that's happened of course is we have an companion bill coming through from the House side. That bill has sponsorship from both Republicans and Democrats. We have a bipartisan effort now and we have an effort on both ends of the Capitol. That shows some success and progress for the bill. One of the reasons we are having success and progress on it and a bipartisan effort is that we've worked very hard to make sure it was a reasonable effort, that it was those things that both parties had agreed on in the last six years of writing bills, that it actually works to make things safer in the workplace for the employee. There hasn't been a change in the OSHA laws in the 27 years that it's been in existence. It is time it had an update. They have run some pilot projects now that have been in existence for up to 15 years and it's time that we codified those and made them acceptable for everybody in the nation to use. The only reason they've been tested for 15 years is because they've worked for 15 years. We primarily codified what is there. We took some of the things that came form (Al) Gore's reinventing OSHA and put those in there and took a lot of the things that businesses across the nation have talked about for years, insofar as there was a reasonable solution and a consensus solution to solving some of the OSHA problems. We haven't taken away any of the club of OSHA. They still have the right to go in and inspect and levy fines so that those people who do not want to participate in employee safety will be fined. But we are trying to change the focus so that we encourage businesses to get in there and look at the workplace and make it safer for the worker and we are encouraging individual responsibility by the workers as well. When we get a teamwork effort like that, when we get both the employee and the employer looking at every possible situation on the work site that could be hazardous to their health, we get better safety. We save lives and keep people working. That's what we are trying to do and I'm just pleased at the progress that we've made and the progress that we're looking forward to here. So with that brief bit of excitement we'll go on to whatever questions you might want to ask about any topic.
Nate Ferguson (NF) -- Regarding the most recent legislation regarding gambling on Indian Reservations, the tribes were kind of upset about the fact that they were not ... they claim they were not involved in the process. In retrospect, do you think you should involve them more?
ME -- I was over and had a town meeting in Riverton and the Indians were there and we talked about a number of their sovereignty issues. But on the issues of the Indian reservation casino gambling, all that I've done and what I've tried to do was to make sure that Secretary Babbitt was not bypassing the process of involving the states because the states are affected. The people who live around the reservations are affected just as the people on the reservation are. The reservation has to be involved. The tribes have to be involved. The people of the state have to be involved and the way they are involved is through the governor and the Legislature. What the bill did was say that Secretary Babbitt cannot bypass any of those folks in the process, that he has to stay with the process that is established by law, that he can't write rules and regulations and bypass the States. That (the amendment) had a tremendous amount of approval from the U.S. senators. As a result it is in the bill and as I understand it, it has now come out of conference committee with that provision still in it. We are not making a drastic change, we are making sure that nobody else can make a drastic change. We are making sure the change has to be done by law and not rule and regulation. That's what the Wyoming folks have been telling me.
John Leader (JL) -- Senator we received a release today from Lynn Birleffi at the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association and in this release it states that tour groups are already beginning to cancel reservations in the northwest as part of this lawsuit from the Fund for Animals and Biodiversity Foundation. Given the fact that this is not a done deal, is there anything that the Senate can do? This agreement was almost announced too quickly it seems and now its causing some impact to operators in the area.
ME -- That is a major concern for us and that is why I've tried to stay on top of that issue and kind of ride herd on the National Park system a little bit, I don't think the National Park Service realizes the little things that they do have such big impact because of how rural a state we are and how essential Yellowstone Park is to our state. When they start making these deals, however preliminary they might be, and putting out the word that there might be some changes in the way things are going to happen, people who are planning their vacations in advance start making drastic reactions to that. Nobody wants to plan a vacation and get there and find out they can't have it. When they make those little statements they are making a very big effect on our state. They did by just jumping on board with doing the settlement. The people of Wyoming ought to be concerned about the National Park Service just caving in on settlements because where we even pay the attorneys of the people suing us we are going to be encouraging not only winter use restrictions but summer use restrictions. Once there is even mention of those restrictions, then people across the nation panic about whether their vacation will be impacted. That's primarily what they are interested in. I think there was a drastic impact on Yellowstone Park this last summer from all of the talk about road construction that there was going to be in Yellowstone Park and how that still left the roads inadequate. I traveled through Yellowstone Park this summer. The roads were the same as they are every summer. They are under construction. But the construction doesn't prohibit people from seeing the park. It may delay them in certain areas. But when that word gets out to all of the travel agencies and other people booking things there and they start talking the difficulties people have in seeing Yellowstone, which are no different than normal, it really impacts the park. It just cancels vacations that go there and it really hurts the Wyoming economy. So I hope the National Park Service will be sensitive to what it is doing.
JL -- Senator, do you see that agreement to pay the $11,000 for the right.... Is that almost a precedent? I mean saying, "Hey, come sue the government and we're going to pay your bills down the road even if you don't win."
ME -- Unfortunately I don't think it is a precedent. (Unfortunate that it may have happened before.) But it is something we are going to be taking a very close look at back here to see if that isn't a way we can also help to balance the budget. In a normal situation when people settle like that the entity that's working the settlement normally doesn't pay the attorneys' fees too because it is too much encouragement to people to sue. I hope that if that has been a precedent that it will not be a precedent. I hope we can put a stop to that kind of encouragement to sue.
NF -- Senator, with declining revenues from logging and timber sales, how do you see the future of Forest Service land? Are you in favor of charging user fees?
ME -- No, I'm not in favor of charging them. I know that on a federal basis there's been an allowance made for doing some pilot projects of charging users fees. I've also looked at what the statements were behind doing those user fees. They talked about the high impact on the forest. When I looked more into the wording on high impact on the forest, they are talking about high impact on the forests that are near major cities. They are not talking about any of the Wyoming forests. When there is a close proximity of millions of people they do get into a forest and use it and put a little bit more impact on it than all of our Wyoming forests combined. Under those circumstances they are looking at pilot projects in order to collect some revenues so that they can do specific kinds of projects to make that park more accessible to more people and to protect it while it's being used. If they talk about any user fees in Wyoming I hope that everybody will be very concerned about what the money will be used for. It's supposed to be used at the forest to make facilities for the people to be able to use it better and more enjoyably. I don't think there are any places that I can think of in Wyoming where they have the ability to collect the fees and wind up with a net fee to use to build any facility. Our forests are too porous. There are too many different ways to get into them. There isn't a single central collection point so collecting the fees would be more cost prohibitive than what they could do with the money if they were able to raise it. Those are things they've got to look at it. It gets back to the problem again of trying to come up with a national policy, a national law that will apply equally across this great country that we have. There are so many differences and Wyoming is one of the great grand differences that make it very difficult for them to do some of the same things they can do next to New York City. The fees are going to be a problem. The people of Wyoming need to be involved along with us in that debate to make sure that if there is a fee that it's cost effective and it goes to things that they want to have. If it is not cost effective, then we keep it from happening.
JL -- Senator, the Supreme Court has announced that one of its main decisions coming up in this session will be looking at credit unions and their right to expand their membership as opposed to banks that are trying to stop that. What's your feelings? I know that the Supreme Court is ruling on it but there is also some companion legislation on that as well. What's your feeling on credit unions versus banks?
ME -- Well the credit unions play a critical role in Wyoming. They've always served a very necessary and in many cases under served population in the state. I've worked to help credit unions in those areas to the greatest extent that I possibly can. When we start talking about expanding the services, I'm concerned about how much the expansion will be. As soon as you start talking about expanding them then you have another group of people who start talking about taxing them. When they tax them there won't be the same capabilities to serve the people that they've been serving. If they grow too fast and cover too many people then they are going to be subject to taxes which will take away about 30 percent of their revenue. I don't want to see that happen. There's a balance there that has to be maintained or we won't have credit unions. Credit unions are a significant and very important part of Wyoming.
JL - Do you see the job of the credit union as just serving the major companies? And what do the smaller companies do? There are employees who might want to join a credit union in say a group of 10 or 12 or something like that where they are not big enough to form. What's your feelings on that?
ME -- Well there are a number of ways for credit unions to set up where they could serve a number of smaller businesses. There just has to be a common background to all of them. The credit unions have been very creative in coming up with those common unions and serving as many people as possible. They were not designed to serve everybody in every circumstance including handling the business transactions as opposed to the individual transactions. There has to be that balance maintained there or there will be people who will work very hard to make sure that they are taxed the same way that banks are.
NF -- How do you feel about the number of Wyoming citizens on the welfare rolls. It looks like we've had a significant drop. How do you feel about that?
ME -- I worked on that welfare situation while I was in the Wyoming Legislature. I served on the Labor Committee there which handles a lot of those aspects. We designed some pilot projects we had to get waivers for. They worked. The federal government has now done some of the same things that Wyoming did and they've worked. I'm glad to see that Wyoming has been the leader in those areas to give people the dignity of work again. And to make them pleased with what they are doing and also to have that kind of responsibility. I think there are some important changes that are being made in this country and Wyoming's been a leader in it and I hope they will continue to be a leader.
JL - What is the latest on Crown Butte, Senator, in terms of I know it was in the Conference Committee and there was some problems there. What's the latest in the Crown Butte buyout?
ME -- To my knowledge the Crown Butte buyout is still at the same point that it has been. The President hasn't presented anything that he agreed to. He has objected to any proposals that anyone else has brought in there and so it has kind of been at an impasse and I don't think there is anything that has been agreed to at this point.
JL -- You think it just die right there on the table then?
ME -- No, I don't think that we have left it in a position where it can actually die on the table at this point there has to be some action taken. But evidently we are going to have to work harder to come up with a solution that is agreeable to everybody. The original solution that was thrown out was that there was going to be surplus federal property that would be traded for that $65 million dollars in mine rights which is the expense not the value of the mine itself. It was the expense that the company had gone to at that point and time and when they were talking about surplus federal property they were talking about excess buildings and things like that the federal government had that would make up the difference. We have gone through a whole gambit of other types of changes many of which would have hurt states and we have been opposed to jumping on any of those that would hurt the revenues of any of the states. We'll have to come up with a solution but it is going to take some time.
JL -- What are your feelings on that $65 million coming out of the reserve conservation fund?
ME -- The reserve conservation fund money is additional budget items and that wasn't reached in the agreement on the budget agreement so our capability for doing that really does not exist under that. It might be a potential source for the money but it does not solve any of the problems that we have talked about of helping to keep the states economies going as well. It is a possibility that it does not meet the budget agreement, so I don't know where that will go.
NF -- Senator, how do you feel about the snowmobile lawsuit, is that a done deal?
ME -- No, I think there are still some opportunities for participation. It is more of a done deal than what I would like for it to be at this point and time. One of the reasons is we haven't established any kind of criteria on what impacts we are assessing. All we are talking about is shutting the snowmobiles down and without a good background to come from on it. I don't think we will come wind up at a good solution. The parks cannot allow people to do policy by lawsuit. They ought to be doing policy by public participation.
NF -- It looks to me like if they get this done they are also going to move onto the National Forest land. I know there is also a lawsuit there. Do you plan on making a comment to the court on the 27th of October as far as on this issue?
ME -- We have been phrasing a number of comments to submit. We haven't found one suitable yet. But we will calm down in a while and then we will be able to get one together(laughter).
NF -- What is the status on the reorganization of the IRS, and what is your feeling on flat tax and national sales use tax? Where do you stand on this?
ME -- I want to make the taxes simpler and fairer for everybody. I am willing to look at any solution that anybody has out there. I think what we are going to have to do to actually arrive at a solution is backup and take a look at tax policy. We are going to have to decide what it is that we are trying to do besides raise money. Once we have a tax policy, then we can establish the way that we want to do the taxes. I know that there are people out there in Wyoming, because I am back there almost every weekend, who would like to see the consumption tax. One of the problems with the consumption tax is that in those states that collect sales tax, and almost all of them do, there aren't two states that collect them the same way? If you impose the federal sales tax on top of that, how do people react when you charge the federal tax on some things and the state sales tax on others and not always the same. I have ran into a lot of opposition to that, plus it can become an accumulative tax too where at every single step of the process a sales tax is put on. By the time it gets to a non-manufacturing state like Wyoming, we are paying maybe 20-30 percent more for our product. That does not go well with me. On the flat tax the problem that I have ran into is that everybody loves a flat tax as long as it has two exceptions and everybody does not agree what those two exceptions ought to be. Primarily they would like the flat tax as long as it has the exemption for their home interest and charitable deduction. But there is not even a majority that would agree with those two exemptions. That is the problem we run into when we talk about simplifying taxes. Each of us can see it from our own perspectives but we are going to have to get to a little bit more of a statewide-nationwide solution before we can get a majority of people who see it anyway. I think that if we backup to going to a tax policy deciding what it is we are trying to do (such as) make sure that everybody owns a home, encourage people to go into business, see that kids can go to school, those things, once they are designed or become policy, then we can come up with ways through the tax law to make sure that they happen. Do it so that the tax law is simple. That has to be the overriding principle in the whole thing, that we finally get back to a system where people have some capability for understanding how they are being taxed.
JL -- What is your take on the new plan to allow people to hunt bison, is this going to take care of the problem or is there a better solution?
ME -- Well, I am anxious to see what the people come up with for ideas on it. Certainly in Wyoming hunting has been a way of game management and hunting is an acceptable way to provide sport as well as provide people with food and to make sure that the animals are not starving to death. So there are a lot of things to it, and I hope that the public gets involved in the debate.