Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Deb Fischer
Posted on 2015-02-05
FISCHER. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the Bipartisan
Sportsmen's Act. I am pleased to join my colleague in introducing this
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with my colleagues on legislation that will promote our country's hunting, fishing, and conservation heritage.
This bill does a lot of good things. It prevents antihunting groups from restricting sportsmen's ammunition choices, which would unnecessarily drive up hunting costs, impede participation in shooting sports, and consequently decrease conservation funding.
The Sportsmen's Act provides States with more flexibility to build and maintain public shooting ranges in order to provide Americans with more opportunities to engage in recreational and competitive shooting activities. The legislation also expands and enhances hunting and fishing opportunities on Federal lands by establishing a more open policy for access to recreational activities on our public lands.
I am especially encouraged by the fact that this bill contains provisions I have championed that would increase transparency regarding the judgment fund. It has the potential to help our efforts to track taxpayer-funded litigation that impacts our public lands policies.
As my colleagues may or may not know, the judgment fund is administered by the Treasury Department and is used to pay certain court judgments and settlements against the Federal Government. Essentially, this fund acts as an unlimited amount of money that is set aside to pay for Federal Government liability. It is not subject to the annual appropriations process, and, even more remarkably, the Treasury Department has no reporting requirements, so these funds are paid out with very little oversight or scrutiny.
This is no small matter, as the judgment fund disburses billions of dollars in payments every year. Because the Treasury Department has no binding reporting requirements, few public details exist about where these funds are going and why.
The Public Lands Council has decried the lack of oversight of the judgment fund by stating: Certain groups continuously sue the federal government, and [the] Treasury simply writes a check to foot the bill without providing Members of Congress and the American taxpayers basic information about the payment.
This kind of litigation can have a big impact on sportsmen and others who enjoy multiple uses of Federal lands. This is because the government is permitted to blindly fund lawsuits by activist groups who use the court as a backdoor to policy making.
A recent report from the GAO found that cases filed against the EPA have shown a pattern of these groups working in unison with big law firms to sue under the same statutes in order to push their political agenda through the courts.
The legislation I introduced this week with Senator Gardner, known as the Judgment Fund Transparency Act, will bring these cases to light. That bill has been included as a provision to the Sportsmen's Act and will provide even greater transparency and accountability.
I am proud to be a vice chair of the Sportsmen's Caucus, and I look forward to continuing our work to advance these important legislative measures.