NPGA has moved aggressively to counter a legislative threat to the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA). Specifically, on November 16, 2011, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) filed two amendments intended to be proposed to the energy and water development appropriations bill (HR 2354). The first amendment would repeal PERA and the second would eliminate funding for Department of Energy (DOE) employees overseeing the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC).
The legislative outlook for the energy and water appropriations bill is uncertain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attempted to combine this bill with two other appropriations bills but this initiative failed. Therefore it will not be taken up until after the Thanksgiving recess. Considering the failure of the Supercommittee to reach a deficit reduction deal, NPGA expects Congress to now attempt to pass funding bills perhaps as part of an omnibus, or "catch-all", bill.
The sudden emergence of this effort is likely linked to the "Christmas tree tax" controversy that was the subject of media coverage last week. Sen. DeMint blogged about it in particular on November 9, 2011. We have made direct contact with Sen. DeMint's Chief of Staff to differentiate PERA and PERC from the other agriculture check-off programs that focus on promotional activities. We have also made our point to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who is the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee.
The prospects of the DeMint amendments moving forward are hard to gauge at this point. They would be considered "legislating on an appropriations bill" and therefore subject to a point of order on the Senate floor which would force their retraction. Further, since they have not received full buy-in from the Senate Energy Committee leadership, they can be characterized as outliers at this point. Nevertheless, we are treating them with the utmost seriousness because they represent the philosophical opposition to check-off programs, which is gaining credibility from the groups on the right.
NPGA will continue to work with our allies on the Hill to ensure that PERC can continue to provide effective safety, training, and R&D programs to the propane industry and propane customers.
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