By Kristen Tribe | Wise County Messenger
Wise County Judge J.D. Clark Monday was appointed chairman of the Rural Action Caucus (RAC), a subgroup of the National Association of Counties (NACo) headquartered in Washington, D.C.
The appointment was made by new NACo president, Bryan Desloge, during the organization’s convention in Long Beach, Calif.
Clark said he was excited about the appointment and looking forward to steering the 100-member caucus. He’s been a member since late 2014 and last year served as vice chair.
The caucus has monthly conference calls and an annual symposium.
“As chair, I’ll have a role in organizing and facilitating those calls along with NACo staff and steering the topics we talk about,” he said. “I’ll have a role in planning the fall Rural Action Caucus symposium and have a voice in programming.”
The symposium is usually held in October, but this year will be after the presidential election.
“It’ll be in December, so we’ll know which administration we’ll be dealing with, because it will affect how we approach certain issues,” Clark pointed out.
RAC also has a one-day program in conjunction with NACo’s annual legislative conference in D.C. It provides local leaders an opportunity to meet Congressmen and women and discuss issues important to rural communities.
“Sometimes it’s explaining how something might negatively affect rural counties,” he explained. “Sometimes there’s legislation out there with no sinister plan to hurt rural counties, but they don’t think with that mindset because what might work well in a highly urbanized area may not set well in a rural area.”
As RAC’s leader, there is the possibility Clark would have to testify before Congress to share a rural perspective.
“I hope an opportunity like that comes up because it would be an interesting experience,” he said.
In the coming year, RAC will continue to tackle the Waters of the United States rule, which defines what rivers, streams, lakes and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Clark said it was so broadly drafted that it could include water in bar ditches and farmers’ stock tanks.
“The way it’s written is not good for rural counties and rural people in general,” he said. “We pushed really hard about that. It was our biggest legislative fight.”
He also noted that if the Congressional majority changes, issues related to this could quickly shift.
Another ongoing effort of RAC is securing PILT dollars (payment in lieu of taxes), a federal stipend paid to counties to compensate for tax dollars “lost” with federal lands since they can’t be taxed.
“Last year we got around $1 million for the LBJ National Grasslands, and we don’t have huge federal holdings here,” Clark said. “There should be a program like that because it sets a bad precedent if the feds can take more land and not have to have any financial repercussions for it.”
Clark said RAC also will evaluate rural poverty issues and opioid and methamphetamine problems.
See original article from the Wise County Messenger.