Archive for » August 5th, 2017«

Pass sales skyrocket ahead of price boost

BOISE, Idaho — Senior citizens are snagging so many lifetime passes good for U.S. national parks and other recreation areas ahead of a steep price increase later this month that some government agencies have run out and started issuing vouchers.

The America the Beautiful Lifetime Senior Pass has been available to buyers 62 and older for $10 for the past two decades. On Aug. 28, the price will rise by 700 percent, to $80, after a measure passed by Congress late last year.

Recently retired Paul Dunham of Yuba City, Calif., picked one up last week at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho.

“I said, ‘Hey, I’m a senior. Any decent rates?'” he said, expecting to pay $30 for a day visit to the high-desert area known for its ancient lava flows.

Instead, for $10 he got the lifetime senior pass that’s recognized at more than 2,000 recreation areas run by six federal agencies that include the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

“I don’t say many thanks to the U.S. government about anything,” Dunham, 64, said after discovering the deal. “But I will this time.”

Out-of-the-way Craters of the Moon still has the lifetime passes, but other areas that draw more visitors have run out, and officials authorized a rain-check policy in mid-July. The policy allows people to use vouchers instead of the lifetime passes and exchange them for one of the plastic, credit card-size senior passes when they become available.

Some sites normally sell only a few hundred passes a year, Tom Crosson, the Park Service’s chief of public affairs, said in an email. “Now, they are selling that many in a day.”

Agencies expect to sell up to 2 million of the passes by this fall, about two to three times what was sold last year, he said. Online and mail orders in 2016 were about 33,000 but have surpassed 250,000 so far this year and are expected to surge past 300,000 by the price-increase deadline.

Pass holders driving into areas with entrance fees can also take with them traveling companions for free. At some areas, the pass includes 50 percent discounts on camping, boat launching and other amenities.

Money raised by the price increase is intended for projects and programs aimed at enhancing the visitor experience at national parks and other areas.

The price has been $10 since 1994. The cost of a pass with similar benefits for those under 62 — but good for only one year — is remaining the same as last year, at $80.

John Freemuth, a Boise State University environmental policy professor and public lands expert, has one of the senior passes and said the bump to $80 isn’t much considering the adventures it makes possible.

“I still think it’s one of the best deals in America,” he said.

Craters of the Moon employee Rachel Amento said an area Forest Service office ran out of the passes and has been sending buyers to Craters.

She said most of the national monument’s visitors are on their way to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. For motorists, the cheapest pass to those parks is good for seven days and costs $30. At Craters, the seven-day pass costs $15. Amento said that with the discounts, $80 is still a good deal for a lifetime senior pass.

A Section on 08/05/2017

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Lawmaker touts hands-on work at Kilgore plant | Kilgore News Herald

“Texans, we like more jobs. We like great jobs, we like wages going up, more opportunities.
That is overwhelmingly what I hear here in East Texas.””

“We’ve got for the first time in a long, long time a Republican president, Republican heads of every executive agency and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Now we’ve got to deliver.””

Kilgore’s Skeeter Boat is an impressive operation, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday, touring the local facility the same week the company announced the expansion of their manufacturing.

The new hires will bring the company’s local roster to about 300 employees, the state’s junior senator added.

“These are good high-paying jobs. They’re doing something people love to do,” he added, producing boats and, now, trailers through Skeeter’s recently expanded Kilgore facility. “It’s a great thing.”

According to Cruz, he learned a new, encouraging fact during his brief tour of the Hwy. 259 plant Friday morning.

“Apparently the week after the election in November boat sales went through the roof,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said. “A whole bunch of folks after the election were real happy with the election, I think they were happy Hillary wasn’t president and turned around and went and bought a bass boat. I’m glad to hear that, and I’m glad to have a chance to visit with good people here doing good work.”

The first-term senator’s swing through East Texas included stops at Tyler Junior College and Brookshire’s Grocery Company in Tyler after his inspection of the Kilgore performance boats builder.

After the tour, Cruz spoke briefly with local media, touching on various issues including the continued effort to repeal Obamacare as well special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and collusion with the Trump administration.

The senator also highlighted the Senate’s passage Thursday of “Kari’s Law,” aimed at simplifying the steps it takes to dial 911 through a telephone system. Cruz introduced the bill in February 2016 alongside another Texas colleague in the Senate, Majority Whip John Cornyn, and three other legislators, including two Democrats.

The bill is named for Kari Hunt, a Marshall woman who died in a hotel room after her young daughter was unable to dial out of the telephone system to 911.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to get Kari’s Law passed,” Cruz said. “We need to be responsive to people in trouble.

“If you’re in trouble and you’re trying to dial 911, you shouldn’t be hitting a wall of the numbers not working. It’s tragic what happens. It’s nice to see congress responding to real needs.”

(Learn more about the implementation of Kari’s Law on page 3.)

Cruz said he appreciates the conservative values of East Texas and hopes they’ll spread.

“The priorities I hear in East Texas are jobs and economic growth. It’s consistent every time I’m up here,” he said. “Texans, we like more jobs. We like great jobs, we like wages going up, more opportunities. That is overwhelmingly what I hear here in East Texas.”

Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck said he appreciated the senator spotlighting jobs and the need to rebuild American manufacturing.

“East Texas is the center of that in our world,” Selleck said. “We have a long history of being an industrial town and a manufacturing town,” and he’s eager to see the country head in the same direction.

There’s an opportunity right now to do something more, Cruz added.

“We’ve got for the first time in a long, long time a Republican president, Republican heads of every executive agency and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Now we’ve got to deliver.”

People are frustrated at the GOP’s failed effort to repeal Obamacare, the senator said, and he shares the feeling.

“I’m working with every breath in my body to bring Republicans together: let’s deliver on repealing Obamacare, let’s deliver on tax cuts, on lifting regulations, on expanding jobs and economic growth. We’ve got to deliver on what we promised.”

Investigations into Russian collusion and the Trump administration are proceeding in Washington, D.C. The nation’s capitol loves to focus on the political circus.

Probes by Mueller and Congress will proceed, he continued, but “There are worrying signs about the special counsel,” Cruz said, specifically how many members of Mueller’s team are Democratic donors. “I didn’t like that when the Obama Justice Department did that; I didn’t think it was fair and right to have Democratic donors essentially covering up for the misdeeds of the Obama administration, and I think it’s concerning to have partisan Democratic donors engaging in investigation.

“My hope is they will investigate and conclude this matter and they won’t engage in a fishing expedition.”

Overall, Cruz concluded, there are four key priorities for Congress and President Donald Trump right now: repealing Obamacare, tax reform, regulatory reform and keeping Constitutionally-minded justices on the Supreme Court and the federal benches.

“If we deliver on those four – that’s a big, big deal – this could be the most productive Congress in decades. If we fail on those four, this could be the most heartbreaking missed opportunity we’ve seen in a long time.”

When it comes to tax reform, Cruz added, he’s optimistic.

“What I’m spending my time doing right now is bringing together Republicans. Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves, let’s focus on delivering results, let’s focus on keeping our promises, lifting the burden from Washington and let the economy take off, bring back jobs here to East Texas and all across the world.”

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Cruz tours Kilgore plant, questions Russia probe – Longview News

KILGORE — The junior senator from Texas started his August recess break Friday by shaking hands with men and women at a major Texas manufacturing plant in Kilgore.

“One of the things I learned (today) that I didn’t know is, apparently the week after the election in November, boat sales went through the roof,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said, shortly after touring Skeeter Performance Fishing Boats, where he met some of the 281 people who make arguably the most popular fishing craft on fresh water.

It was part of an East Texas swing Friday by Cruz, who later took part in a roundtable discussion at Tyler Junior College.

The Republican paused afterward to reflect on what’s new in Washington, including Senate passage Thursday of a Texas-born law to require multi-phone systems to reach emergency 911 dispatchers without requiring dialing an extra “9” to reach an outside line.

Kari’s Law, which goes into effect as a Texas-only law Sept. 1, is on track to become a national law. It is named for Kari Hunt Dunn, who died in a 2013 attack by her ex-husband in a Marshall motel room while her 9-year-old daughter tried unsuccessfully to dial 911.

“It’s nice to see Congress responding to real needs,” Cruz said after the tour.

Cruz, who last month called the ongoing federal probe into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election “political circus,” cited recent reports that three of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating attorneys donated $53,000 since 1988 to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

“Many investigations are going on in Washington, and Washington loves them,” he said, referring to parallel probes into Russian meddling by separate House and Senate committees along with Mueller’s Department of Justice investigation. “Those investigations are proceeding. There are worrying signs about the special counsel’s Democratic donors. It’s concerning to have partisan Democratic donors engaging in an investigation.”

The senator, and 2016 GOP presidential second-runner, gave a shorter answer when asked if Congress can pass comprehensive tax reform in 2017.

“I believe so,” he said, before naming tax reform, repeal of Obamacare, regulation reform “and ensuring strong constitutionalists are on the Supreme Court” as the top four Republican legislative targets.

“If we fail to do those four, this could be the most heart-breaking disappointment we’ve had in decades,” he said.

Minutes earlier, he had noted that Republicans control both congressional chambers, the White House and the leadership posts at all federal agencies.

“We’ve got the opportunity right now to do something right,” he said. “Now, we’ve got to deliver. … I am working with every breath in my body to bring Republicans together.”

Skeeter Senior Vice President and General Manager Jeff Stone said as Cruz was leaving that it had been good to bend the senator’s ear.

“We got some great time with him in the office, asking him to support the Modern Fish Act,” Stone said. “It’s very important to us.”

Also called the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act, the bill loosens or eliminates some fishing limits but is opposed by conservationist fishing groups.

Skeeter announced earlier this week that it is adding boat trailer manufacturing to its operations and plans to hire 35 people to staff a new 43,000-square-foot factory in Kilgore.

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