McInnis hosts town hall meeting

Representative discusses chronic wasting disease, grazing rights, prescription drug coverage

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The federal government should not involve itself in debates and controversies surrounding chronic wasting disease, but instead should provide funding support to the states for CWD testing and research, Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., told Craig residents Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

"We do not want to get involved in a political battle," he said. "Our responsibility is to provide resources to the states. I've put in a bill that would provide millions and millions of dollars to the states for testing and research that needs to be done."

Chronic wasting disease was one of many topics thrown at McInnis during a question-and-answer session that lasted more than an hour Wednesday.

More than 50 people attended the meeting and asked McInnis questions about redistricting, partial birth abortion, campaign finance, Medicare, civil defense, prescription drug assistance for the elderly and the chances of the Yampa River being designated wild and scenic.

One audience member asked about the ongoing battle between environmentalists and ranchers over grazing permits.

In the past the ranchers and federal government had a good relationship in regard to grazing on public lands, because of that good relationship agreements were not always specifically outlined on paper, McInnis said.

This could now come back to haunt ranchers, he said.

"These environmentalists have gone out and hired some very sharp attorneys to go over each line of text in these agreements," he said.

Long legal battles over what ranchers' rights are might be the ultimate result of these agreements.

"What they'll do is ask the court to put a stay on the grazing permit during the trial, which will drive the rancher off the land," he said. "That's exactly what they're trying to do."

The environmentalists have more fuel for their arguments because of the current drought, McInnis said.

"We are at a weak point now financially and the environmentalists know this," McInnis said.

He said he foresees environmentalists using the same strategy that they have used with hunters in the past.

"A few years ago animal rights people got smart and started applying for hunting permits then not using them," he said.

They'll do the same with grazing permits, he said.

"We've sent out letters to people saying be careful because this is what they're trying to do," he said.

Dr. Allan Reishus, chief of staff at The Memorial Hospital, asked McInnis about a bill he recently introduced regarding critical access hospitals.

A critical access hospital is a designation placed upon rural hospitals making them eligible for increased reimbursements from the federal government.

The designation will provide TMH with an estimated $950,000 of additional annual revenue.

"Our hospital was designated a critical access hospital and that has been a real positive," Reishus

said. "A catch is we can't have more than 15 patients in the hospital at a time."

McInnis recently presented a bill addressing the concern raised by Reishus, which would change the 15-patient maximum to a 12-patient annual average.

"I think I'm going to be successful with my bill," McInnis said. "It will put more facilities like Craig in compliance. I'm optimistic we're going to get this through."

McInnis was also asked about the possibility of prescription drug coverage for senior citizens.

"The politically correct thing for me to say is we're going to cover prescription drugs for senior citizens but I would never deliver on it," McInnis said. "It's imaginary at this point that we can give full prescription coverage to senior citizens."

McInnis said prescription drug assistance is being worked out.

"We have to figure out who is going to get it and who isn't," he said. "That's what we're trying to do right now. We're going to have some assistance for prescription care."

After numerous questions regarding funding in different program areas, McInnis explained why the federal government couldn't immediately write checks to everyone who asks.

"My office gets $5 billion to $10 billion in requests a day," he said. "The problem is none of the requests are bad."

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