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Johanns blasts OSHA overreachTell North Platte what you think
 
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Photo by George Lauby
Mike Johanns
Photo by George Lauby
Deb Fischer

Sen. Mike Johanns condemned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday for illegally imposing regulatory burdens on small farms.

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Johanns took to the Senate floor to blast OSHA for trying to regulate farms with fewer than 10 employees, and fining a Holt County farm $132,000.

Johanns wants Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to direct OSHA to cease the actions, which are contrary to congressional direction. Forty-two of his Senate colleagues from both sides of the aisle have signed a letter to Perez, asking him to do just that.

“My intent is to stop OSHA in their tracks,” he said.

Johanns said no injuries have occurred at the Holt County farm, but OSHA claims the grain bins are not part of farm operations.

“They threw the book at this farm,” he said.

Johanns said farms typically use some sort of grain storage facility as part of their normal operations. He said OSHA is vastly expanding their regulatory reach and making up its own rules, ignoring Congressional direction.

"The simple reality is OSHA inspectors are the ones breaking the law, not hard-working ag producers in Nebraska and across the country,” Johanns said.

Congress has included language in appropriations bills since 1976 expressly prohibiting OSHA enforcement actions against farmers with 10 or fewer employees.

Nebraska's Sens. Johanns and Fischer are leading critics of bureaucratic overreach. Johanns accused the Environmental Protection Agency of illegally using drones last summer to investigate feedlots.


Expired grants still cost money

Fischer introduced legislation to close out thousands of expired grant accounts, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, she announced Dec. 10.

The bill is called GONE (Grants Oversight and New Efficiency) and would require agencies to close out expired, empty grant accounts.

It would also require federal agencies to identify exactly why those accounts were never closed in the first place.

The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virgina.

In April 2012, the Government Accountability Office examined the largest civilian payment system for grants, the Payment Management System (PMS).

The GAO detailed the taxpayer costs for delaying the closeouts of expired grants accounts with an empty balance:

• PMS users were charged a total of roughly $173,000 a month to maintain more than 28,000 expired grant accounts with zero dollar balances, listed on the year end closeout report.

• The total charges for all expired grants with a zero dollar balance would represent roughly $2 million in fees if agencies were billed for these accounts for the entire year.

• Roughly 9,770 — about 34 percent — of expired grant accounts with no undisbursed balances stayed open three or more years past the expiration date.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 12/19/2013
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