Max Steiner on the Issues

Elections

Second Amendment

Sixteen years ago I swore an oath to defend American democracy against all enemies “foreign and domestic” – I intend to keep that oath.

In 2020, the Republican Party lost the Presidential election and refused to accept the results. Doug LaMalfa and 133 other Republicans voted against certifying the results. Now the GOP is trying to rewrite state laws to ensure that their next attempt to steal an election is successful. This is unacceptable. Our democracy depends upon politicians respecting the results of free and fair elections.

The response of the Democratic Party and the Biden Administration to this attack on our democracy has been pitiful. Working on an infrastructure bill means nothing if democracy dies. Democrats need to fight to defend our right to vote. Too many incumbent Democrats are too comfortable, too complacent, or too old to fight for democracy.  I am not a do-nothing Democrat.  I have fought for democracy in Iraq and I intend to fight for democracy in Congress.

Policy Proposals:

  1. A new VRA: Pass a stronger Voting Rights Act fit for the challenges of 2022. Ensure that elected politicians never have the power to change the results of elections outside of a court challenge.
  2. Voter ID: Implement a federal voting I.D. program, to be run out of every U.S. Post Office, for free, six days per week. Photo identification for voting makes sense; but photo I.D.’s need to be free, convenient, and quick.
  3. Anti-Gerrymandering: Both parties engage in gerrymandering. Politicians use technology to pick their voters, rather than letting voters pick their politicians. We need to ban this practice at the federal level.

Forestry

Forestry

We have a forest management problem in the North State. We cannot fix our forests with rakes or regulations – we need to invest billions of dollars in active forest management on a massive scale.

We need to cut down many of the small- and medium-sized trees to create space. This space will facilitate tree growth and fire safety, while generating responsible, renewable revenues for property owners. Our forests are a resource, but they are also increasingly a risk – we can manage that risk better through better policies.

Public discourse on this topic has too often been ruined by simplistic, sound-bite-ready policies on both sides of the political aisle. We can’t solve forestry with soundbites. My brother lost his house in Redding to the Carr fire: I have skin in the game, and I know that the status quo is unacceptable.

Policy Proposals:

  1. Fund forests as an essential part of our country’s environmental infrastructure: we need to allocate $6 billion/year in federal funds for fuels reduction, prescribed fires, defensible space, and stewardship agreements. In 1995, the USFS spent 16% of its budget on fire – last year the total was 65%. Worsening fire seasons have drained resources from essential forest maintenance and we need to fill that accumulated deficit.
  2. Consolidate land management agencies: Transition the Forest Service from USDA to the Department of Interior – where it would join the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service in managing our natural resources.
  3. Rebuild our timber industry: Spend $1 billion/year to subsidize the start-up costs and streamline the regulations for greater mill capacity and responsible logging in the North State. This will include market interventions to make American timber more competitive. We have too much biomass in our forests and we need to incentivize the market to thin the small, crowded trees that threaten our communities.
  4. Manage our forests at scale: Ease the NEPA process to allow large-scale forest management plans: we need to be approving and executing 100,000-acre-plus treatment plans that acknowledge the catastrophic risks of a “no-treatment” alternative.

Fire

Suppression

Fires

Biden’s Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act allocated $3.3 billion to wildfire risk reduction over five years: about $660 million/year. It’s a well-intentioned start – and much more than the Republican Party was willing to spend – but it is insufficient.

We need a dedicated national effort to reduce the destructive impacts of uncontrolled wildfires. This will require an aggressive commitment by lawmakers to fund more firefighters, with more equipment, in more places. Just as importantly, lawmakers need to force USFS/BLM/NPS to change their culture from “managing fire” to “putting fires out and managing forests”.

Policy Proposals

  1.  More federal money to fight fire on federal land: $1.7 billion dollars/year for at least five years.
  2. Build federal air capability: more smaller platforms like helicopters and single-engine air-tankers distributed around the nation and crewed/maintained by full-time federal personnel. Large, contracted air tankers have a place in the firefighting task organization; but they are expensive and lack flexibility.
  3. Aggressive initial attack: the practice of “managed fire” is inappropriate given the poor state of our nation’s forests. Prescribed fires during appropriate burn windows are essential for forest health, but letting natural fires burn outside of burn windows is irresponsible. “Out by 10:00 am” makes sense with dense forests, higher temperatures, and lower soil moisture levels.

Water

Water

One of the most important things the federal government can do for California’s water crisis is to fund more dams.

If you think that California’s water problem can be solved with only dams: you are wrong. The changing climate means that the water is not there. If you think that you can solve California’s water problem with only water restrictions: you’re equally wrong. You will bankrupt farmers and destroy California’s agricultural industry.

We know, given climate change, that we will have these droughts in the future: that means a greater reliance on groundwater. The economics of these projects are clear, and every acre-foot of surface water capacity represents a foot less of groundwater users will need to pump.

Doug LaMalfa likes to claim that he knows water because he has a family tradition of using water. That is like a fox saying he should be in charge of the henhouse because he comes from a long line of foxes. The Steiners have a tradition of actually solving water problems in the West. My grand-uncle, Wesley Steiner, was Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources before becoming DWR Director in Arizona. There, he managed multiple competing issues in building the Central Arizona Project aqueduct, which moves 1.5 million acre-feet/year: balancing environmental and cost concerns while convincing farmers to tolerate groundwater limits.

I hope you will give me a chance to carry on the Steiner family’s tradition of solving water issues in the West through intelligent, balanced policymaking.

Policy Proposals:

  1. The federal government should fund 25% of Sites Reservoir for environmental water: cross-subsidizing capacity needed for urban and agricultural use while protecting vulnerable ecosystems.
  2. The federal government should continue to explore the Shasta Dam raise, and explore mechanisms to recoup costs through sales on the California Water Futures market.
  3. The federal government should continue to support California state efforts to balance groundwater use to provide an environmentally sustainable supply of water for users across the state.

National Defense and Law Enforcement

National Defense

Unlike Doug LaMalfa, I have fought for my country. Moreover, as an Army Reservist, I stand ready to fight for America again. We have too many politicians in Congress that have never worn a uniform in combat, and who have wasted countless dollars and lives on ill-fated interventions overseas.

Russia has declared war on Ukraine. Despite what Trump says, this is not a “genius” move. It is an act of aggression, a humanitarian disaster, and a prelude of what will happen if the U.S. retreats from its role as a global leader. We are also facing the threat of a rising China: a totalitarian regime singularly focused on the rules-based international order that cost half a million American lives in World War Two.  We live in the real world: where evil regimes stand ready to destroy everything we stand for. We need fighters in Congress that know the stakes.

I’ve never been a police officer (I can’t do everything!) but these are men and women putting their lives on the line over long shifts. I disagree with the current anti-cop rhetoric by many on the left. It’s unfair and unproductive. It reminds me of anti-military hate from the political left during Vietnam. It was inappropriate then, and it’s inappropriate now. I back the blue.

Guiding principles:

  1. The American military protects American interests. Sometimes that means protecting willing allies against foreign aggression. These military interventions are not zero cost: America must be willing to risk men and materiel to have influence. It does not mean nation building. We do not incur a Responsibility To Protect. Our soldiers are the cream of our society – and we must use them sparingly and decisively to secure an American future.
  2. Just as our military must remain a last resort, our diplomatic efforts overseas must remain proactively engaged on the front lines of foreign affairs. I have served as a diplomat in Honduras, Mexico, Egypt, and Washington, D.C. I know the issues, I know the questions to ask, and I know what the diplomatic service can reasonably accomplish.
  3.  Local law enforcement deserves our support. Every organization has room for improvement, but our public safety officers have a difficult and important job. I’ve served as a diplomat and soldier overseas and I’ve seen many police forces up close – our police are fine.

Fire

Personnel

We need a more flexible way to manage wildland firefighters. We need pre-trained, part-time crews that the government can activate as needed.

Fires are a national security problem, that are hard to predict, with a straightforward – though physically demanding – training pipeline. I’ve spent 10 years in the Army Reserves: this is literally the same set of problems that the Reserves and Guard were designed to solve. War is rare, unpredictable, and requires a country to have trained soldiers before it starts. We should use the military reserve/guard force structure as a model and apply it to the way we fight fires.

Policy Proposals:

  1. More Firefighters: fund, train, and equip thousands of Wildland Fire Reservists trained to a basic handcrew level (FFT2) that the Federal Government can call up when needed.
  2. Protect protect the civilian employment of wildland firefighters who are activated to fight large fires: USERRA for firefighters. The U.S. military protects its reserve members through USERRA – which protects the jobs of Reservists and Guardsmen when they are called to military duty. Reserve firefighters should have similar protections.
  3. Bring high-tier firefighters into full-time employment or split fire/university billets. We cannot lose highly-skilled firefighters to more stable civilian employment. In addition, educating motivated and experienced firefighters to take on positions of greater authority – such as professional foresters – can help fill personnel requirements within USFS/BLM/NPS.

Agriculture

Agriculture

As the American officer in charge of agricultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, I helped American farmers export rice, potatoes, and beef products even as local producers tried to get around the protections granted by CAFTA (The Central American Free Trade Agreement). I know the challenges that American producers face in exporting overseas and I know how to fight for you.

As your Congressman, I will support farmers in the district who have trouble penetrating the maze of American agricultural bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

The farmers of this district don’t need a Congressman that knows how to farm – they’re not turning to D.C. for help with farming. The farmers of this district need a Congressman who understands how to solve bureaucratic problems.

I know how to support farmers through policy.

Policy Proposals:

  1. An amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow Foreign Agricultural Service officers of the United States Department of Agriculture to revoke the visas of foreign nationals and their dependents that impede the sale of U.S. agricultural products overseas.
  2. A more equitable and streamlined H2A (temporary, agricultural) visa process that safeguards the rights of foreign agricultural workers while satisfying the needs of American producers.

Constitutional Rights

Our constitutional rights define who we are as Americans. They are not set in stone – note the 17 additional amendments made since the original 10 – but neither should we allow them to be undermined through onerous legislative restrictions. I feel that too many Americans “support the Constitution” only when it tells them what they want to hear. We see this disappointing hypocrisy most clearly in “left-wing” restrictions on Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms and in “right-wing” restrictions on Americans’ Fourth Amendment right to privacy and personal choice in pregnancy.

Outlawing guns will not end gun violence any more than outlawing abortion will end abortion.

Policy Proposals:

  1. Prohibit state-level attempts to evade constitutional oversight via the “Texas Route” – allowing citizens to sue those who get an abortion (in Texas) or gun makers and distributors (in California). These legal maneuvers are unconstitutional and un-American.
  2. Protect the right of women to access safe, legal abortion services until viability regardless of their state of residence.
  3. Protect the right of Americans to buy semi-automatic firearms after a background check regardless of their state of residence.