Cathy Garcia, regional director for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo), dropped by Otero County's Board of County Commissioners meeting on Monday to relay updates on federal legislation that Gardner is working on.

Gardner is fighting back against the federal estate tax and preparing to block President Donald Trump on pulling the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to Garcia.

She also said Amache, the World War II Japanese American internment camp site outside Grenada, may be on its way to becoming a national park, and Gardner is looking into support for rural doctors and veteran health services, Garcia said.

"(Gardner) has with other senators in Washington reintroduced the death tax," said Garcia. "We're trying to get rid of the federal estate tax. As you know, it affects a lot of our agricultural community when you have that estate tax."

The estate tax is described by the Internal Revenue Service as an assessment on one's right to transfer property following their death. It is calculated by totaling the fair market value of all of a deceased individual's belongings and assets, and allows for deductions on items such as mortgages, donations to qualified charities and the passing of property onto living family or loved ones.

"The value of some operating business interests or farms may be reduced for estates that qualify," according to the IRS website.

The IRS also states that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 set the basic exclusion amount for the estate tax at $11,180,000.

Garcia reported Monday that a piece of the Land Water Conservation Act passed earlier this year is now under development. The Amache Land Act is one of many measures within the LWCA. It directs the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the Amache internment site is fit to be designated a national park.

Amache was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.

"The feasibility study will begin soon, we're hoping by this fall," said Garcia. "We're hoping it shouldn't take that long because the Amache Preservation Society has done a lot of things out there and has listed the park as ... a historic site."

A bipartisan bill was introduced to not allow the president to remove the United States from NATO, Garcia said.

"That's a bill that's going through the committees right now," she said.

A bipartisan measure, the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act, to help rural hospitals train doctors, has been introduced in the Senate.

"(The bill would) put interns into various hospitals without being penalized," said Garcia. "Right now there is a current law that restricts the ability of hospitals to expand programs to train doctors for rural communities. That's something that we're hoping we pass so that we get more doctors in Southern Colorado."

Another health care related platform that Gardner is reportedly focusing on is that of health care or veterans. Post-deployment health care and reintegration for veterans are being addressed in what Garcia called the Veteran's Readiness Initiative.

"As you know, we've had a lot of problems with the VA providing correct service to our veterans," said Garcia.

The initiative contains six separate bills, each aiming to open up accessibility to services for veterans.

One section of the initiative deals with VA accountability, said Garcia. Another seeks to expand services to veterans if certain services aren't available at the VA clinic or hospital.

Garcia said that many veterans have trouble reintegrating into society for a variety of reasons. One of them is lack of health care services, including mental health.

"They should be able to go to any doctor at any clinic to obtain that service," she said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder makes up most of the mental health issues faced by veterans today, but it is not the only mental illness putting veterans at risk, Garcia said.

"One of the things that we have found is that we lack mental health counselors. Not only in Pueblo but in Southern Colorado. My son works for the state, he's a mental health counselor, and it's tough. It's tough to find them, find the counselors," said Garcia.

cburney@ljtdmail.com