More to be done in remaining lame duck session

The 112th Congress has as little as two weeks to close out business and pass legislation. If priorities remain unfinished by the end of December, legislators will have to start from scratch in January when the 113th Congress begins their two-year tenure.

Among the bills hanging in the balance are three of particular importance to Ducks Unlimited members and sportsmen:

Tax Deduction Caps
Both sides of the congressional aisle have suggested putting a cap on all itemized tax deductions, including charitable giving, to help avoid the fiscal cliff. 

Cap limits from $17,000 to $50,000 have been floated, but all would severely limit an important incentive to conservation easements and cash donations to DU. Conservation easements are an essential tool for preventing key agricultural lands from being lost to development while retaining them as working landscapes. Tax incentives like this help encourage good stewardship and actions that benefit society more broadly.

Farm Bill
The last Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, 2012. The Senate has passed a comprehensive five-year bill that included a national Sodsaver program and re-coupled conservation compliance to crop insurance. The House of Representatives seems to be moving closer to bringing their version of the bill to the floor for a vote, which must happen to reauthorize Farm Bill programs.

The Senate version of the Farm Bill saves $23 billion over 10 years. These savings have caught the attention of lawmakers and the bill is also being talked about as part of a fiscal cliff package.

Whether through a standalone vote or a fiscal cliff package, it is crucial to pass a five-year Farm Bill before the end of the year.

Sportsmen’s Act (S. 3525)
After overwhelming support in two procedural votes, the Sportsmen’s Act was held up by a budget point of order that required offsets for the additional revenue raised by the duck stamp price increase. The Sportsmen’s Act would also reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and approve the electronic duck stamp, making duck stamps available for purchase online.

Sens. Tester (MT) and Sessions (AL), Majority Leader Reid (NV) and Minority Leader McConnell (KY) successfully came to an agreement to offset the raised revenues in the Sportsmen’s Act. Unfortunately, there are other objections to a provision in the package that clarifies existing language that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate lead in ammunition. These objections have stalled the bill, and now it will be difficult to find floor time to take several procedural votes on the package as a standalone bill. But it’s possible that the Sportsmen’s Act could still be included as an amendment to another bill to get it passed during this session. 

Because Congress must finish what they can in December or start over, it is important to tell your legislators what your priorities are. Please call your representatives at 202-224-3121 to tell them to pass a five-year Farm Bill and the Sportsmen’s Act (S. 3525), and not to cap charitable tax deductions.