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America Outdoors Association

February 12, 2010

America Outdoors Association Bulletin

Right to Float Measure Passed Colorado Legislature Today

Ocoee Outfitters Facing New Tax Challenges in State Legislature

Neither Rain nor Snow Kept Members of the AOA Board from Making Progress on the CDL and Other Issues in DC this Week

Forest Service Announces Intent to Rewrite Forest Planning Regulations

Draft Employment (HIRE) Act Introduced by Senators Baucus and Grassley

Right to Float Measure Passed Colorado Legislature Today

Despite opposition from the Colorado Farm Bureau, a bill to provide commercial outfitters with the right to float through private property on Colorado streams without fear of being cited for trespass passed the Colorado House today on a voice vote.  Representative Curry, the bill’s sponsor, showed a slide in her final statement which revealed that most western states have laws preserving the right of navigation on the state’s waterways. 

Many sections of Colorado rivers flow through private land.  A wealthy Texas land developer who owns property on the Taylor River had threatened to bar outfitters from floating through his property, which led to introduction of the bill. The bill would allow outfitters to float through private property and disembark to portage around barriers and hazards, as well as authorize incidental contact with stream beds. The bill would not allow egregious access for river users to stray through private property, according to the floor debate. Opponents of the bill opposed it as a misappropriation of private property rights.  Most states' public trust doctrines preserve the rights of commercial navigation on state waters and allow incidental contact with the stream bank. River outfitters in Colorado generated $142,000,000 in economic impacts in 2009.  

Ocoee Outfitters Facing New Tax Challenges in State Legislature

Once again, Ocoee outfitters have to fight several legislative bills designed to levy taxes on their operations.  Local politicians have long sought to exploit the small businesses that pay for the water released into the streambed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, to provide 116 days of whitewater recreation per year.  Private boaters float for free.  Over 24,000 private visits were recorded by the state in 2009.  In 2009 Ocoee outfitters won a long fought court case over an illegal tax levied against outfitters.  A local State Senator is once again trying to push another version of a tax bill through the State legislature. 

State and local taxes will be legalized if H.R. 3619, the Coast Guard Authorization Act, passed by the U.S. House is signed into law.  Sec. 301 authorizes state and local “sales taxes” on goods and services delivered on navigable waters.  The definition of sales taxes is likely to be broadly interpreted by local governments.  The Senate bill, H.R. 1194, does not contain the taxing authority.  Senators Snowe (R-ME) and Cantwell (D-WA) will probably decide whether to include Sec. 301 in the final version if the Senate passes its version of the Act and the House and Senate meet in conference to reconcile the differences.

Neither Rain nor Snow Kept Members of the AOA Board from Making Progress on the CDL and Other Issues in DC this Week

If you need snow call AOA.  Every event we have scheduled for the last 4 months has been greeted by record snowfall.  The lobby effort in Washington attended by several intrepid AOA board members was no exception.  Still, a break in the storm on Tuesday allowed the board members, the AOA staff, and the Washington counsel to make progress on several issues; including the proposed legislation to require Commercial Driver’s Licenses for 9 to 15 passenger vans and on cost recovery issues involving Forest Service permitting.

Forest Service Announces Intent to Rewrite Forest Planning Regulations

Not again!  For the third time in a decade the Forest Service will attempt to rewrite its rules governing how Forest Plans are written. The most recent rule was invalidated by the Courts. Under "What’s New" on the AOA website a link is provided to a summary of the issues the agency intends to consider when re-writing the regulations. Until that time the agency will rely on the 2000 rule, but expects Forests to use the 1982 rule, which is allowed by the 2000 rule, which was considered too complex by many agency managers.

The new rule will focus on restoration of Forests for a variety of values, including recreation and the benefits of travel and tourism.  AOA will be preparing comments which are due by February 16th. 

Draft Employment (HIRE) Act Introduced by Senators Baucus and Grassley. Provides Social Security Tax Exemption for Hiring Unemployed Workers and Extends Other Business Tax Breaks

Summary of Provisions
In a joint release, Senators Baucus and Grassley offered a bill that will bypass their Finance Committee jurisdiction and head straight to the Senate floor for debate.  Tax benefits for business include the following: 

Job Creation Provisions:

Schumer-Hatch Jobs Payroll Tax Exemption. This provision would offer an exemption from social security payroll taxes for every worker hired in 2010 that has been unemployed for at least 60 days. The maximum value would be equal to 6.2% of wages up to the FICA wage cap ($106,800). There would also be an additional $1,000 income tax credit for every new employee retained for 52 weeks to be taken on the employer’s 2011 income tax return. This proposal is estimated to cost $13 billion over ten years.

Extension of Section 179 Expensing. This provision would extend 2008 and 2009 section 179 expensing thresholds so that taxpayers may elect to write-off up to $250,000 of certain capital expenditures (subject to a phase-out once expenditures exceed $800,000) in 2010 in lieu of depreciating those costs over time. This proposal is estimated to cost $35 million over ten years.

Extension of Expiring Tax Provisions. The draft HIRE Act would also extend several tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009, providing tax relief for individuals and businesses. The draft HIRE Act would also extend several energy tax provisions, including credits for home efficiency and alternative fuel vehicles, as well as for biodiesel, renewable diesel and other alternative fuels. The draft bill also includes several disaster relief provisions. The total cost of the extenders provisions is about $31 billion over ten years.

Economic Safety Net Provisions

• Other provisions extend unemployment benefits for up to 60 weeks (26 from the state and 34 more weeks paid for by the federal government.  These provisions were set to expire February 28, 2010.  Cost of this provision is $22 billion over ten years.
• Extension of COBRA Premium Assistance. This provision would extend the 65-percent COBRA premium subsidy for terminated workers through May 31, 2010. This provision also includes technical clarifications to the program. The proposal is estimated to cost $3 billion over ten years.
• Extensions of Medicare benefits to avoid a 21% reductions in payments to doctors.

Several other provisions in the bill deal with write-offs for development costs and tax issues involving larger business and issues unrelated to employment.  To view the entire release go to: http://www.finance.senate.gov/press/Bpress/2010press/prb021110a.pdf
 

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