Norquist: Trump Plan Will Turbocharge the Economy

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Posted by ATR on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, 3:17 PM PERMALINK

Today ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement in praise of President Trump’s tax reform announcement:

“President Trump has re-energized the drive for fundamental tax reform that creates growth and jobs. The plan cuts taxes for businesses and individuals and simplifies the code so Americans can file on a postcard. Reducing taxes on all businesses down to 15% will turbocharge the economy.

The Trump administration has made it clear that spending on infrastructure will be kept separate from tax reform. This will allow tax reform to lower tax rates, abolish the Death Tax, and move to a territorial tax system that will allow us to compete internationally.”

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Supports USA Act of 2017 to Stop Unauthorized Spending

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, 3:00 PM PERMALINK

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) today introduced the Unauthorized Spending Account (USA) Act of 2017, legislation designed to restore Congressional authority over the power of the purse by ensuring all federal programs are properly authorized.

As it stands, unauthorized spending programs make up nearly 30 percent of the government’s discretionary budget. The USA Act will put a stop to this trend by subjecting all unauthorized programs to be subject to a sunset schedule. Additionally, this bill would establish a commission to conduct oversight and create the reauthorization schedule.

The USA Act would restore Congressional authority and ensure that Congress conducts oversight on programs that may no longer be necessary, but still come at a cost to taxpayers. ATR supports this important legislation and encourages all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the USA Act. Please read the letter here or below.

April 26, 2017

The Honorable Cathy McMorris Rodgers
United States House of Representatives
1314 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers,

I write in support of the “Unauthorized Spending Accountability” (USA) Act, legislation that implements several reforms designed to restore Congressional authority over the power of the purse by ensuring all programs are properly authorized.

At present, unauthorized federal programs make up $310 billion, or nearly 30 percent of the government’s discretionary budget. This includes important programs at the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. For years, Congress has ceded its authority to fund these programs and they are rolled over each year with little scrutiny or oversight.

The USA Act fixes this problem by implementing several reforms.

First, this legislation subjects all existing unauthorized programs to a three-year sunset schedule. In year one, programs receive just 90 percent of funding and in years two and three, programs receive 85 percent before sun setting after year three. This gives lawmakers a chance to reauthorize important programs before they sunset.

Second, the USA Act establishes the “Spending Accountability Commission” (SAC), to establish authorization schedules for all discretionary programs, conduct rigorous oversight over discretionary spending, and suggest areas to cut. To ensure Congress does not resume bad habits, the commission is required to establish a three year reauthorization schedule for federal programs funded by discretionary spending.

For too long, Congress has shied away from exerting its power of the purse when it comes to many spending programs. By overhauling Congressional authority over the power of the purse, this legislation will ensure lawmakers exert appropriate scrutiny over hundreds of billions in unauthorized spending. ​

ATR supports this important legislation and encourages all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the USA Act.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Norquist Statement in Praise of Trump Tax Reform Announcement

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Posted by Americans for Tax Reform on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, 12:31 PM PERMALINK

Today ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement in praise of President Trump’s tax reform announcement:

“President Trump has re-energized the drive for fundamental tax reform that creates growth and jobs. The plan cuts taxes for businesses and individuals and simplifies the code so Americans can file on a postcard. Reducing taxes on all businesses down to 15% will turbocharge the economy.

The Trump administration has made it clear that spending on infrastructure will be kept separate from tax reform. This will allow tax reform to lower tax rates, abolish the Death Tax, and move to a territorial tax system that will allow us to compete internationally.”


Senate Should Confirm Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017, 3:40 PM PERMALINK

This week the Senate will vote on the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee R. Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor. Mr. Acosta is a dedicated public servant who has spent his career handling complex legal issues and has a record of proven management and federal agency experience. Lawmakers in the upper chamber this week should vote to confirm Mr. Acosta as the next Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL).

During President Obama’s tenure the DOL issued a number of burdensome rules that threatened the U.S. economy and the livelihoods of millions of Americans. Since taking office President Trump has worked to reverse the DOL’s heavy-handed approach under Obama by issuing a number of Executive Orders to give relief to the business community, as well as by nominating Mr. Acosta to lead DOL.

Mr. Acosta has committed to supporting Executive Orders put forth by President Trump, primarily Trump’s order directing the DOL to review the Fiduciary Rule.

During a recent confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Acosta stated in regard to the fiduciary rule, “There is an executive action that directs how the Department of Labor will approach this rule. If I am confirmed as secretary of labor, I believe and support my following executive orders of the president.”

Acosta’s commitment to carry out Trump’s Executive actions on the Fiduciary Rule would be a welcome relief for American’s saving for retirement. As a result of the Rule, 7 million IRA holders could be disqualified from receiving investment advice, and the number of IRA’s opened annually would be reduced by up to 400,000.

Thankfully Mr. Acosta could soon be in a position to stop the rush to implementation of the Fiduciary Rule, among other onerous DOL rules put forth under Obama.

The U.S. Senate has previously confirmed Mr. Acosta on three occasions with bipartisan support – once for the National Labor Relations Board, once as an Assistant Attorney General, and also as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Lawmakers in the Senate this week should vote to confirm Mr. Acosta as the next Secretary of Labor. Acosta’s credentials show he not only has the necessary experience but the ability to lead the DOL in a way that serves the Department’s mission but does so in a way that foster’s economic growth, instead of deterring growth through regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic red tape. 

 

Photo Credit: Adam Polak

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Infrastructure Bill Provides Golden Opportunity for Ohio Legislature

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Posted by Marc Dupont on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017, 2:05 PM PERMALINK

 

Today, the Ohio House’s Committee on State and Local Government will hold a hearing on HB 121, legislation that would yield significant taxpayer savings by opening up competition for water infrastructure.

HB 121, if enacted, would save the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars per year by lifting local laws that restrict which piping materials can be used for water infrastructure projects. As is the case in other states, a number of cities and counties throughout Ohio dictate what materials can be used, which results in higher costs for taxpayers across the Buckeye state.

According to the American Chemistry Council, the average cost to replace water pipes in a “closed competition” jurisdiction is $51.83 per foot. In a city like Columbus that utilizes such a system, these costs can amount to almost $300,000 per mile. Compare that with nearby Delaware County, which does not impose such restrictions and has a competitive market for pipe materials. Their capital costs are a modest $33.33 per foot, which saves taxpayers a whopping $97,680 per mile when stacked up against cities like Columbus. It is estimated that by ensuring open competition across the country through the lifting of local restrictions, the cost savings could add up to more than $317 billion nationally.  

ATR sent the following letter to Ohio lawmakers urging them to support open competition and reduced costs by voting Yes on HB 121:

             Dear Representative,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Ohio, I urge you to support House Bill 121, legislation that would enable Ohio to rebuild its aging water infrastructure while reducing costs to taxpayers through open competition.

Arcane laws and procurement codes in many localities across the country, including Ohio, restrict the piping materials that can be used in water infrastructure projects, without consideration for project specifics. These restrictions prohibit the use of other materials that are longer lasting, better performing, and less costly to taxpayers. Such restrictions on piping materials represent classic protectionism, and another example of public policy that picks industry winners and losers.

In this case, the big losers from local closed competition statutes for water infrastructure are taxpayers, who are forced to pay the heightened costs of lower-performing piping materials whose use is mandated. Enactment of HB 121 would fix this problem by opening competition to all piping materials, which would yield significant taxpayer savings.

Take Franklin County, which has a closed competition policy on water infrastructure, compared to Delaware County. Delaware County, unlike Franklin, allows for open competition. As a result, the average per mile cost of water infrastructure piping in open competition Delaware County is $97,680 less than closed competition Franklin County. Those are real taxpayer savings.

HB 121 is a free market, pro-taxpayer reform that deserves your support. ATR will be educating your constituents and all Ohio taxpayers as to how lawmakers in Columbus vote on HB 121, and other important fiscal and economic matters throughout the legislative session. Please look to ATR to as a resource on tax, budget, and other policy matters pending before you.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform

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Jim Bowen

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IRS Data Breach Allows Hackers to Steal $30 Million from Taxpayers

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017, 1:23 PM PERMALINK

IRS Commissioner Josh Koskinen testified before the Senate Finance Committee that a breach in the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) has allowed hackers to gain access to the personal information of 100,000 students, who use the tool to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Identity thieves used this information to fill out fraudulent tax returns and steal an estimated $30 million from the U.S. government.

The tool works by importing students’ and families’ tax information - such as Adjusted Gross Income - directly from the IRS to their FAFSA application. The Data Retrieval Tool was popular among students, who used it to save time in applying for financial aid and student loans. It turns out that hackers were also fans of the online service; they could use fairly basic personal information to begin FAFSA applications in the guise of students. The DRT would then provide hackers with confidential tax information, which they could use to file fraudulent tax returns and steal money from American taxpayers.

Senator Orrin Hatch questioned Koskinen on why the IRS waited so long to take down the compromised Data Retrieval Tool. According to Koskinen, the IRS realized that the DRT may jeopardize taxpayer information, and therefore disabled the tool in order to address security concerns. However, most of the fraudulent tax returns in question were filed in January - months after the IRS realized the tool posed a security risk. Koskinen says he was alerted to the problem in September, but students continued to use the tool until it was taken down in March.

In 2015, as many as 17 million students had the option of using the Data Retrieval Tool to fill out their financial aid applications. This year, the IRS flagged 100,000 tax return applications that may have come from hackers who made of the DRT, although Koskinen says “that number may grow.” Of the 100,000 students whose information may have been stolen, the IRS has notified 35,000.

The exploitation of the Data Retrieval Tool is far from the only security breach that taxpayers need to worry about. Under Koskinen, the IRS has repeatedly failed to protect taxpayer information; in one breach in 2016, as many as 600,000 taxpayer accounts were jeopardized. The Government Accountability Office released a report accusing the agency of “significant deficiency” when it comes to protecting taxpayer data.

Koskinen, though, does not seem to be concerned about the IRS’s systematic failure to protect taxpayer information. “Fortunately, we were at the front end of this problem,” he testified. “We’ve been monitoring it. We have other areas we’re monitoring. We’re trying to anticipate where the criminals will attack next.”

Photo Credit: M. Seery

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Coalition Urges Congress to Rein in FDA's Overreach as Part of FY17 Spending Package

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, April 24th, 2017, 7:22 PM PERMALINK

Today, in a letter to GOP leadership in the House and Senate, as well as the Appropriations Chairman, Americans for Tax Reform and thirteen other free market groups urged Congress to rein in the Food and Drug Administration's May 2016 "Deeming Rule" as part of the FY17 appropriations package. Without immediate action, rules imposed by President Obama's FDA on an expanded list of "tobacco products" will force thousands of new businesses to close their doors by August of 2018. 

As a result of the Rule, which redefined tobacco products subject to regulations imposed by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), every manufacturer of tobacco-free vapor products - large and small - will have to submit what is called a Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA), retroactive and burdensome pre-approval process designed to prevent new products from hitting the market. This will harm public health, stifle innovation, and kill jobs. 

Below is the letter, which can also be read here. 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to provide regulatory relief from the Food and Drug Administration’s May 2016 “Deeming Rule” as part of the final FY17 omnibus appropriations package. Without a modernization of a provision of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA), the Deeming Rule will kill tens of thousands of jobs in an industry that is helping many American smokers transition to lower risk alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

Language and legislation sponsored by Congressmen Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) modernizes the “predicate date” for newly deemed products, providing urgent relief to small businesses from an onerous and retroactive pre-approval process imposed by last year’s Rule. House Resolution 1136 and the Cole-Bishop Amendment to the current FY17 Agriculture Bill would provide additional substantive protections for adult consumers without preventing the FDA from imposing more appropriate regulations for the product category in the future.

Congressional action is necessary to prevent the loss of tens of thousands of jobs created in the last four years. Most of these jobs are the result of domestic manufacturing and new retailers that are providing smokers with potentially effective smoking cessation and/or harm reduction choices that were not available ten years ago. 

The Deeming Rule requires new products that did not exist on or before February 15, 2007 – the predicate date – to undergo a burdensome pre-market review process that achieves little in the way of protecting public health at a very high cost. The FDA’s own estimates found that the cost of completing and submitting the required Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) would exceed $300,000 per product and take at least 500 hours of time per application. At present, the deadline for the submission of PMTAs for each product manufactured in the United States is August 8, 2018.          

There are tens of thousands of vapor products that would have to be processed by the FDA and the Center for Tobacco Products in the months following August of next year, a nightmare for the agencies and small businesses involved. That is, if businesses could even afford an attempt at compliance. Estimates from the startup industry suggest 99% of all businesses would be wiped out unless Congress moves soon to rein in the Deeming Rule’s burdensome barriers to approval for new products.

This onerous process required of every single vapor product on the market today was one that every single manufacturer of cigarettes in the U.S. avoided when the TCA was signed into law. Even if businesses could afford this investment, however, the process is designed to end in failure. Many small businesses produce hundreds of these products and would be forced to close their doors as a result of this retroactive federal rule.

In his confirmation hearing as FDA Commissioner two weeks ago, Dr. Scott Gottlieb concluded, “There should be reduced harm products available to consumers to transition them off of combustible cigarettes.” Dr. Gottlieb recognizes what numerous international health agencies and bodies have – that vapor products are substantially less harmful than cigarettes and should be embraced by the government as low-risk alternatives for smokers. Without a statutory change to TCA by Congress, however, these tens of thousands of smoking cessation products will be illegal in August of next year.

Time is of the essence for many of these businesses, which cannot afford to wait for an administrative delay in deadlines or delayed Congressional action on the 2016 Deeming Rule. The millions of consumers who currently rely on these products as less harmful alternatives to smoking need your help today.

The Cole-Bishop Amendment and House Resolution 1136 would not weaken the TCA or the ability of the FDA to impose additional product standards or regulations on new products in the future. That is precisely why the efforts are bipartisan, because there is recognition that while regulations that protect consumers are important, the Rule imposed burdens that neither protect consumers, nor acknowledge that the consequence will be the new industry’s demise.

The inclusion of the Cole-Bishop Amendment, as it passed the House Appropriations Committee, will provide significant regulatory certainty to tens of thousands of small businesses in the United States. We encourage Congress to adopt the language into the final FY17 omnibus budget. 

The letter and its signers can be read and found here. 

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ATR Joins Coalition Urging Congress to Hault DOL Fiduciary Rule

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, April 24th, 2017, 2:56 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week joined a coalition of free market organizations urging Congressional lawmakers to quickly act to stop the pending implementation of the Department of Labor's (DOL) Fiduciary Rule. 

The Fiduciary Rule, put forth by the DOL under President Obama, would greatly reduce the ability of financial advisors to give advice to IRA and 401(k) holders, essentially putting the federal government between Americans and their retirement savings decisions. Estimates show the Rule could disqualify up to 7 million IRA holders from investment advice, and reduce the number of IRAs opened annually by up to 400,000.

The coalition letter outlines three affirmative steps Congress should take to stop the Fiduciary Rule from taking effect before a thorough examination, as ordered by President Trump this year, is completed.

First, the Senate should confirm President Trump's nominee to lead DOL, Alexander Acosta, who can stop the rush to implementation. Second, any omnibus spending package to fund the government for the next fiscal year should include a policy rider denying funding to DOL for implementation of the Rule. Third, Congress should work toward revising the Rule or overturning it entirely. 

The full coalition letter can be found here

 

Photo credit: Shawn Clover

 

 

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ATR Urges Texas Lawmakers to Support Paycheck Protection Legislation

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Posted by Patrick Gleason on Monday, April 24th, 2017, 11:16 AM PERMALINK

Texas is widely seen as a bastion of conservative and free market policies and governance. However, while Texas is a Right to Work state, it does not have a Paycheck Protection law on the books. As a result, state agencies and municipalities across the Lone Star State relieve government worker union bosses of dues collection responsibilities and take care of that for them using taxpayer resources. 

Money the state automatically takes from worker paychecks and hands to union bosses is then used to support anti-business, anti-taxpayer policies and candidates. Today ATR president Grover Norquist sent the following letter to Texas state representatives, urging them to vote Yes on legislation already approved by the state senate that would put an end to this misuses of scarce taxpayer resources:

 

To: Members of the Texas House of Representatives

From: Americans for Tax Reform

Re: Paycheck Protection Legislation

Dear Representative,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Texas, I urge you to support and vote Yes on Senate Bill 13, legislation approved by the Senate, and House Bill 510, legislation introduced by Rep. Sarah Davis. This pro-worker legislation, if enacted, would end automatic government deduction of union dues from public employee paychecks.

It is a completely inappropriate use of taxpayer resources to have state agencies and municipalities serving as the money bagmen for unions, but that is the current practice in the Lone Star State, a fact whose revelation surprises many who otherwise view Texas as a bastion of pro-business policies. The question comes down to whether lawmakers think the state should be in the business of using taxpayer resources to collect political money for government unions. Lawmakers who think that is an improper function of government and use of taxpayer resources can put a stop to it by voting Yes on SB 13/HB 510.

Despite what opponents of this legislation have incorrectly alleged, SB 13/HB 510 would not affect the right to organize and join a union; the legislation would simply require union bosses to collect their dues from workers voluntarily, as opposed to the current practice of having state agencies and municipalities collect it for them. If unions are providing a valuable service to workers, then they will have no problem convincing workers that they should join and pay dues voluntarily without automatic state confiscation. However, research indicates that without proper safeguards, many workers are forced to give up hard earned wages against their will.

A study by the Heritage Foundation found states that passed paycheck protection laws like SB 13 & HB 510 saw union spending on political campaigns and activities fall by an average by 50% after such laws were enacted. In Washington State, the Washington Education Association saw the number of members donating to the political activity fund drop from 82% to 11% following the implementation of Washington’s paycheck protection law in 1992. This underscores the fact that often the goals of the union leadership do not reflect the priorities of workers.

One of the more egregious aspects of automatic confiscation of union dues from government worker paychecks in Texas is fact that money the state collects for union bosses is in turn funneled to candidates and lobbyists who advance and advocate anti-business, anti-taxpayer policies. Enactment of SB 13 or HB 510 would put an end to this racket. As such, ATR urges you to vote Yes on SB 13 and HB 510. ATR will be educating your constituents and all Texas taxpayers as to how lawmakers in Austin vote on this and other important fiscal and economic matters throughout the legislative session.   

 

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist

President

Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: 
Stuart Seeger

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ATR Supports H.J. Res. 73 and S.J. Res. 19 Repealing CFPB’s Prepaid Card Rules

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Posted by Daniel Uzi Frydman on Monday, April 24th, 2017, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President Grover Norquist this week sent a letter to Congressional lawmakers urging support for Representative Roger Williams' H.J. Res. 73 and Senator David Perdue's S.J. Res. 19.

Both resolutions would use the Congressional Review Act to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) rules on prepaid debit cards, put forth at the end of 2016 and set to go into effect April of 2018. The CFPB’s prepaid card rule would deprive American financial consumers of access to banking services and perpetuate the regressive impacts of Dodd-Frank.

Below is the text of the letter to Congress, which can also be found here.

April 24, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) rule on prepaid debit cards.

Issued in the fall of 2016 and set to go into effect April of 2018, the CFPB’s rule on prepaid debit cards would actually harm the same financial consumers the Bureau sought to protect in issuing the rule. Millions of American consumers use and rely on prepaid cards, yet if the CFPB’s rule is allowed to proceed those millions of consumers will be deprived of access to needed banking services.

As a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, many banks no longer offer free checking accounts or have alternatively either increased fees or required higher minimum balances for maintaining free checking accounts. This has had the effect of pushing many financial consumers out of the traditional banking system and led to millions of Americans becoming “unbanked.” The CFPB’s rule would only increase this regressive trend, impacting primarily low-income consumers.

A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that of an estimated 23 million consumers using prepaid cards, a quarter of those were low-income Americans, with a third having annual income below $15,000. Prepaid cards have increased in popularity in recent years, with the amount placed on prepaid cards growing from $1 billion in 2003 to a projected $112 billion for 2018.

This is due in part to the fact that for consumers that can no longer afford traditional banking services, prepaid cards are a more affordable option than traditional debit cards linked to checking accounts. The CFPB’s rule will in turn have a disparate impact on low-income financial consumers and as a result further increase the number of unbanked Americans.   

Thankfully, Representative Roger Williams and Senator David Perdue have introduced joint resolutions of disapproval of the CFPB’s rule under the Congressional Review Act. H.J. Res. 73 in the House and S.J. Res. 19 in the Senate would repeal the CFPB’s costly and regressive prepaid debit card rule.

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to support both H.J. Res. 73 and S.J. Res. 19 and use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to protect American consumers and preserve choice in financial products by repealing the CFPB’s rule on prepaid debit cards.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform​

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder


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