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EPA Moves to Scuttle Alaskan Pebble Mine

Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Monday, July 21st, 2014, 2:43 PM PERMALINK

Underneath picturesque Bristol Bay in Southwestern Alaska sit vast deposits of an estimated $300 billion worth of molybdenum, copper and gold. The waters of Bristol Bay hold the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the entire world, as well as huge populations of silver, chum, and king salmon. It is obvious that Bristol Bay is home to unbelievably valuable natural resources which could be used to create prosperity for Alaska as well as the rest of the country. Certainly, the area is delicate; a large number of local jobs rely on fisheries, and many of the residents rely on wild resources such as salmon, caribou and moose to survive. All this being said, you’d think the federal government and EPA would be interested in fostering cooperation between itself, industry, and the residents of Bristol Bay and the surrounding areas to take advantage of all this opportunity while protecting the local people and ecosystem, right? Well, not necessarily.

The Pebble Mine is a project proposed by the Pebble Partnership that would make use of the currently unutilized deposits of gold, copper and molybdenum in Bristol Bay. Before the project can start, however, Pebble Partnership will have to spend a lot of time and money acquiring permits, which is where the EPA comes into the story. Normally, when a mining project is proposed, the company who plans to do the mining applies to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit that certifies the project complies with section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Assuming the Corps of Engineers grants the permit, the EPA then has the authority to veto it if they deem the project to be too great a risk to the environment, or, more recently, too great a risk to the EPA’s increasingly partisan politics.

And it looks like Pebble Mine’s permit might be well upon its way to being denied before it’s even applied for. The EPA has already begun to propose drastic restrictions on how the land can be used. Technically this is not a preemptive strike, but it certainly looks like one in effect. The restrictions are based on a precarious report that made a number of false assumptions about the Pebble Mine. The House Oversight Committee even has reason to believe that Philip North, a former EPA employee, had already been making plans with colleagues in 2009 to deny Pebble Partnership a permit before they even applied for it, and even before the research on the mine’s potential impacts had begun. This is currently being investigated, but Philip North has not been reached for comment, citing a number of excuses, such as a one-year boat trip around the world with his children. When subpoenaed for North’s emails, the regional EPA office conveniently claimed that they’d been lost in a hard drive crash. Sound familiar? (http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/210564-epa-says-hard-drive-crashed-emails-lost )

Speaking about the potential mining project, EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran said, “The science is clear that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems.” That doesn’t sound like someone who wants to have an objective discussion. It also presumes that there’s nothing the Pebble Partnership can do to sway the agency, even though they are yet to submit their permit application.   

Pebble Mine has potential to be a great benefit to local Alaskan communities, particularly the native population. Maybe the mine would work in harmony with the locals and wildlife, and improve the lives of thousands of Americans. Maybe the mine really would be too great a risk to the environment, and should be abandoned. Either way, we all knew when our parents said things like “You can’t because I said so, and that’s the end of this conversation!”, it was often because they knew their arguments wouldn’t stand up to even a child’s scrutiny. So when the EPA essentially does the same thing to a mining company, it leaves us all to wonder. Why are they so afraid of a little discussion?

Photo Credit: 
Silverback Photo

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Aussies Throw Carbon Tax on the Barbie, U.S. Should Do the Same

Posted by Brendan Walsh on Monday, July 21st, 2014, 2:07 PM PERMALINK

Thursday, July 17th Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and his conservative government followed through on one of its promises to the people during the previous election to repeal the country’s Carbon Tax that was constricting the economy. While the left and environmental groups will undoubtedly clamor about the recent Senate vote (39-32) to repeal the carbon tax, there is little doubt that the Australian government did the right thing.

Australia’s carbon tax cost the country billions of dollars each year, draining the Australian economy of approximately $8.5 billion annually all while forcing ordinary families to pay more than an average of $500 more for power each year. With the repeal of the often maligned carbon tax, Australia has repositioned itself as a safe place for investment in crucial industries such as mining. Furthermore, by eliminating the carbon tax, Australian businesses and families will have an unnecessary burden lifted off their shoulders, paving the way for more jobs and future economic growth.

The United States can and should take note of Australia’s decision to repeal the carbon tax if it wants to protect itself from skyrocketing energy prices. While the Left and environmental groups in the U.S. continue to push for Cap and Trade and various forms of carbon taxation, they fail to apply basic economics in their rational. Simply put, by taxing carbon indiscriminately it increases the cost of business for that company, therefore reducing profits and threatening jobs. However, the negative externalities do not end there. The increase cost of business due to carbon taxes are sent along the supply chain, leading to the prices of inputs and commodities to increase. These increased costs are eventually passed on to taxpayers like you not only when you go to fill up your tank, but when you go to buy that carton of milk from your local grocery store as well.

On June 2nd 2014, the EPA officially released its new draft rule to force power plants to cut carbon emissions by 30% (from levels of 2005) by the year 2030. This ideologically driven mandate will have dire consequences on the U.S. economy. The administration’s climate agenda is poised to devastate the US economy. As Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal notes, coal produces more carbon dioxide than oil and natural gas but it is by far the most abundant and cheap source of energy in the U.S. Coal, which provides 40% of electricity in the United States and the new regulations threaten to not only raise the cost of electricity but also threaten jobs in the industry.

The Chamber of Commerce analyzed a similar rule as the EPA’s and found that such regulations would cost the U.S. economy an average of $51 billion annually. From 2014 to 2030 that is an estimated $816 billion drain from the U.S. economy. Additionally, the report notes that the carbon regulation’s would cost the US 2224 jobs annually through 2030, which means in total it would cost the US approximately 3,584,000 jobs. Furthermore the Chamber notes that energy costs for US taxpayers would increase by $289 billion, and reduce the amount of disposable income for families by approximately $596 billion. Simply put, given the failing economic recovery, the U.S cannot afford losing an additional $816 billion from the country’s GDP, nor does not make sense to prevent millions of Americans from finding jobs, or increase energy costs for households which hurt the least wealthy most of all.

Australia has shown the US a way to escape the grasps of over burdensome regulations pushed by the ideologically driven left that constrict economic growth and prosperity and now the U.S. must follow if it wishes to remain among the most competitive countries in the world.  


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Contrasting Records a Feature of the North Carolina Senate Race

Posted by Patrick Gleason, Jorge Marin on Monday, July 21st, 2014, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Most state legislatures have wrapped up their 2014 sessions and the November elections will be here sooner that many realize. North Carolina is one of the top political battlegrounds this fall, with embattled Senator Kay Hagan (D) fighting for her political life against her Republican opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. Politico reported last week faces one of the toughest reelection races for any Senate Democrat this year, a true toss-up fight against North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.”

Hagan has made clear that her campaign strategy is to score political points by painting Tillis as a conservative zealot whose record in the legislature is extreme. However, a look at the facts about Tillis’s top achievements as Speaker’s shows his record to be anything but extreme, and very much in line with pro-growth policies. Here are the highlights of what has been accomplished in the North Carolina legislature under the leadership of Thom Tillis:

  • Historic, rate reducing tax reform: last year Speaker Tillis helped bring the income tax rate down from a top rate of 7.75 percent to a flat rate of 5.75 percent, reducing taxes for all income levels. This pro-growth tax package relieved North Carolina of the dubious distinction of having the highest income tax in the Southeast and will provide North Carolinians with $6.475 billion in tax relief over the next 6 years. Tillis also cut the state corporate tax, one of the most economically damaging forms of taxation, from 6.9 percent to 5 percent. If revenue targets are met, the rate will go down to 3 percent by 2017.
  • Full repeal of death tax
  • Balanced the budget every year he has been Speaker
  • Since becoming Speaker in 2011, unemployment in North Carolina has gone from well above the national average to below it, from  9.7 percent to 6.4 percent.
  • North Carolina’s GDP grew by an average of 4.73 percent since Tillis became Speaker, while the nation as a whole grew by only 2.17 percent during the same period.
  • Last August, North Carolina enacted much-needed regulatory reform, which removed many of the state’s antiquated and burdensome regulations on businesses.
  • Tillis helped to shepherd through an expansion of the state’s school voucher program which has helped over 2,100 children escape failing schools and get a better education.


With a list of accomplishments like this, it’s going to be hard for Hagan to paint Tillis’s record as extreme, but it seems she is going to try. However, it’s not surprising that Hagan wants to focus on Tillis and not her own top legislative achievement, which is her vote for Obamacare and the 20 federal tax increases it imposed on North Carolinians.

A rally for Tillis supporters was held in Raleigh this past weekend (link). With state budget negotiations coming to a conclusion, North Carolina Republicans are now able to turn their attention to addressing the misinformation being spread by the Hagan campaign. Not all North Carolinians can keep their doctor under Obamacare, contrary to what President Obama and Sen. Hagan claimed. The good news is that they can elect a new senator this November.

Photo Credit: Mark Peterson

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ATR Endorses Sen. Toomey's Highway Amendment to Help Rebuild Disaster Areas

Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, July 18th, 2014, 4:02 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) endorses Sen. Toomey’s highway amendment (S. amdt. 3564) that streamlines the construction of bridges, roads, and highways that were damaged during disasters. All too often, byzantine environmental laws unnecessarily delay repairs to essential infrastructure. The Toomey amendment allows roads, highways, and bridges to bypass a number duplicative regulations and permitting requirements so long as they are rebuilt with identical characteristics (capacity, dimension, and design).

Speaking in support of the Toomey amendment, ATR president Grover Norquist said “complicated regulations not only increase the cost of infrastructure projects but delay their construction. Sen. Toomey should be applauded for remedying both of these problems when Americans have the least amount of patience for either — after disasters. If Congress is going to have any chance at reforming the highway trust fund, we’ll need more solutions like this one.”

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Corporate Inversions Caused by High U.S. Tax Rate on Companies

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, July 18th, 2014, 12:17 PM PERMALINK

There's a lot in the news this week about "corporate inversions."  That's when a U.S. company with a foreign subsidiary becomes a foreign company with a U.S. subsidiary.

Not surprisingly, Congressional Democrats are out demonizing these companies for daring to look out for their shareholders, employees, and customers.  What you won't hear many Democrats talk about is why these companies feel compelled to do an inversion in the first place.

In a word, it's all about the U.S. corporate tax rate, plus a few other details.

The U.S. has the highest tax rate on businesses in the developed world.  Our corporate tax rate (including states) is 39.1 percent.  Flow-through firms face an even higher rate, approaching 50 percent depending on their state.

Compare this to business taxes overseas, which average about 25 percent in the developed world.  

Each of our major trading partners--Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France--have business tax rates lower than ours.  There are also minor trading partners (Ireland and the Netherlands being good examples) who have significantly lower rates and have been attracting capital recently.

Combine this with the fact that the U.S. has a worldwide tax regime (exposing our companies' profits earned abroad to potential double taxation) and painfully slow cost recovery tax rules, and you have created an atmosphere where corporate inversions become very attractive.

If you want to reverse this trend, there's only one way to really do it--lower the tax rate that businesses pay.  At the very least, companies here should not face a tax rate higher than the 25 percent average rate they would face elsewhere in the developed world.

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Better yet, reduce it to a flat 10% and the economy of the US will immediately start picking up. Caution though...the reduction of that rate must NOT be offset by citizens paying the difference...like it works here in Texas. Texas, despite what's reported, is NOT a low tax State.

DC Council Approves Historic Tax Cuts

Posted by Alexander Bobroske on Thursday, July 17th, 2014, 4:35 PM PERMALINK

Earlier this week the DC Council voted 12-1 to override Mayor Vincent Gray’s budget veto. The budget vetoed by Mayor Gray includes historic tax cuts not been seen by DC residents in 15 years. Americans for Tax Reform applauds the DC City Council for restoring this much needed tax relief for District residents.

The budget includes triggers for tax cuts if revenue targets are met, providing tax relief for District employers and residents. Key provisions of the plan include the following:

  • Middle class taxpayers (making between $40,000 and $350,000) will see their top marginal tax rate drop from 8.5 percent to 7 percent next year and then 6.5 percent the year after that.
  • Those earning up to $1 million will see their top rate fall from8.95 percent to 8.75 percent.
  • Increase of standard deductions and person exemptions.
  • Childless low-income workers will see their Earned Income Tax Credit increase from 40 to 100 percent of the federal credit.
  • The business tax will drop from 9.975 to 9 percent in 2016, 8.5 percent by 2018, and finally to 8.25 percent by 2019. This places DC business taxes in line with Maryland’s.
  • Death tax threshold will increase from $1 million $5.25 million to match the federal death tax exemption threshold.


The $225 million tax cut is offset partially by the $67 million in new revenue from expansion of the sales tax base, leaving the majority of tax relief facilitated by spending restraint in the $10.6 billion budget, down from $12.85 billion in FY 2014.

There has been a lot of uproar over the alleged yoga tax included in the budget. But District yogis should fear not. There is no special wellness tax going into effect; the new tax plan merely applies the local sales tax to yoga and gym glasses, along with other previously exempt services. The amount of income tax cut far exceeds higher sales tax collections that this base broadening will generate. This newly increased disposable income will allow Washingtonians to afford even more yoga sessions.

The DC Council should be commended for clamping down on Mayor Gray’s expensive pet projects, such as his citywide streetcar service plans. Former mayor and current councilmember Marion Barry recently stated that taxpayers would have to pay $2,000 to subsidize each ride on the only existing streetcar line, a line which is yet to open even after years of planning and construction.

It appears that Washington’s business tax climate has become so onerous that even the DC Council realizes the status quo is unacceptable.  ATR applauds the DC Council members for overriding Mayor Gray’s veto of much-needed tax relief. After being hit with over 20 federal tax hikes signed into law by President Obama over the last four years, Washingtonians need tax relief at the local level now more than ever.

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Sen. Vitter’s Environment and Public Works’ Staff Skewer New EPA Regulation

Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Thursday, July 17th, 2014, 10:58 AM PERMALINK

The EPA’s long-thwarted attempts to grab more power for itself by redefining what “waters of the US” means under the Clean Water Act may finally pay off, to the misfortune of industry, farmers and private individuals nationwide.  Under the new WOTUS rule proposed by the EPA, their jurisdiction would be expanded to include such bodies of water as roadside, irrigation and stormwater ditches, as well as all waters in floodplains and riparian areas (with it being conveniently left up to the EPA to decide if an area floods often enough to be called a floodplain). Just as troublingly, whether or not a body of water has a “significant nexus” to a jurisdictional body of water would be decided at the EPA’s discretion on a case-by-case basis rather than there being clear criteria in the proposed rule. This could very easily lead to the EPA claiming jurisdiction over almost any non-trivial body of water, giving them the ability to impose more exorbitant fines on more individuals and businesses and crush business growth and development under the weight of new costly and time-consuming permits.

The EPA hasn’t even bothered to be honest when addressing the concerns of the people who know they’d be affected by this new rule, as you can see in this thorough and necessarily merciless fact-check by Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) Environment and Public Works staff. The release can be read in its entirety here (http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=4d7c5f5b-0344-5b3e-c202-08364c217428and is excerpted below

EPA claims that the proposal:

  • Does not regulate new types of ditches
    • But the rule says: For the first time, the proposed rule explicitly includes ditches unless they fall within one of two exceptions based on location and flow. Many ditches throughout the country will be unable to meet the rule’s limited exemption provision and thus will become subject to federal Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction under the rule, contrary to the Agencies’ claims.
  • Does not regulate activities on land
    • But the rule says: Under the CWA federal jurisdiction extends to “navigable waters” which are defined as the “waters of the United States.”  Water bodies deemed “waters of the United States” are subject to permitting mandates, federal enforcement mechanisms, mitigation procedures, and citizen suits. A wide variety of activities on land require permits when they impact a “water of the United States” including, home building and construction, agriculture, ranching, and mining.  The CWA does not provide a guaranteed right to a permit and if an applicant is denied, that individual or business will be unable to move forward with the planned project, thus allowing the EPA and Corps to essentially dictate the list of permissible land use activities afforded a particular landowner.
  • Does not apply to groundwater
    • But the rule says: The rule claims to exclude groundwater, but language in the rule also states a waterbody may be a “water of the United States” if it has a “shallow subsurface hydrological connection” to other jurisdictional waters. This language suggests that Agencies may intend to use groundwater as a basis for CWA jurisdiction.
  • Does not affect stock ponds
    • But the rule says: If a stock pond is natural or used for purposes other than those listed by EPA, the stock pond could be considered a “water of the United States.” The rule says that ponds are exempt only if they are “artificial” and used “exclusively” for stock watering, irrigation, settling basins, or rice growing.
  • Does not require permits for normal farming activities, like moving cattle
    • But the rule says: More farming activities will require CWA permits under the agencies’ interpretive rule for normal agricultural activities. Included in the interpretive rule is a “prescribed grazing” requirement, so that if the federal government doesn’t like the way a rancher grazes cattle, they can force the rancher to either obtain a Clean Water Act permit or pay up to $37,500 per day in fines.
  • Does not regulate puddles
    • But the rule says: The actual text of the rule is so sweeping that virtually any wet area could potentially be considered a “water of the United States.”  Under the rule, small and isolated waterbodies may be considered a “water of the United States” when, in combination with other similarly situated waters, they have a significant nexus to a traditional navigable water.  This provides no effective limit to federal regulatory authority and will encourage litigious environmental groups to sue property owners no matter the supposed intentions of EPA.  In fact, certain environmental groups are already using the rule’s language to bring citizen suits based on the broad authority provided, and there’s little reason to doubt that puddles could attract abusive litigation in the near future if the rule is finalized.

Sen. Vitter and the EPW Republicans have been actively engaged with EPA and the Corps since the “waters of the U.S.” rule was released. They have been concerned with how the rule would impact the economy and affect private property rights.

Visit epw.senate.gov for more information

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The Battle of Tech Apps and the Government

Posted by Kelly Macfarland on Thursday, July 17th, 2014, 10:12 AM PERMALINK

The battle between technology applications such as Uber and Lyft and the state governments is well-known and well-publicized. The standard David and Goliath story: the government sees that the applications are more successful than the government-run cabs as the applications are more innovative in how they make the applications to be fun to use and easier to get around. Thus, the government is using everything at their disposal in order to prevent people from using Uber & Lyft over their cabs. According to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, this is occurring currently in New Mexico, and Watchdog.org reporter Rob Nikolewski has covered the scuffle.

"In New Mexico, Nikolewski has covered the current standoff between ride- sharers and the state’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC). In June the PRC voted 3-2 to deny a request from Uber for a certificate to provide “specialized passenger service” and allow them to operate. But the ride sharing companies continued to give rides in defiance of regulators and despite the PRC filing a cease and desist order on Lyft in May."

Due to the demand by the public, the PRC caved two weeks later, directing its staff to draft a proposal to allow companies such as Uber & Lyft to operate in New Mexico. We will know for sure though, once the final vote occurs. New Mexico isn’t the only state that is having this reaction. Virginia has also taken similar reaction in preventing the companies from operating. Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau’s Kathryn Watson revealed in a report that there was significant history with taxicab industry and lobbying and campaign donations in Virginia.

"Since 1996, the Virginia Taxicab Association has donated nearly half a million dollars to Virginia politicians and has retained four registered lobbyists as of May 2014."

States are looking for any reason to stop Uber & Lyft’s operations from saying they are “operating illegally” to “protecting the public from riding in the car with strangers”. The back and forth between the state government vs. the application companies is an interesting one, as it’s showing two major discussion points. Firstly, what a monopoly like the cab companies will do when their power is challenged. And secondly, each state is beginning to define what free market means in each state, include what the lines are.

To read full article click here.

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Proposed Business Flat Tax Promising for New Hampshire

Posted by Alexander Bobroske on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014, 2:46 PM PERMALINK

The New Hampshire Center for Economic Policy recently unveiled a proposal to consolidate multiple state business taxes into a single Business Flat Tax (BFT). One gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Hemingway (R), has decided to make this revenue-neutral restructuring of the New Hampshire tax code a center point in his plan to revitalize the state’s economy.

The plan put forth by Hemingway and the New Hampshire Center for Economic Policy eliminates the 8.5 percent Business Profits Tax, the 5.5 percent Medicaid Enhancement Tax and restructures the Business Enterprise Tax to a 2 percent flat rate while cutting the Interest and Dividends Tax from 5 percent to 2.3 percent.

Meanwhile, not-for-profits, such as universities and hospitals, and state government would be subject to the tax for the first time. A 2006 report estimates almost 100,000 are employed by not-for-profits, a huge tax base. If these two loopholes were closed for the current business enterprise tax, the tax rate would fall from 0.75 percent to 0.55 percent.

Americans for Tax Reform supports this effort to simplify and reduce taxes on businesses while also curbing government’s cost for tax collection. If this proposal were enacted, the compliance cost for business is greatly reduced. The proposed businesses flat tax can be filled out on a post-card sized sheet and all business establishments are treated equally, regardless of organizational structure.

Another benefit of this proposal is that savings and investment are exempt from the BFT. This makes it theoretically possible for a business to pay no tax if all revenue was invested.

Hemingway noted, “In order to make New Hampshire more competitive both nationally and globally, we must restructure out tax rates.” Simplifying and flattening New Hampshire’s business tax code will give the state a huge advantage against its regulation heavy neighbors like Massachusetts.

Both Hemingway and his primary opponent, George Lambert, signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written commitment to New Hampshire voters to oppose and veto any and all efforts to raise taxes. Revenue-neutral tax code restructuring, such as Hemingway’s is consistent with this important commitment to taxpayers.

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COGC & ATR support the Access to Court Challenges for Exempt Status Seekers Act

Posted by Emma Raymond on Wednesday, July 16th, 2014, 10:42 AM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Cost of Government Center's Executive Director Mattie Duppler sent a letter to Senator Coats in support of his bill the Access to Court Challenges for Exempt Status Seekers Act (ACCESS). The bill aims to limit some of the authority the IRS has in determining which organizations are eligible for 501 (c)(4) status. In part the letter reads:

An ongoing investigation has revealed the IRS unfairly targeted conservatively aligned organizations from 2010 to 2013. Within that time, right-leaning groups that applied for 501 (c)(4) status faced more scrutiny than their liberal-leaning counterparts, including receiving requests for identification of group donors. Some of these groups waited upwards of two years for the IRS to act on their applications while the agency drew out its investigation.

Under the current law, groups seeking 501 (c)(4) designation are entirely at the mercy of an overreaching federal agency. The IRS should not have the authority to decide which organizations have the right to fully exercise their first amendment rights. The recent revelations about how the IRS has abused this power in the past have demonstrated that the agency has too much latitude to restrict Americans' participation in the public sphere. The ACCESS bill will limit this power by allowing groups seeking (c)(4) status the same recourse available to groups applying for (c)(3) status. After nine months, groups would be able to advocate for themselves in Tax Court if the IRS takes too long to act on their applications.

This bill provides necessary oversight of IRS actions and is an important step towards reigning in an agency that has overstepped its bounds for too long. We urge your colleagues to support your bill, the Access to Court Challenges for Exempt Status Seekers Act.

To read the whole letter, click HERE.

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