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Failed Senate Vote Delays Easement Incentive Extension

Advocates Alert: June 25, 2010

7/21/10 UPDATE: Today the Senate is expected to pass a bill numbered H.R. 4213, but that bill no longer includes an extension of the enhanced easement incentive or other elements of the "extenders package." Senate leaders hope that passing un-paid-for unemployment benefits separately will help clear a path for the remaining "tax extenders," which are fully paid for and thus cannot be attacked as contributing to the deficit. Unfortunately, it appears doubtful the Senate will have time to extend the incentive before departing for August recess.

Last night the Senate again failed to cut off debate on a tax "extenders package" which contains a one year extension of the enhanced easement incentive.  Despite another week of negotiations that trimmed $22 billion from the cost of the bill, it still fell three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed.

The Senate plans to take up financial reform legislation next week, delaying further action on H.R. 4213 until July--at the earliest.  At this point, it is unclear when and how the Senate might take up extending expired tax provisions again.  We will closely monitor developments over the next few weeks and keep you informed of our strategy going forward.

There is general agreement on extending the expired provisions, including the easement incentive.  The debate has been about whether the bill needs to cut federal spending in order to pay for extending the length of time over which the unemployed can get unemployment benefits. Given such lengthy delays on relatively uncontroversial legislation, prospects for any action on estate tax reform (potential vehicle for a permanent incentive and other conservation tools) appears doubtful for the foreseeable future.

As mentioned in Tuesday's alert, the upcoming August recess is a great opportunity to invite your Senators and Representatives to visit one of your conserved properties and hear how this lapse in the incentive has slowed the pace of conservation.  We need all Members of Congress--House & Senate, Democrat & Republican--to understand that this stalemate is causing a real problem for conservation in their districts.  It's unlikely that a handful of emails will get them back to the negotiating table, but an in-person plea from a landowner in their district just might!   Now is the time to schedule, so click here for templates and advice on hosting a site visit.

The House will be in recess July 30-September 12. The Senate may remain in session as late as August 13, depending on legislative progress, but will then be out until September 12 as well.

A site visit is the best way to get hours of face time, build a lasting relationship, reward coalition partners, and get positive media coverage.  But if their schedule is booked, arranging a meeting in their district office may be relatively easy, and failing that, your legislators are likely to host public events like pancake breakfasts and town hall meetings where you can simply show up and speak your mind--just call their district office and ask.  See our site visit guide for templates and please don't hesitate to call or email us for help (202-638-4725 x319, srobertson@lta.org).  Whatever you do arrange, please email photos and a brief description to policy@lta.org so we can share your success.

Thanks for helping!

P.S.- We've updated our America's Great Outdoors webpage with new listening session details, including information on listening sessions in NC, CO, NM, CA & PA. Read more>>


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July 17: The House just voted 277-130 to pass the charities package! 56 Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to support charitable giving incentives, including the enhanced easement incentive - the second-highest number of defections after the research and development tax credit. Several others spoke on the floor in support of the conservation easement incentive, and other favorable charitable incentives. Thank you to organizations like Ducks Unlimited, CSF and others that reached out to Congressional offices over the last few days or alerted their membership of this important vote. Now, we pivot to the Senate.
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