House Update for May 30, 2014

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Ways and Means Committee: This week, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up three important pieces of legislation that focused on charitable giving.

  • HR 4619 makes permanent the rule allowing certain tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for charitable purposes.  It allows Americans who are 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000 from their IRAs and Roth IRAs without having to treat the withdrawals as taxable income.
  • HR 4719 permanently extends and expands charitable deductions for contributions of food donated to places like food banks or local pantries.  These donations will count as tax deductible charitable contributions.  This resolution encourages Americans to help fight hunger by permitting restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, and other small businesses to donate food and get a tax deduction. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Reed (R-New York), “instead of wasting perfectly good food, it’s common sense to care for and feed our neighbors in need.”
  • HR 3134, the Charitable Giving Extension Act, allows for any charitable contribution made after December 31 and before April 15 to be deducted in the taxable year that ended December 31.  Congress wants to make charitable giving a priority and allow American taxpayers to be able to save more money. With nearly 88 percent of Americans donating to charity, this will help families in today’s tough fiscal environment.

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (CJS):  The House passed the CJS Appropriations bill, H.R. 4660, by a vote of 321-87.  We were pleased that all of the pro-life provisions that need to be passed annually were included in this bill.  We were also able to hold off a hostile life amendment.

CWALAC supported a couple of amendments offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) to the CJS bill that were adopted.

The first takes money from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives salaries and expenses and gives it to the Veterans’ Treatment Courts program.  Veterans often face significant challenges as they transition back into civilian life.  Sometimes, they turn to illegal drugs.  Veterans’ treatment courts are designed specifically for veterans, and the judges themselves understand the issues surrounding veterans.  These courts provide a pathway for veterans to get the help they need and don’t just lock them up with other drug abusers.

The other redirects money allocated to the Department of Justice for office space towards bolstering prescription drug monitoring programs.  Abusing prescription drugs is often a gateway towards abusing other illicit drugs.  Drug abuse is destructive to families and society.

CWALAC also supported increasing funds to test backlogged rape kits.  There are estimates that 400,000 rape kits sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the nation.  Without testing, criminals remain on the streets able to commit other rapes and victims are denied justice.  This increase in funding will facilitate the testing and reporting of this important evidence which will prevent additional crimes and provide rape victims with closure.

Despite CWALAC efforts, an amendment by Rep. Rohrabacher (R-California) to block the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana users and providers who are abiding by state laws that have legalized the substance passed by a vote of 219-189.

CWALAC was concerned that Rep. Rohrabacher’s amendment will come at the expense of our children and public safety. Marijuana is a gateway drug to other illicit drugs and behaviors. It is mind-altering and inhibits decision making and discretion, affecting not only the user but others around them.

Further, this amendment would allow state laws to supersede the federal government’s legitimate interest in controlling the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana.  This could have a detrimental impact on neighboring states.