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Lewis and Clark surcharge law changed for parks

Action came May 22 to amend the surcharge portion of the 2004 Lewis and Clark commemorative bicentennial coinage law after an exasperated U.S. Park Service acknowledged that it could not raise the funds necessary to qualify for matching share of the surcharge imposed on collectibles.

The bill in question, H.R. 5401, was introduced May 17, 2006, by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., and got unusually prompt action. Emerson is a five-term member of the U.S. Congress who serves on the Appropriations Committee.

The bill came to the floor May 22 with a powerful sponsor, Rep. James A.S. Leach, R-Iowa, former chair of the House Financial Services Committee and a key voice “to suspend the rules and pass the bill to amend section 308 of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act to make certain clarifying and technical amendments.”

“This is a technical correction which addresses language in legislation that authorized the minting and sale of a commemorative coin recognizing the bicentennial of the great Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition,” Leach said. “The bill specified that the surcharge income from the sale of the coins be divided between the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council and the National Park Service to be used for events commemorating the bicentennial. Unfortunately, the Park Service has no capacity to raise the private funding necessary to satisfy the matching funds requirement of statutes guiding the issuance of commemorative coins.

“This legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, corrects that problem and will allow disbursement of the funds in ways that support the Lewis and Clark exhibit that has made its way around the country and opened two weeks ago at the Smithsonian?s Museum of Natural History. This is an extraordinarily educational exhibit with many items from personal collections that have not been together since the expedition itself.,” Leach said.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., ranking minority member of the coinage committee, added, “The Missouri Historical Society, in contrast, has to date raised matching funds equal to over half of the surcharge funds. The other share has been raised by the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.”

There is no effect on the program itself, for the coins were issued and sold in 2004.

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