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Sweet Home, Sweet Mississippi

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River guides now have a place

in the Mississippi tax code

...and its name is "Outdoor Tourism!"

We always knew we had a home on the river. We always knew we had a home in the Mississippi Delta. We always knew we had a home with the good people of Clarksdale. Now we have found a home in the Tax Code!

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The bill has been signed. It is now law.

Late on Wednesday April 23rd I got an email from the Governor's Office composed of two simple sentences that read: "The bill has been signed. It is now law."

A Quapaw Canoe Company “Paddle’s up!” to the Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Lt Governor Tate Reeves and the entire Mississippi Legislature for passing this law -- and to all of you who signed our petition and supported us in ways big and small along this long meandering road to introduce nature tourism into the Mississippi State Tax Code.

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Thank You!

Many, many thanks and recognitions are in order, first and foremost to my dear wife Sarah for her unwavering strength and love during this perilous journey. Secondly to my parents Lou & Gary whose courage has sustained us throughout.

Thanks to Mark River and the Mighty Quapaws for standing strong through the uncertainties of this long battle. It isn’t over yet, but Quapaws you have shown your true colors! Thanks to Braxton Barden who discovered the 1884 Harbors & Rivers Act. Thanks to my wife who applied her research/investigative skills to the same.

Special thanks to Gina Balducci and her staff at Walters & Balducci (notably Cathy Phelps) for standing by us through this long fight up this winding pathway. Gina, your passion and faith has been inspiring and sustained us through many a dark moment! Thanks to Gray Edmondson of Barnes Law Firm who carefully tracked the history of US Law and documented how it applies to river guides and guiding businesses like ours. Thanks to expert advice from attorneys Peter Erlinder and Jack Williams.

Thanks to the 1,656 people who signed our Change.org petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/for-the-future-of-nature-tourism-along-mississippi-s-rivers. Thanks to Doug Friedlander for leading us to this effective platform.

Thanks to the 81 people who made a donation at Indiegogo.com https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-quapaw-canoe-company.

Thanks to the 100s of others who sent checks or hand delivered donations. We surpassed our original goal of $25K with a grand total of $27,396. The defense fees have gone upwards another $6K, and might go higher. But that’s okay. For us Quapaws that just means more hard work, something we’re well accustomed to.

BTW: You can see signatures and comments on our QCC home page, go to: http://www.island63.com/documents/QCC-River-Testimonies.pdf

Thanks to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant for signing SB2972 into law. Special thanks to principal authors Sen Robert Jackson (SB2972), Rep Chuck Espy (HB1604) and Rep Brad Mayo (HB1604) who saw the viability of this issue early on and fostered its progress through the state capitol. Thanks to co-authors Hopson, Simmons (12th), Sojourner, Watson and Butler (36th) who kept it going. Language from HB1604 was adopted into SB2972 to make it more specific to our use. Thanks to Tourism Chair Sen Lydia Chassaniol who kept me up to date with all of the twists and turns of this bill. Many thanks to all of the other Reps and Senators who voted in SB 2972, the new Mississippi legislation specifically addressing river guiding companies on navigable waterways and nature tourism. It was a unanimous vote in the Senate, and a landslide vote in the House (118 Yeas, 4 Nays).

Special thanks to Chairmen Sen Joey Fillingane and Rep Jeff Smith for keeping the bill alive and ironing out any differences between their respective committees. Thanks to conferees Doty, Rogers and Lamar who helped the bill through the final conference.

Thanks to expert consultation from former Rep John Mayo, as well as Coahoma County Administrator Daniel Vassel and Clarksdale Mayor Bill Luckett.

Thanks to Carla, Malcolm and Michael of the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division. Carla was invaluable in helping me understand the process of the law and shed endless light on many confusing steps the journey!

Thanks to all those who wrote lengthy letters in recognition of Quapaw Canoe Company and nature tourism along the Lower Mississippi, including Ray Aycock, Cliff Ochs, Meg Cooper, Bill Serratt, David Nicholson, Stephen Ricks, Ron Nassar, Jack Elliott, Vance Akins, Andi Cooper, Mac Crank, Norm Miller and “Big Muddy” Mike Clark.

Thanks to Malcolm White, Wesley Smith, Adam Elliott, Jay Scheonberger, Kelly McGinnis, Belinda Stewart, Keith and Sharon Plunkett, and Bubba Battle for making critical connections in the capitol.

Thanks to crucial local support from Daniel Vassel, Bill Luckett, Ken Murphy, Lois Erwin, Susan and Bowen Flowers, Shonda Warner, John Cocke, Ben Ernest, John McKee, Patty Johnson, the Clarksdale Garden Club, the Rotary Club, and many others.

Special thanks to Angie & Allie Grant for reinvigorating the cause. When the way seemed long and lonesome you lightened our burden! Thanks to Wang Ping for inspiring bravery in the face of difficult challenges.

Thanks to the anonymous angels who watched over our bill and helped support its smooth passage through the legislature. And also those anonymous angels who donated to our cause through our defense fund (see below for full report). Thanks to those angels who were praying for us, and spreading good spirit throughout their circles and congegrations, especially Andy Hays, Linda Bear, Barbara Bear, Grace Walsh, Annette Waya, Jim Ewing, Ann Smithwick, my parents, my mother-in-law, and many many others.

Many, many thanks to the journalists who gave credence and helped spread the word about our tax fight, and undoubtedly helped the passage of our ground-breaking legislation, especially Ross Reilly and Becky Gillette of the Mississippi Business Journal, Jesse Wright of the Clarksdale Press Register, and David Hanson for his story in Canoe & Kayak Magazine Online. Thanks also for all of those who spread the story through newsletters to their networks including the Mississippi River Paddlers (John Sullivan), Missouri River Paddlers and Expedition Canoeing & Kayaking (Norm Miller), Delta Bohemian (Billy & Madge Howell), Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper (Paul & Michael Orr), Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks (Gregg Elliott), Who Owns Water Blog (David Hanson), Memphis Flyer Online (Bruce VanWyngarden), Gulf Environmental Network (Andrew Whitehurst), Private Landowner’s Network (Amos Eno), Louisiana Environmental Action Network (Marylee Orr), and 1Mississippi, the Mississippi River Network (Jennifer Browning, Amy Sauer).

Thanks to all of our partners up and down the river for your show of support, diverse partners such as Cory and Ingo Werk (Bayou Teche Experience), Marianne Todd (Legends Magazine) and Jay Woods (National Audubon Society) and sharing our cause with your mailing lists and media outlets.

Thanks to Annette Anderson of 1Mississippi and the entire Mississippi River Network for moral support. Thanks especially to Claudia Emken for helping us understand the ins and outs of the legislative process.

Thanks to everyone in neighboring states Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee for your participation. This of course isn’t just about Mississippi. The Lower Mississippi River touches many people in many states. Thanks to all our friends, family, and the greater circle of river-rats from around the country, and indeed on around the world. The river connects us all. If you read the comments left at http://www.island63.com/documents/QCC-River-Testimonies.pdf you will see what I am talking about. Your feelings about the river kept us going!

Thanks to the many, many others who helped out, seen and unseen, those who signed petitions, sent prayers, and supported us during this struggle. See below for complete listing of donors. We have lots to celebrate in this long journey!

Note: this is not retroactive. We will still have to go to an appeal meeting in August to fight the $42,000 bill from the Dept of Revenue (which is rising between $250 and $300 every month due to interest). But for now we are celebrating. We have paved the pathway for the future success of river guides and nature tourism along the rivers and navigable waterways of Mississippi. And this indeed is worthy of celebration.

Senate Bill 2972

(As signed by Governor)

Title: AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 27-65-22, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXEMPT FROM THE AMUSEMENT TAX GUIDED TOURS ON NAVIGABLE WATERS OF THIS STATE, WHICH INCLUDE PROVIDING ACCOMMODATIONS, GUIDE SERVICES AND/OR RELATED EQUIPMENT OPERATED BY OR UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE PERSON PROVIDING THE TOUR, FOR THE PURPOSES OF OUTDOOR TOURISM AND ADMISSIONS TO EVENTS HELD SOLELY FOR RELIGIOUS OR CHARITABLE PURPOSES AT LIVESTOCK FACILITIES, AGRICULTURE FACILITIES OR OTHER FACILITIES CONSTRUCTED, RENOVATED OR EXPANDED WITH FUNDS FOR THE GRANT PROGRAM AUTHORIZED UNDER SECTION 18, CHAPTER 530, LAWS OF 1995; TO AMEND SECTION 27-65-101, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, AS AMENDED BY HOUSE BILL NO. 1555, 2014 REGULAR SESSION, TO EXEMPT FROM SALES TAXATION GROSS COLLECTIONS DERIVED FROM GUIDED TOURS ON NAVIGABLE WATERS OF THIS STATE, WHICH INCLUDE PROVIDING ACCOMMODATIONS, GUIDE SERVICES AND/OR RELATED EQUIPMENT OPERATED BY OR UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE PERSON PROVIDING THE TOUR, FOR THE PURPOSES OF OUTDOOR TOURISM; TO AMEND SECTION 27-65-105, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO EXEMPT FROM SALES TAXATION PARKING AT EVENTS HELD SOLELY FOR RELIGIOUS OR CHARITABLE PURPOSES AT LIVESTOCK FACILITIES, AGRICULTURE FACILITIES OR OTHER FACILITIES CONSTRUCTED, RENOVATED OR EXPANDED WITH FUNDS FOR THE GRANT PROGRAM AUTHORIZED UNDER SECTION 18, CHAPTER 530, LAWS OF 1995; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

You can go to the online record for the entire history of the bill, and see it approved by the governor: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/2014/pdf/history/SB/SB2972.xml

QCC Legal Defense Fund Donors

(in order received)

Lou & Gary Ruskey-Halsey, Joe & Dorothy Middleton, Anonymous, Hawkeye Hermann, Becky Beaton, Deborah Watkins, Bob Long, Janet Moreland, Dale Sanders, K.M. Clemo, Jo Mason, W.D. Mounger, Anonymous, Karen Kohlhaas, L.L. Lanoux, Anonymous, Marita Gootee, Catharpin, The Studio at Wiljax, Russ Wright, Jeanne Olson, Claudia Welch, Glenn Adelson, Will McDearman, Van Parham, Douglas McNeill, Janet Watson, Anonymous, Keith Kirkland, John & Elizabeth Sullivan, John C. Edwards, Linda Brewer, Barbara Boss, Mimi & Charles Clark, Capt. Billy Wilkerson, Harriett & Stephen Roberts, Paul & Libby Hartfield, Doug Friedlander, Dora Ann & James Hatch, Charles & Shirley Poche, Deborah Watson, David Beile & Virginia Woulfe-Beile, John Michael Schoenberger, Yael Melamede, Gregg Elliott, Reid Bishop, Robert Long, Angie & Allie Grant, Patrick Harrington, Linda Alexander, Abby Ruskey, Anonymous, Anonymous, Greg Brown, Emma F. Crisler, Cliff Lawson, W. O. Luckett, Scott Barretta, Bill Gregg & Rosemary Post, Dr. Rick Posner, Dr. David Levine, Philip Daughdrill, Michael J. Beck, Charles & Sandra West, Virginia Lee Cora, David & Jeaniece Mukherjee, Katherine Dickerson, David Hanson, Carter Jones, Steve Schnarr, Bernie Arnold, Michelle Kuo, J. Friedrichson, Anonymous, I. Ninaz, Erin Lee, Dan Eason, Jeanne Olson, Jeffrey & Judith Troupe, Abigail & Scott Lambert, William Riggle, Adam Riggle, Andy Andrews, Nan Russell, Paul B. & Laura Hunt Cooley, Paul Orr, Michael Orr, Marylee Orr, the Louisiana Environmental Network, Dean Wilson, Eva B. Connell, Clarksdale Garden Club, Mary Margaret White, Olivia Dorothy, Damon Copeland, Nathan Rosenberg, Tom Wilson, Anonymous, Yu Loolootoo, Ken McLemore, Tom & Mary E Simpson, John Cocke, Thomas Roehm, Anonymous, Louis Jones, Justin Staker, Cathianne Watkins, Ernest Ruskey & Laurie Wood, Kessina Lee, Mark & Leslie Brozovich, Curtis Boschert, Dean Klinkenberg, Scott Mansker, Debra Smith, Deborah Luster, Cathi Watkins, Suzanne Wagner, Thomas & Jaquelyn Lackner, Wang Ping, Billy Weiss, Van Parham, MVBPierrepont, Josh Pang, Stan Stark, Deborah Blakeney, Ron Nurnberg, Dr. Prestwich, S.L. Wagner, Doug McNeill, Timothy Richardson, Lee Quinby, Frank & Sue Ruskey, J Watson, Michael Davidson, Mississippi Stone Guild, Cynthia Mitchell, Robert Landreneau, Maggie & Mike Tyner, Mark Bix, J Friedrichsen, Waldo Family, Robert Anderson, O. Dorothy, J & P Poor, Pat Themail, Giusy Pappalardo, Beth & Birney Imes, Cliff & Lucille Ochs, Howard Stovall, Gerrit DeYoung, Jennifer Browning, Linda & Don, Sandi Avila, Anonymous, Phil Cauthen, Paul Battle IV, Charles Dwayne and Janice Cockrum, Paul and Anne Veselack, David Klein, Linda Alexander, Judge William Willard, Ed Peacock III, Theo Dasbach and Cynthia Hudock, Jennifer Levi, William Hayden, John & Sharon Keen, Emily Cooper, Robert & Gloria Jackson, Luckett-Tyner Law Firm, Bowen & Susan Flowers, other anonymous donors, and Jerry’s Dreamboat.

Celebration: On April 9th we celebrated our legislative victory with a party on the Sunflower riverbank behind Quapaw Canoe Company honoring Sen Robert Jackson, and Rep Chuck Espy -- featuring live blues music by Super Chikan and La-La, and hot tamales & BBQ sandwiches by our neighbors from Jerry's Dreamboat. Warming up the evening was a surprise performance by Robin Lane and Capt. Dirk. Thanks you guys for your music!

Donations from Artists: Thanks to author Mark Nichols for donating 12 copies of his new book From Azaleas to Zydeco: My 4,600 Mile Journey through the South. Thanks to Lee Quinby, Erickson Blakney, and Michael Scanlan, for donating 18x24 prints from the True Delta Photograph Exhibition. Thanks to David Hanson, Michael Hanson and Andrew Kornylak for allowing us to screen their new documentary film Who Owns Water. You artists and river-rats, including Super Chikan, La-La, Robin Lane & Capt. Dirk: we appreciate your generosity. In total we raised $1,125 as result of the sharing your works of art!

Financial Report:

Total Indiegogo: $15,701

Total Checks: $10,570

Fundraiser April 9, 2014: $1125

Grand Total: $27,396

Note: Indiegogo campaign concluded successfully on deadline day April 23rd with $25,000. Thanks to an anonymous donor I was able to add the final $9299 to the Indiegogo campaign to bring it up to the $25,000 campaign goal, which means the minimum amount will be charged as a service fee by Indiegogo.

Anonymous donors: Special thanks with a Mighty Quapaw “whooo-whoo!” to the many anonymous donors. You generosity will be returned many times over with many blessings throughout your lives!

Conclusion: This has been one of the most amazing chapters in the history of Quapaw Canoe Company. I am honored to make it with you, and couldn’t have done it without each and every one of y’all helping us along. As always, I remain,

Humbly yours in service of the big river,

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John Ruskey

Quapaw Canoe Company

PS: If there is anyone I have forgotten or overlooked, please remind me for future updates, and please forgive me my aging memory!

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Media Appendix: A selection of places the fight has been written about in the media:

Canoe & Kayak Magazine:

http://www.canoekayak.com/adventure-2/mighty-mississippi-vs-state/

Mississippi Business Blog: http://msbusiness.com/blog/2014/03/03/quapaw-canoe-company-gains-legislative-support-battle-tax-department/

Clarksdale Press Register:

http://www.pressregister.com/news/article_9ed03526-a3b6-11e3-8592-001a4bcf887a.html

Mississippi Business Journal: http://msbusiness.com/blog/2014/02/21/quapaw-canoe-runs-turbulent-waters-bills-state-tax-department/

"Who Owns Water?"

http://www.whoownswater.org/?p=249

Mississippi Wildlife Federation

http://mswildlife.org/mwf-news/help-support-nature-tourism-on-the-ms-river/