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Tax Laws Are About to Get More Complicated

Tax changes are always a touchy subject. Legislation currently being considered by the Senate that would help states compel large business to collect sales tax for online transactions isn’t any different – except where the battle lines have been drawn. As the New York Times points out, this issue has created intraparty fights on both sides of the aisle and made odd bedfellows among the states.

And if the legislation does indeed pass the Senate and eventually the House, all eyes will turn to the states, some of which are trying to get ahead of the game. CQ StateTrack has identified 16 bills, spread over nearly as many states, dealing with an online sales tax.

  • Some are purely ceremonial, like resolutions in Nevada, South Dakota and Utah urging the states’ congressional delegations to support the federal legislation.
  • In Indiana, legislators are working on accelerating tax collection. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) already negotiated a deal through which the state would require online retailers to begin collecting sales tax on Jan. 1, 2014. But a bill moving the start date up to July 1 has gone to conference committee.
  • Oregon will be an interesting state to watch. As one of only five states that do not collect sales tax (along with Alaska, Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire), Oregon would not be affected by the federal bill. However, some legislators are pushing for a rewrite of the state’s tax code and have introduced a resolution that would ask voters to decide whether to institute a state income tax.

Many of these states are merely modifying their current tax code. But if the Marketplace Fairness Act passes, such activity could get a lot more complicated. If you need some background on the legislation, The Washington Post did a nice recap.

Activating Engaged Users

The title of this one could have also been “Success Through Microtargeting.”

While not professed often online, there’s no shortage of love for @Mailchimp here in the Advocacy and Engagement department. We leverage their system day in and day out to help our clients reach their stakeholders through newsletters, marketing efforts and more.

That appreciation is what drew us to their latest blog post – Billy Reid Rewards Engaged Customers With Exclusive Sales. The quick summary, a clothing line, Billy Reid, uses the metrics made available by Mailchimp to microtarget specific users, sending them specially targeted emails and generating results, in this case increased revenue from current customers.

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Trendtrack: Status of Firearms Legislation in the States

There’s no need to review the multiple shooting incidents that have garnered major media coverage over the past year.  That’s not the goal here. We offer a breakdown of which states have taken up gun control legislation and how those bills are progressing.

A search of all 50 states’ legislatures shows 4,076 bills containing some form of the words firearm, gun or rifle have been introduced for the 2013 legislative sessions. (Chart, breaking down the status by state and linking to each bill.) Of those, 180 have been have signed by the governor or otherwise enacted. While the percent enacted seems strong, we must look more closely. Of those 180 bills bills, more than half (97) are in Illinois and 39 moved through Virginia. Only 15 other states have enacted firearms legislation to date.  In Illinois’ case, many of the bills are simply amendments to existing code. The major fight is still taking place, with the Chicago Tribune covering the debate of a proposed assault-weapons ban and restrictions on citizens’ rights to carry concealed weapons.

In Arizona, where former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot and severely wounded, 72 bills have been introduced that meet our search criteria. The only one enacted so far encourages the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army to award the medal of honor to a soldier who fought in World War II. Republicans in Arizona are attempting to push through legislation that would make it illegal to enforce federal gun control laws in the state, according to the Associated Press. Lawmakers in Wyoming have attempted something similar.

Some states, such as Connecticut, are just getting started and may still enact new control measures.

Use our chart to follow the progress in every state.

State of the States: Virginia and Wyoming Legislatures Adjourn

It’s the last day of February, and already two states have wrapped up their legislative business for the year.

The top headline coming out of the Virginia General Assembly (which convened Jan. 9 and adjourned Feb. 24) was a historic transportation plan. It had been decades since Old Dominion lawmakers changed the methods by which Virginia funds transportation projects. And with commuters in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads suffering through some of the worst traffic in the nation, the new plan’s results could make or break careers.

Under the last-minute deal, the fixed 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax will be replaced by a 3.5 percent wholesale fuels tax indexed for inflation. Additional funds will be raised by increasing the sales tax on items other than food from 5 percent to 5.3 percent; increasing regional taxes in NoVa and Hampton; and rerouting some funds that had been appropriated for public safety and schools. Advocates of the deal have highlighted the “tax more, spend less” compromise as a model for Congress to follow.

While transportation led the coverage, other issues — some important, some a bit more trivial — also won headlines.  Virginia joining a growing list of states led by Republican governors that decided to accept the Medicaid expansion offered through the Affordable Care Act.

Among the items the legislature did not pass: Gov. Bob McDonnell’s effort to privatize the liquor retail business and legislation by Del. Robert Marshall (R) to consider establishing a new currency for the state. Legislators also defeated a number of gun control measures, including an effort to close the “gun show loophole” and legislation restricting ownership of assault weapons and large magazines.

Meanwhile, legislators in Wyoming (who were in session Jan. 8 through Feb. 27) fought over their own gun control and Medicaid legislation right up until the end.

After failing to advance a pair of House bills, senators amended legislation designed to limit the state’s bison population so that the bill would block efforts by the federal government to limit ownership of large-caliber weaponry. Though the bill passed, its constitutionality remains in question and Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, has yet to sign it.

While approving some changes to the state-run Medicaid system, the legislature voted to block Mead from expanding the system without lawmakers’ approval. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Mead has never expressed any intention to accept the optional expansion.

Wyoming remains among a handful of states that ban lotteries. That would change if Mead signs a bill that would permit a Equality State lottery as well as multistate lotteries such as Powerball or Mega Millions, but not scratch-off games.

Washington State Leads the Way With Online Bill Commenting System

Kudos to Washington state legislators for launching E-Comment, a pilot program allowing registered users to more easily share their opinions on pending legislation with lawmakers. As we read on Social Capital Review, the commenting system kicked off last week and will run through the 2013 legislative session.

While we acknowledge this is just the public testing stage and admire the state’s willingness to lead the way, we’d like to see the legislature take some steps to make the system easier to use.

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