Open Season: Nevada Legislature Considers Meetings, Taxes, and Guns

Nevada LegislatureThe Nevada Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up AB 118 on Thursday, February 28th. [NELIS]  The bill sponsored by Assemblymen Brower and Hickey, is titled the Legislative Open Meeting Law, and would open any and all committee meetings to the public with two notable exemptions: social events and sessions in which a committee receives advice or guidance from legal counsel regarding litigation on an issue over which the committee has jurisdiction.  [AB 118 pdf] Not to disparage the intent to make all legislative sessions as transparent as possible, but AB 118 makes de jure what is already pretty much de facto.   Committee agendas, and minutes are already available on-line, for anyone with enough time and interest to locate and read them.  A quick click to “Committees” yields enough information to dispense with the tedium of any day. Or, to add to it?

On the Senate side, the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections will take up SJR 5 and SJR 7.  SJR 5, sponsored by Senator Joyce Woodhouse, “Urges Congress to reintroduce and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers (“remote sellers”), no matter where they are located, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction – exactly like local retailers are already required to do. However, there is a caveat: States are only granted this authority after they have simplified their sales tax laws.” [MFA]

Twenty four states have already enacted legislation to collect sales taxes from remote sellers.   Opposition to the federal bill (sponsored by Senators Durbin & Enzi and Womack (R-AZ) H.R. 684)  is based on two notions.  First, that the law would expand state taxing powers, and secondly that the enactment would require businesses to be out-of-state tax collectors.  This is augmented by the perennial complaint that consumers will be the ultimate “victims.”  [Heartland]

Proponents of the measure, such as one Illinois Chamber of Commerce feel differently:

“As business leaders in our community we cannot continue to support an environment where legally required taxes are collected, tracked and remitted by some, while other businesses get a pass. Retailers fight for market share everyday, but they shouldn’t be forced to compete on the collection of sales tax.”  [ChicagoTrib]

The legislation has been sloshing around the halls of Congress for years, and for years states have been losing money:

“The legislation has been pushed in Congress for more than a decade and has been a priority for national groups representing state governors and lawmakers in Washington. The proposal follows a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision which allows states to collect sales tax from residents who purchase online or catalog merchandise, if the residents provide the information to state tax collectors. State officials have long said residents don’t provide the information and taxes, costing states an estimated $23.3 billion in 2012 sales tax revenue alone.”  [HuffPo]

For all intents and purposes, the bill would require major online retailers like Amazon to collect and remit sales taxes which are collected by local brick/mortar retailers within states.   Way back when Amazon was a bookseller some bifurcation might have been allowable, but as the major online sellers moved into electronics, household appliances, and other retail goods the delineation lacks justification.

The modernity of SJR 5 contrasts sharply with the anachronistic qualities of SJR 7 (pdf),  a bill which:

“…proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to preserve the right to hunt, fish and trap for the residents of this State. The proposed amendment provides that hunting, fishing and trapping by members of the public are the preferred means of managing wildlife in this State.”

Really? First of all, the measure sounds remarkably like a similar provision in the Idaho legislature.  The ballot question in the Gem State was not without controversy:

Ned Horner, from Coeur d’Alene, is a retired Idaho Department of Fish and Game fisheries manager for northern Idaho. He worries the amendment’s language elevates harvest above habitat protection for fish and wildlife management. If the cover and food that sustains game and fish aren’t there, the right means little.  [IdahoStatesman]

It should come as no surprise to anyone that these bills come directly from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the second most powerful gun lobby in the United States. [HuffPo]  That said, the following information should also not raise too many eyebrows:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has kept a lower profile over the years, but is likely the second-most-powerful force for firearms use in the country.

“While the gun lobby in general has spent less in 2012 than it has in recent years, the NSSF’s spending has exploded, spiking from about $100,000 in 2008 to $500,000 so far this year (in comparison to the NRA’s $2.2 million). The lion’s share of that went to Patrick Rothwell, the group’s director of government relations, who served for three years as chief of staff to the House Republican Policy Committee. He spent a lot of time this year working on legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating chemicals in gun ammunition and fishing equipment, and the organization has backed a slew of concealed-carry bills.”  [New Republic]

Mr. Horner’s comment is well taken; and the emphasis shifting from habitat to harvest should not go unnoticed by the Nevada Legislature.  Nor should the NSSF’s emphasis on opposing environmental regulations and gun violence measures be lost in the high flying rhetoric of “rights,” and “heritage,” and whatever other vague buzz words abound in this debate.   The irony of it all is that the headquarters of the NSSF, Inc. are in Newtown, CT.

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