Legislative Updates - 6 February 2017

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Dear Friends:

This is GrassRoots’ second weekly legislative update of this year’s General Session of the Utah State Legislature.

At this time (two weeks into the session), there are about 500 numbered bills for this session. Read on for coverage of some bills that we consider to be noteworthy.

Sales tax bills

There is a desire by some individuals in the Legislature, and in the Executive Branch, to increase the collection of taxes on purchases by Utah residents from out-of-state companies. When this is done by forcibly deputizing out-of-state companies to enforce, or to help enforce, Utah tax laws, this seems to us ill-advised and constitutionally questionable. We believe both SB83 and SB110Substitute to be thus flawed.

SB83, “Sales Tax Notification Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Harper, would:

  • require that out-of-state companies with aggregate sales, in the previous calendar year, of more than $100,000 to Utah customers: a) report to the state: each customer’s name, billing and shipping address, and the total dollar amount of sales to that customer; and b) send each of their Utah customers making qualifying purchases of $500 or more “a statement that Utah law may require the Utah purchaser to report and pay the sales and use tax to the commission on the Utah purchaser's Utah sales and use tax return or individual income tax return”; and
  • provide for penalties (up to $10 per “failure” and up to $100,000 per seller per calendar year) and other means of enforcement for failure to comply with the notice and reporting requirements.

SB83 awaits consideration by the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB83.

SB110Substitute, “Sales Tax Collection Amendments”, sponsored by Senator Bramble, would, if not found unconstitutional, require an out-of-state company, with annual sales of $100,000 or more to Utah residents, to collect sales taxes on purchases made by Utahns.

The fiscal note for SB110Substitute indicates that passage might result in as much as $220 million per year of additional or increased revenue to the state, and as much as $94 million per year of additional or increased revenue to local governments in Utah.

Interestingly, the legislative review note on SB110Substitute indicates that “this legislation has a high probability of being declared unconstitutional by a court” . . . at least in the absence of new action by Congress or a revisiting, by the courts, of the constitutional issues raised in past court cases.

SB110Substitute passed the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee 7-0 on January 31st, and awaits consideration by the full Senate on the Senate 2nd reading calendar.

GrassRoots favors a “no” vote on SB110Substitute.

One more note: SB110Substitute is not a simple bill. It is almost 2000 lines long, with numerous cross-references to various sections of Utah Code. Besides the above-stated concerns, we believe that, with any change in the law, our elected representatives should read and understand bills with all due diligence. To vote to change our law without such reading and understanding seems to us a mockery of the principle of Representative Government.

This is not to say never vote for a complicated, difficult-to-understand bill. But, in the absence of adequate time to read and understand a given bill, the best vote is probably “no”—whatever the “experts” on the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee may say.

Notes on Governor Herbert’s secret deal with Amazon

At GrassRoots, we prefer transparency in our government. We would like the details of the deal between the State of Utah and Amazon, wherein Amazon agrees to serve as a tax-collector for Utah, to be open to the public. The attempts by Libertas Institute, by GRAMA request, to obtain this information, seem appropriate to us.

We also believe there are some legislative considerations here. This deal effectively amounts to a tax increase. Once the Legislature better understands this deal, we would think it appropriate for the Legislature to consider a tax cut in some form to offset the effective tax increase.

Updated status on bills mentioned in last week’s GrassRoots update

HB19 was replaced by HB19Substitute, “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Amendments.” Sponsors are still Representative Greene and Senator Howard Stephenson. HB19Substitute is a similar bill to the HB19 described in last week’s update (of January 30th), and still constitutes a good step in the direction of needed asset forfeiture reform.

HB19Substitute passed the House Judiciary Committee 11-1 on February 3rd, and awaits consideration by the full House.

GrassRoots still favors a “yes” vote on HB19Substitute.

SB60 was replaced by SB60Substitute, “School District Amendments.” Sponsors are still Senator Davis and Representative Hutchings. SB60Substitute is a similar bill to the SB60 described in last week’s update (of January 30th). It would require a private school to:

  • provide local education agencies with personally identifiable information of students with disabilities; and
  • provide parents of students with disabilities information regarding individual rights and school resources.

SB60Substitute passed the Senate 3rd reading 23-5 on January 31st, and awaits action by the House Rules Committee.

As mentioned before, this is unwarranted regulation of private schools. GrassRoots still favors a “no” vote on SB60Substitute.

If you have any questions about these bills, GrassRoots’ position on these bills, or related matters, please contact either of us or any other member of the Board of Utah GrassRoots.

Sincerely,

Steve Stromness
Vice-Chairman, Bill Review Coordinator, Utah GrassRoots
steven.stromness@gmail.com
435-637-5248

Don Guymon
Chairman, Utah GrassRoots
donguymon@gmail.com
801-574-9461

PS Do you want to contact a legislator? Go to le.utah.gov and click on “Legislators”.

Do you want to read and follow legislation yourself? Go to le.utah.gov and click on “2017 General Session Page” then click on “2017 Bills”.

Do you have other questions about how to effectively participate in the political process? Please contact us, and we will try to help as appropriate.

Do you have friends that would appreciate this legislative update? Please feel free to forward it to them.

Would you like to help us with review of legislation in a small or large way? Consider taking a special look at bills sponsored by your own representative or senator. Please contact us with your findings and/or with any questions we might be able to help you with.