SEC Taking Heat on...Climate Change?

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016, 9:54 AM PERMALINK

Recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has come under fire for it’s handling of climate change disclosures with regard to SEC filings. At first blush one would assume very limited, if any, justification for considering the science of climate change in SEC filings…and this assumption would be logical.

So why is the SEC being pressured to require disclosures on climate science in filings by companies, that for the most, are not nor have been engaged in the field of climate science? The issue arose in 2010, when the SEC proposed “interpretive guidance” on existing disclosure requirements with regard to climate science. To be clear, the SEC did not issue a disclosure rule, simply “guidance” most likely the result of outside influence from extreme idealist and the government.

Given that most companies filing SEC disclosures are not climate scientist, and are not likely engaged in climate science research, the “guidance” went somewhat unheeded. In fact, the SEC has seemed to agree for the most part with reluctance to follow up on the issue.

In the two years following the release of the interpretive guidance, the SEC issued over 40 comment letters to companies addressing climate change disclosure. Yet that number dropped significantly with only three letters issue in 2012 and zero issued in 2013. 

The most logical reason being that the SEC came to realize that such disclosures find little company in basic logic, and the agency’s time is better spent on its core mission, instead of serving the ideological musings of the extreme left. Just the same these outside pressures have reared their misguided head again, recently pushing an agency charged with holding expertise on securities laws to expand to climate science.

The SEC should take comfort in the fact that such a push for climate science based disclosures in securities filings sounds, as far outside the scope of SEC functions to most as it does the agency itself. One can only hope the SEC stands strong, sending a message to other federal agencies, that serving core policy goals, and not outside ideologies is the goal. 


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New Jersey State Senator Proposes Bill to Infringe on Ability to Buy Pets

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016, 1:42 PM PERMALINK

Senator Lesniak of the New Jersey State Senate recently introduced NJ SB. 63, which infringes on the right to conduct business via the Internet.  This bill specifically attempts to regulate an already regulated industry, animal breeding.  It is now a common practice to purchase a puppy of a specific breed or cross breeds online from a private breeder. 

The senator uses the rallying cry of animal abuse to shield the true nature of the bill, more intrusion and regulation of the internet on the part of the government.  Animal abuse should be taken seriously.  Americans level of awareness of “puppy mills” or other unsavory breeding methods for any pet has raised dramatically over the decades.  It is my belief that no one in search of that special pet wants their best friend or its relatives to have been abused in any way.

This problem of abuse and added regulation has already been addressed by Animal Plant Health Inspection Service through USDA in 2013.  The rule established that these “unseen sellers” must be federally licensed, thus allowing inspection by federal authorities.  The rule also encourages buyers to report inhumane conditions and sickness stemming from breeding mismanagement.  To put it simply, the New Jersey bill is there only to force regulation down the throats of small business owners while increasing government control. 

The bill, read to the letter, seems to completely ignore the need for service and emotional support dogs, which are often done via the Internet sometimes through unseen sellers.  Many people with mental and physical disorders, ranging from a child with autism to a veteran to PTSD, use service dogs to better their quality of life.  This bill has the potential to hurt those in need by limiting their access to available animals.  

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European BEPS Proposal Is a Tax Grab Aimed at American Business

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

The European Commission last week moved one step closer toward implementing a series of tax and regulatory proposals aimed directly at American businesses. This proposal is a thinly veiled tax grab at U.S. businesses and workers that will make it even harder for American businesses to operate across the world and could leave taxpayers on the hook for billions in retroactive payments.

This plan is being developed based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) project, a broader effort by tax collectors in many countries to surreptitiously extract more revenue from businesses operating across the world.   

The European plan includes an information-sharing regime that will allow countries to trade sensitive tax information with each other and will designate many existing tax arrangements as “illegal state aid.” This could completely overhaul how business taxes are applied by unilaterally overriding existing tax agreements held between the U.S. and many of its trading partners and could force U.S. companies to pay taxes retroactively. 

Clearly, the impetuous behind this proposal is to force U.S. businesses to pay more in taxes. Officials in the EU have their eye on up to €70 billion (roughly $75 billion) they say businesses – the majority of them American – owe in additional taxes each year. In reality, the plan will allow EU states to tax income that they never had any right to tax in the past.

Treasury officials have already challenged the EU plan, which will be implemented in a two-year window once approved by the 28 EU members. Top Treasury official Robert Stack expressed concern that U.S. taxpayers will be left on the hook to pay for EU aggression and called into question the “basic fairness of the proceedings.”

This tax grab has also drawn bipartisan attention from Congress, led by Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who share Treasury's concern that the plan is discriminatory and will hit American businesses and taxpayers.

Given this bipartisan agreement, Congress and the Obama Administration should vigorously defend U.S. companies from this European aggression. But lawmakers should also be proactive and look to ease the burden that the American tax code places on business competitiveness.

The average rate in the developed world is 25 percent, and countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada have rates even lower rates. The American corporate rate – at almost 40 percent is an outlier, and must be reduced substantially to compete with the rest of the modern world. 

In addition, the U.S. is one of the few remaining developed countries to have a worldwide tax system. This means that all businesses profits of an American business are taxed, even profits earned and taxed overseas. Although companies are allowed limited tax deferral on foreign earned income through a tax credit, this system nevertheless creates needless complexity.

This combination of an abnormally high tax rate and an outdated worldwide taxation system creates an environment that squeezes American businesses. Conversely, fixing these problems will provide the economy with a much-needed boost by encouraging stronger economic growth, more jobs, and higher wages.

Given the imminent European tax grab, Congress and the administration must double down to defend American business interests from this aggression. At the same time, there is urgent need for Congress to reform the ineffective tax code that is crushing U.S. business.


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Vermont: The Next Failed Obamacare Exchange?

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016, 7:00 AM PERMALINK

Vermont’s Obamacare exchange still does not work, more than two years after launching.

Despite receiving over $200 million in federal funds and more in state funding, the system shows no sign of improvement and may be in a death spiral toward collapse.

As reported by Erin Mansfield of VTDigger news, the system is beset by basic functionality problems. The “change of circumstance” function no longer works, which has resulted in a backlog of more than 4,000 requests. Another technical problem with the exchange resulted in over 1,000 individuals being unable to reenroll in their insurance plans.

Obamacare exchanges exist to facilitate the purchase of taxpayer-subsidized insurance. For this to occur, the system must be able to accurately process personal information. If this isn’t happening – as Vermont’s exchange has failed to do to date – the entire system breaks down as the federal government cannot tell what level of subsidy an enroll should receive, if they are eligible at all, and if they have maintained coverage or need to pay the Obamacare individual mandate tax.

For taxpayers, this means billions more in wasted money through incorrectly paid subsidies. For the more than 30,000 on Vermont’s exchange – this problem has led to dropped coverage, incorrect billing, and a host of other confusing problems.

Over the past two years, the state has spent millions of dollars fixing the change of circumstance function – a basic tool to allow customers to update and change basic personal information. For almost two years, the exchange instead relied on a mind-bogglingly complex method of processing requests, with many having to be logged and entered manually into up to six different databases. This resulted in a backlog of more than 10,000 requests for most of 2015.

Unsurprisingly, stakeholders of Vermont Health Connect have described the state of the exchange as “depressing” amid fears it is going backwards. Officials are beginning to realize the system may be beyond saving and are looking at moving to the federal

Given these issues, it seems inevitable that Vermont will join the growing list of failed state exchanges in Oregon, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Of these, the most troubling is Oregon. Like Vermont, Oregon’s $305 million exchange failed to work by the November 2013 deadline – or months later. The system was soon shut down by then-Governor Kitzhaber, at an additional cost of $41 million in mostly federal funds.

Recently discovered emails suggest that the Cover Oregon debacle can trace its origins to the Governor’s partisan political advisors who closely managed the project and made the call to shut down the exchange in order to assist the Governor’s reelection campaign. It appears that Cover Oregon's infrastructure was close to 90 percent complete when this happened.

While Obamacare state exchanges continue to fail to provide Americans a pathway to accessible healthcare, things do not get better for Americans once they are enrolled on an exchange. A recent study by Freedom Partners found that Obamacare exchange premiums were skyrocketing in 2016. 34 states had top premium increases of 20 percent or more with Minnesota topping this list with a top premium increase of close to 50 percent.

Congressional leaders are expected to soon craft a replacement healthcare plan focused on patient centered, affordable health care. Given the disaster that is Obamacare this cannot come too soon. In the meantime, Congress needs to ensure to continued oversight over the state exchange debacle.

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Linus MacAlistair Stallman

Why does ATR continue to lobby against the American middle class?

Valerie Mullin

With maintenance we're closer to wasting away 300 million for our Vermont non-working exchange. So not only are our insurance rates skyrocketing but so are our taxes to pay for this debacle. As long as Vermonters keep electing the same people in Montpelier, we'll keep getting the same results. So sad but predictable.

Despite Naysayers, Conservative Leaders Agree on Justice Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, February 1st, 2016, 5:57 PM PERMALINK

In a press call with the US Justice Action Network Thursday, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist addressed the concerns some Senators have with criminal justice reform.

The US Justice Action Network brings together both conservative and progressive organizations to promote a “smarter, fairer, and cost effective” criminal justice system on all levels of government. Among the members are Americans for Tax Reform, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Freedomworks, and Right on Crime.

While a small number of politicians want to put the brakes on Senate reform packages, the bulk of the center-right movement has come out in strong support of sensible reforms. ATR president Grover Norquist stated that

“As we have learned from a decade of success, sentencing reform works. The package being considered by the Senate is meant to implement the lessons of states like Georgia and Texas, who have seen historic crime rate reductions. The senators who wish to look more closely at the provisions in the Sentencing and Corrections Act are right to be engaged on the issue, but they should also look to the red states which have pioneered these reforms. The package in question is right for the states, and it is right for the nation. We look forward to improving the bill and getting good policy passed.”

Crime rates in the United States has been dropping steadily for over two decades. As America learns more about the interplay between long sentences and lock-em-up policies, the country has found out that there are better ways to handle crime and justice.

Daniel Allott recently covered the call in the Washington Examiner. Allott noted that “For those concerned about ever-encroaching government, the federal criminal code has risen from 3,000 to 5,000 crimes in a generation,” an issue especially salient for those worried about criminal intent reform. He also made the argument by recognizing that “America's 2.3 million inmates cost taxpayers $80 billion a year,” ostensibly making justice reform a taxpayer issue.

The large American prison population has reached—and surpassed—the point of diminishing return. Research and experience have shown that to continue reducing crime, the US needs to look at cost-cutting investments and better laws. Conservative leaders and Republican legislatures have shown the way forward, the judiciary committee chairs in both chambers have taken up the calls, now it is time for the center-right to unite behind its own reforms. 

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ATR Urges Opposition to King-Reid Net-Metering Amendment

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, February 1st, 2016, 4:38 PM PERMALINK

This week Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plan to offer an amendment to the “Energy Policy and Modernization Act” that would expand federal control over the states and infringe upon the power of state authorities to make decisions regarding energy policy. Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges opposition to this amendment to protect state sovereignty and halt further expansion of the federal government’s power. 

The King-Reid amendment would establish stringent federal standards dictating how each state may operate their net metering programs. Net metering policies vary by state, but in general electric utilities are required to purchase excess electricity generated by customers with rooftop solar installations at the full retail rate as opposed to wholesale. As result, solar customers avoid paying for many of the fixed costs of the grid, and thus these fixed costs are shifted onto non-solar customers.  

The new federal standards imposed by the King-Reid amendment, such as requiring extensive evidentiary hearings, would thus act as a new legislative barrier to states seeking to address the cost-shifting dilemma. 

This amendment would effectively take such decision making ability away from the states and give it to the federal government. Furthermore, the King-Reid amendment would only work to further the practice of forcing non-solar customers to subsidize net-metered customers.

States, rural electric cooperatives, and certain localities are undoubtedly in a much better position than the federal government to make decisions about state energy policy. The states are already reeling from a slew of regulations put forth by President Obama, such as the Clean Power Plan, that empower federal regulators at the expense of state sovereignty.

ATR urges lawmakers this week to oppose the King-Reid amendment, and instead vote to protect state sovereignty and to stop the further expansion of the federal government’s power over the states. 


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Cato’s Matthew Feeney Explains the Importance of Middlemen in the Sharing Economy

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Posted by Dennis Cakert on Monday, February 1st, 2016, 1:05 PM PERMALINK

In his most recent Forbes column, Matthew Feeney, policy analyst at the Cato Institute, explains how the sharing economy contributes value by lowering transaction costs, not by transporting or lodging people.

Feeney begins with an anecdote about trade between prisoners in a POW camp. Each prisoner values the goods in a Red Cross care package differently. When care packages arrive, the prisoners who know the likes and dislikes of their fellow inmates help to facilitate trade, earning the name “middlemen.” The value the middlemen contribute is the knowledge they possess, for which they charge a fee.

The sharing economy contributes value in a similar way:

Uber and Airbnb do not own cars and hotels. Rather, they are profiting from what they know about consumers and dead capital. Before the rise of Uber there were many people who needed rides but were unable to efficiently contact nearby strangers who would be willing to give them a ride in exchange for a fee. In a similar fashion, Airbnb connects travelers in strange cities to the hundreds of nearby homeowners who have spare bedrooms.”

To regulate the sharing economy as a transportation or lodging business is a mistake. They are not in the business of transporting or lodging people, they are in the business of connecting people who wish to transport or lodge others. Hence the name “Peer to Peer” service.

It might strike many readers as bemusing that companies that merely trade in information can be valued at billions of dollars. Like some POWs critics of middlemen regard Uber’s and Airbnb’s profits not as “reward for labour, but as a result of sharp practices.” Not too long ago a friend of my family remarked that he didn’t understand why Uber was worth so much money when it doesn’t “make anything.” Unfortunately, many people remain skeptical or ignorant of the fact that the total welfare within a group can dramatically increase without an increase in available goods. All that is needed is voluntary exchange.

Using another example, Feeney cites how the sharing economy service “Klink” delivers alcohol for residents in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, because of strict alcohol regulations, the service is currently barred from competition in Virginia.

Clearly, people are willing to pay for lowered transaction costs, and we should expect that trend to continue and for more companies to seize the kind of opportunities the founders of Uber and Airbnb saw years ago. But it shouldn’t be a surprise if suspicion of middlemen as well as anti-competitive market incumbents hamper the spread of this revolution, if only temporarily.”

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Louisiana Governor Wastes No Time in Proposing Massive Tax Hike

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Posted by Miriam Roff on Friday, January 29th, 2016, 5:23 PM PERMALINK

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-La.) is beginning his first term as governor by slamming taxpayers with a smorgasbord of tax hikes in order to close the Pelican State’s projected $700 million shortfall by June 2016. Nine of the tax increases proposed by Gov. Edwards, which are listed below, would directly hit consumers and five of them would take effect as soon as April 1st:

  1. Personal Income Taxes- it would apply to income earned in 2016
  2. Sales Taxes- increases from 4 cents a dollar to 5 cents
  3. Tobacco Tax- the tobacco tax would go from 86 cents per pack to $1.08 per pack
  4. Alcohol Tax- to be determined
  5. Telephone Taxes- jumps from 2-3 percent tax to 5 percent
  6. Federal Tax Deductions- elimination of state tax credit for 100 percent of their charitable contributions and mortgage interest payments and replaced by a tax credit that covers 50 percent of those expenses 
  7. Short-term Rental and Online Travel Services Tax- The existing tax on hotel rooms would extend to short-term rental services. It varies across the state, but in New Orleans it's 13 percent. 
  8. Rental Car Tax- 3 percent tax
  9. Internet Sales Tax- normal sales tax rates put in place by the local government where you make your purchase would apply


Many of the tax hikes proposed disproportionately harm low-income families who can least afford it, small businesses that are the engine of job creation, and would make state revenues more volatile. Take the tobacco tax increase put forward by Gov. Edwards. Not only do cigarette taxes disproportionately burden low income resident, as the average income of smokers is far below that of the general populace, tobacco taxes are a unstable and decline source of revenue. Increasing the state’s reliance on tobacco tax revenues will only make budgeting more difficult and will likely set the stage for further tax hikes down the road, as revenue projections are missed. Only three out of the 32 state tobacco tax increases passed between 2009 and 2013 have met or surpassed initial revenue projections.

In addition to looting Louisiana taxpayer for more of their hard-earned income, Gov. Edwards also wants to export the tax burden to tourists and travelers by imposing an online travel services tax and rental car tax hike. In a state that relies heavily on tourism, these taxes would have a noxious impact on the Louisiana economy. Research demonstrates that online travel companies increase direct business for hotels, which subsequently boosts commerce for local businesses. Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research found that hotels showcased on an online travel site saw a 7.5 to 26 percent increase in direct bookings not made through a third party. Imposing higher taxes on those who utilize online travel agents will deter some potential tourists from visiting the Pelican State.

Gov. Edwards belief that his proposed rental car tax hike would only hit out-of-state visitor is belied by the facts. Given the rental car industry’s primary business deals with replacement vehicles, a majority of the rental car tax hike would be endured by Louisianans. Studies also indicate that rental car tax hikes negatively impact the local economy. A study commissioned by the National Business Travel Association found that a rise in rental car taxes are associated with a reduction in the number of patrons and the average number of days rented, as tourists tend to offset the increased cost of their rental by walking, using public transportation, or by choosing to dine out less.

According to Governor Edwards his proposal is not a budget plan that he wanted to unveil in his second week of office. But he did it anyway.

“This is not the budget plan I wanted to bring in my second week in office, but these problems are bigger than our state has ever seen,” Edwards said. “Raising taxes would not be my first, second or even third option when seeking to fill the state’s budget shortfall, but when the facts change, so do your options.”

That Gov. Edwards has begun his tenure by proposal a massive tax increase should come as no surprise to those who were familiar with his record in the state legislature. As ATR’s Patrick Gleason pointed out in Forbes shortly after Edwards election, Louisiana taxpayers are looking at a rough next four years. After being hit with over 20 federal tax increase in just the last six years, the last thing Louisianans need are for legislators in Baton Rouge to pile on with more job-killing tax hikes at the state level.

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Louisianans who voted for him get what they deserve in these tax increases and owe those who voted against him an apology

ATR Supports Rep. Scalise's Resolution Opposing a Carbon Tax

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, January 29th, 2016, 4:08 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist sent the following letter to Congress this week, urging support for House Concurrent Resolution 89, sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Concurrent Resolution 89 expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses and is not in the best interest of the United States. 

Below is the full text of the letter:

January 28, 2016

Dear Majority Whip Scalise

Americans for Tax Reform strongly supports your leadership in the fight against any form of a carbon tax.          

I urge all members of Congress to support and vote for your House Concurrent Resolution 89, which puts Congress on the record in opposition to a Carbon Tax. 

A carbon tax would kill jobs in the United States, reduce economic growth and set the state for future tax hikes.

A carbon tax is a VAT or Value Added Tax on training wheels.  Any carbon tax would inevitably be spread out over wider and wider parts of the economy until we had a European Value Added Tax.      

A study by the National Association of Manufacturers found a carbon tax would: have a negative effect on consumption, investment and jobs; increase the cost of coal, natural gas and petroleum products thus resulting in higher production costs and less spending on non-energy goods; and lead to lower real wage rates, lower labor productivity, and decrease workers’ incomes. 

Americans for Tax Reform encourages all members of Congress to vote for House Concurrent Resolution 89.

Thank you Congressman for your continued strong leadership in protecting Americans from a carbon tax today and forever. 


Grover G. Norquist                                                    


Americans for Tax Reform

PDF link to letter

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I don't see how a ponzi scheme can be revenue neutral and a carbon tax on any level is a ponzi scheme. It's like having a tax on food to promote people to fight obesity. There is no sense to this.

What is needed is the government to live within a budget and a Fair Tax would be more appropriate to that ends.


It seems to me a carbon tax is just another tax for welfare and sharing of the wealth ponzi scheme. The problem is most everybody will now be paying a middle man cut for the government distribution services, fossils still largely run the economy. Since the inception of the great society concept of the LBJ administration the matrix of welfare organizations has failed to eradicate it. I think it time to get big government out of trying to create a utopian economic society.

How the Expensive War on Poverty Failed

Robert Beggs

The National Association of Manufacturers study assumes the government keeps all the revenue. Grover's opposition to that makes a lot of sense. However, other studies (Regional Economic Models, Inc. - REMI) show that a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend (i.e. all money returned to American households) would actually be positive for the economy. Even Exxon supports a gradually increasing revenue neutral carbon fee. It would be nice if the resolution differentiated the two different approaches.

Meanwhile, in the States...

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Posted by Emily Leayman on Friday, January 29th, 2016, 10:56 AM PERMALINK

Arkansas: Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) decides against raising the gas tax.

Arizona: House looks to further cut insurance company taxes.

California: Caltrans considers replacing the gas tax with a mileage fee. 

Colorado: State could raise gas tax to fund road repairs. Legislators mull tax break for veterans.

Connecticut: Lawmakers prepare tax reform bills for new session next week.

Florida: House may add a jet fuel tax to its budget package. Another bill seeks to increase the cigarette tax by $1.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) calls for lower property taxes, end to budget impasse. 

Indiana: Future income tax cut added to road funding bill.

Louisiana: State Treasurer John Kennedy says budget is fixable without tax hikes.

Maryland: Maryland lawmakers push for free community college. Democrats expect a battle over Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed tax cuts.

Missouri: Senate rejects a 5 percent tax increase on farmers and ranchers.

New Jersey: Atlantic City takeover proposal aims to replace casino property taxes with fixed payments.

New Mexico: House passes an extension of the solar tax credit.

Ohio: State Senator seeks permanent back-to-school tax holiday.  

Pennsylvania: Gov. Tom Wolf (D), lawmakers meet to finish last year’s budget, potentially tabling side issues. 

Tennessee: Legislative considers county’s proposed tourism tax – the first of its kind in the state.

Utah: Senate bill aims to enforce online tax collection.   

West Virginia: House passes repeal of prevailing wage.


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