Doug Kellogg

Watch: What's Next for Sports Betting in the States?

Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, April 8th, 2021, 4:17 PM PERMALINK

Baseball season is here, NCAA basketball champions have been crowned, and state legislatures are still in session. It's the perfect time to talk sports betting.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, FanDuel's Andrew Winchell, and Jessica Feil with American Gaming Association join a special webinar to talk about how states can win with low taxes and good regulatory policies for sports betting. Watch here.


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Time to Finally Pass Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform in AZ

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, March 30th, 2021, 11:17 AM PERMALINK

Last year, it was Democrats who were pressured into killing overdue civil asset forfeiture reform because the authorities 'needed the money'. As if needing the money was ever an acceptable excuse for taking the property of innocent people.

This year, Republicans are being pressured with undue fears about reform by interests who really still just care about the money.

Conservatives should stand strong, and comfortably in support of the civil asset forfeiture reform bill, HB 2810, as it is currently written. There is no need for further modifications.

This bill is the result of a multi-year process, much debate and stakeholder input, and already includes sensible exemptions to new limitations on the ability of the police to confiscate property.

The bad guys still will pay the price for their crimes. Anything seized that is evidence in a case can be kept by the authorities. People who’ve fled forfeit their property. It does not impede prosecutors in building a case, and anyone who committed a crime or let their property be involved in criminal activity loses it just like before.

Most importantly, HB 2810 protects innocent Arizonans from having their property taken. If there is no crime, it remains a dangerous standard to allow the authorities to take the property of citizens. All sides of the political spectrum can agree on that.

This strong, proven reform would put Arizona in comfortable step with 18 other states who’ve enacted similar or even stronger reforms. That includes three states that have abolished civil asset forfeiture entirely (not to be confused with criminal forfeiture). Neighboring New Mexico is one of those states.

Conservatives can rest easy defending the property rights and due process rights of their voters, and should not get stuck holding the bag defending the indefensible. It's time to give HB 2810 a vote.

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Another Chance to End the Income Tax in North Dakota

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, March 22nd, 2021, 5:32 PM PERMALINK

Once again another busy session in Bismarck offers legislators the chance to reduce, and potentially eliminate North Dakota’s income tax, as the House has advanced tax relief legislation in HB 1380.

With their southern neighbors having no income tax, North Dakota stands out as a state that has the opportunity and ability to eliminate their tax. The state’s Legacy Fund, which holds revenues from energy industry growth, contains money that lawmakers are still deciding how to use.

One sensible use would be to eliminate the state income tax.

In 2019, a bill to do just that passed the House but failed to get through the Senate. This session, HB 1380 would put Legacy Fund dollars toward reducing the individual income tax, as well as the corporate income tax. Legacy Fund earnings that are beyond what is designated for the legacy earnings fund, and various funds, would go towards strategic investments, back to the Legacy Fund, and toward tax relief for individuals and businesses. This approach might prove more popular with the Senate.

While exact estimates are not available, the Legacy Fund has grown to nearly $8 billion and the state estimates around $390 million in 2021 from income taxes. Given that, HB 1380 would result in significant tax reductions and could ultimately mean the elimination of the income tax.

More progress on income tax reform is welcome in North Dakota, and the House has been leading the way.

States without income taxes have been in the headlines in the past year as residents from higher tax states flee to friendlier environments. Tennessee, Florida, and Texas were tops for incoming moves in U-Haul’s 2020 study.

North Dakota can join the nine states with no income tax, including South Dakota, by taking aggressive action to reduce tax burdens with HB 1380. It can also keep up with eight other states that are considering eliminating their income taxes this year.

HB 1380 is sponsored by Representatives Lefor, Bosch, Dockter, Headland, Howe, Nathe, Porter, Matt Ruby, and Vicky Steiner in the House; and Senators Patten, Sorvaag, Wardner in the Senate.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Arizona Seizing Opportunity to Protect Individual Rights, Improve Public Safety

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, March 4th, 2021, 11:01 PM PERMALINK

This session, legislators in the Grand Canyon State are working hard to improve the state’s criminal justice system and protect the rights and property of Arizonans.

Overdue civil asset forfeiture reform, HB 2810, is on the move and through the House already, sailing through with 57 yes votes to only 2 nays. Now, it is making its way through the Senate, which passed a similar bill last year, only to see it blocked by House Democrats in a bizarre move.

Under current asset forfeiture laws, Arizonans can have their property seized by law enforcement without a crime having been committed. They can also lose their property if it was used in a criminal activity without their knowledge – authorities do not have to prove the property owner knew. Combine these issues with a difficult-to-navigate process for citizens trying to get their property back, and the deck is inappropriately stacked against Arizonans.

HB 2810 would require a conviction for property to be forfeited, so there is actually a crime that has been committed – and it makes the appeals process less onerous, and more clear.

The House also sent HB 2713 to the Senate, legislation that expands earned release credits for people in prison. Since Texas took up criminal justice reform more than a decade ago to the federal First STEP Act, conservatives have recognized that better preparing people to contribute to society upon their release is the way to go. The vast majority of those in the system will be released one day regardless, it is best for their futures, and public safety, when they are able to find work and improve their communities.

Passing HB 2713 should be a big priority for the legislature, and Arizonans. It promises to address an overly expensive prison system, while boosting public safety.

But wait, there’s more! The Arizona Senate has passed legislation, SB 1551, to end driver’s license suspension as a means to strong arm people who owe court debt.

Suspending a license for dangerous driving is more than appropriate, but suspending someone’s license because they can’t afford a fine is wrong and counterproductive.

It can cost someone their job by significantly limiting their transportation options, or make it difficult for them to look for a job in the first place. Without income, it only becomes harder for someone to pay off the debt they owe. This bad situation can get worse, as desperation may result in someone committing the offense of driving without a license, this can spark a downward cycle as a new offense is piled on top of whatever prior offense led to the initial fine and court debt.

Arizonans would be much better off if people weren’t being put in this absurd Catch 22 situation. Further, courts are not likely making much, if any additional money with this tactic.

Results from California, one of the early states to reform driver’s license suspension, show that courts are now receiving more money because people are better able to pay their fines if they can drive to work. California’s courts reported a 9% increase in collections on newly issued traffic tickets following reform.

Photo Credit: WikiMedia

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Indiana House Republicans Push Second Tax Hike in Four Years

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021, 7:36 PM PERMALINK

The Indiana State Senate will have to stop the latest tax hike scheme to come out of the Indiana House of Representatives in the past four years.

Last week, the House approved a budget that increases taxes overall, on the back of a tax hike on vape and tobacco products.

Only two Republicans voted no, with a handful not voting. A dozen members who promised their constituents they would not vote to increase taxes, voted to do just that for a second time. Their constituents are likely thinking of the old saying, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’.

In 2017, the Indiana legislature approved a significant increase in the state gas tax. This year it is a dangerous tax on vaping, and misguided tax hike on cigarettes.

Increasing taxes on vape products simply means fewer people will switch to vaping from higher risk tobacco products, and small businesses like vape shops will suffer as they try to recover from a pandemic and keep people employed.  

Budget lead Rep. Tim Brown said, “one of the most important things we can do in the state of Indiana to make us a healthier state is to decrease smoking.” In fact, his tax hikes will do the exact opposite.

Reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes that are proven 95% safer than combustible tobacco and twice as effective as more traditional nicotine replacement therapies. It is downright irresponsible to hurt people who are trying to quit smoking.

Cigarettes may look like a soft political target, but increasing taxes on them carries multiple downsides – and there is no upside for health.

Data from the National Adult Tobacco Surveys has consistently demonstrated that tobacco tax increases have no statistically significant impact on the prevalence of smoking among those with household incomes of less than $25,000. Seventy-two percent of smokers are from low-income communities.

They also lead to smuggling. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, tobacco taxes in nearby Michigan and Illinois have resulted in 20% of the market consisting of illicit tobacco.

New revenues would be slated to go to Medicaid, but cigarette taxes are notorious for falling short of revenue promises. Missed revenue means gaps that government is loathe to address by cutting spending – meaning they’ll find other taxes to increase to keep spending levels up.

To be fair, a positive from this budget is the expansion of school choice, which empowers parents at a time when the importance of that choice is more clear than ever.

By pursuing these tax increases, Indiana House Republicans are making promises they can’t keep, while breaking the understanding voters have that Republicans will protect their wallets.

Indiana Senators can and should stop their House colleagues from harming themselves, and the taxpayers they represent. The more legislators get used to increasing taxes, the more Indiana will slip from the pro-taxpayer, business-friendly state it has been.  

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Election Results Offer Hope for New York Taxpayers?

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Thursday, November 5th, 2020, 5:12 PM PERMALINK

An unexpected winner in the 2020 elections looks to be… *checks notes*… New York taxpayers? It’s hard to believe, but then again it is 2020.

New York saw some key election results that may give some hope to the state’s beleaguered taxpayers.

In recent sessions, a consolidated Democrat-controlled state legislature, along with Governor Cuomo in his third term, moved more costly tax-and-spend policies like the Green New Deal through Albany.

With a few wins in 2020, Democrats would grab a supermajority in the state legislature. Policies like socialized medicine, wealth and investment taxes, and more economy-destroying fantasy proposals seemed right around the corner. Even policies too radical for Governor Cuomo would become reality. Add to that, redistricting for the state is coming up as well.

On the verge of irrelevance, Republicans performed well in the state, regaining ground in the state senate.

In district 3, Alexis Weik leads Monica Martinez, In district 5, Edmund Smyth leads Jim Gaughran, in district 6, Dennis Dunne leads Kevin Thomas, in district 22, Vito Bruno leads Andrew Gounardes, in district 38, William Weber leads Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, in district 40, Rob Astorino leads Pete Harckham, in district 42, Mike Martucci leads Jen Metzger.

These would all represent flips from Democrat to Republican. With days left before outstanding mail-in votes are counted, these races could change. Still, Democrats will fall short of the 42 senators needed for a supermajority barring a miracle, and Republicans expect to gain 4-to-6 seats on net. There are 63 seats total in the New York Senate, Democrats held 40 seats before the election.

New York Republicans also look to have held onto all their congressional seats, though reporting for the 3rd district is very low (according to the New York Times), and they will add NY-11, Nicole Malliotakis, and likely NY-22, Claudia Tenney.  

Policies like the expansive Green New Deal legislation passed last year can’t be undone, so New York taxpayers will continue to be subject to costly, job-killing left wing experiments. Taxes will remain high. People will continue to leave for greener pastures. Still, it was about to get a lot worse, and a surprising election likely prevents the worst case scenario from unfolding… for now.

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Florida Voters Reject Jungle Primary on Election Day --Amendment 3

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, November 4th, 2020, 9:21 AM PERMALINK

With 57% of Florida voters voting yes on Amendment 3, it is shy of the required 60% to pass. Amendment 3 would install a "jungle primary" system.

Americans for Tax Reform urged rejection of the measure. It would have ended the state’s current closed primary system, and have all candidates compete in one primary where the top two vote-getters advance to a general election face-off.

This kind of primary is sometimes referred to as a “jungle primary.” This proposal is such a radical idea that both the Republican and Democratic parties opposed it. Such a dysfunctional system would likely result in greater burdens for Florida taxpayers.

Photo Credit: Village Square

Florida Voters Approve Extension of Home Portability Period--Amendment 5

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, 8:30 PM PERMALINK

Florida voters have approved Amendment 5, extending the "Save Our Homes" Portability Period Amendment.

Americans for Tax Reform supported the measure. There is a 3% annual limit for an increase in the valuation of a homestead property. Currently, after moving to a new primary residence, a Florida resident has two years to transfer their homestead property benefit. Amendment 5 increases the time period for this transfer to three years. This additional flexibility promises to help some taxpayers save on property taxes.

Photo Credit: Marco

Still the One: Pennsylvania Boosts Clean Slate Policy

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Monday, October 26th, 2020, 5:44 PM PERMALINK

The Keystone State was the first in the nation to pass “Clean Slate” legislation, which automatically seals the records of most misdemeanor offenses, and charges that did not result in conviction.

Clean Slate has been a big success, and it was clearly overdue. Since the initial bill’s passage in 2018, Pennsylvania has sealed 107,000 records for misdemeanor offenses, and a startling 16 million cases that did not result in a conviction.

It has set an example that other states have followed, Utah and Michigan have both recently passed similar bills. Not one to easily relinquish their head start, Pennsylvania lawmakers approved House Bill 440 just last week. Like the 2018 bill, HB 440 was sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier.

HB 440 enhances the Clean Slate program. Now, anyone who has been unconditionally pardoned, or acquitted, will have their records sealed. Further, fines and fees will not be required before a case is sealed under Clean Slate. Appropriately, restitution is still required.

Clean Slate incentivizes good behavior by reducing unintended consequences for people leaving the system. Having a record makes it more difficult to find work and housing. Helping people become fully functioning members of society is good for them, public safety, and taxpayers.

Those who are finally getting their records sealed must not have committed a crime in the past decade, proving that they will stay on the straight-and-narrow. Research shows the rate of reoffending plummets after 5 years following release. If someone is going to reoffend, they are much more likely to do so in the few years right after they are released, and extremely unlikely to do so after 5-plus years in the community.

More Clean Slate is a good thing, and Pennsylvania continues to lead the way with the passage of HB 440.

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D.C. Government Bet on Itself & Lost

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Friday, October 16th, 2020, 4:32 PM PERMALINK

When Washington D.C.’s city council legalized sports betting in the district, they gave a virtual monopoly to the DC Lottery. Rather than having a vibrant market, and competition, that would best serve consumers, councilmembers decided government knew best.

The results have been about what you’d expect from the people who brought you the D.C. Metro – lottery commission sports betting is confusing, and only partially operational.

It took forever to get things started, and the government-ordered app for online betting is clunky and has confusing lines. Despite being the only mobile option, it is losing out to in-person options at sports arenas. Teams are allowed to have sports books in their arenas free of the city government-controlled monopoly.

In a state with modest tax rates on bets and a functioning market, like New Jersey, the majority of bets happen through mobile betting. In D.C., the government’s mobile app only earns a fraction of what one in-person sports book does.

The council was warned against this misguided, heavy-handed government approach. The lottery’s failure to deliver a consumer-friendly experience is on them.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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