Amazon tax collection bill, 15 others, become law on New Years Day

Perhaps the most notable new law taking effect on Jan. 1, 2014, in Tennessee is one that requires Amazon.com to start collecting sales taxes from its Tennessee customers – passed by the Legislature in 2012 in accordance with a deal negotiated by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration with the company.

A list of bills passed by the 2013 session with a Jan. 1 effective date, providing the official legislative “caption” description, is HERE.

The National Conference of State Legislatures, meanwhile, has a compilation of new state laws from around the nation HERE. (HT to Knoxviews, which also has a link to a ‘ridiculist’ quiz on the laws. Hint: Tennessee doesn’t make the list.)

And here’s a write-up on the Tennessee new laws by Legendary Lucas, otherwise known as Lucas Johnson of the Associated Press:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A law that could boost the state’s revenue is among those taking effect on Jan. 1, as are statutes that govern concussions in school-age athletes and workforce development.

Starting Wednesday, Amazon.com will begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee. Under a deal struck with the administration of former Gov. Phil Bredesen, Amazon was absolved from collecting the state sales tax. Customers were responsible for paying them on their own to the state Department of Revenue.

However, the online retailing giant’s brick-and-mortar competitors argued that arrangement wasn’t fair.

Current Gov. Bill Haslam eventually reached an agreement with Amazon that required it to begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee in 2014. The company also agreed to build two distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties, creating about 3,500 jobs.

In addition to employment, state finance officials hope the collection requirement will shore up state revenues that have been sluggish partly because of sales tax collections that have fallen short of projections the past few months.

Amazon’s sales tax collection is estimated to generate about $17 million in recurring state revenue, and about $7 million in local revenue, according to the state Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee.

Nashville resident Emily Lilley is a frequent Amazon shopper and said she doesn’t mind the new law because she understands it can help the state financially.

“It seems fair when I buy something in a store I pay sales tax, and so if I’m buying something online … it seems fair to pay sales tax there too,” she said. “And I know the state can use more revenue.”

In the concussion legislation, schools must adopt guidelines to educate coaches, school administrators, athletes and their parents about the symptoms and dangers of concussions. Under the measure, injured students must not be allowed to resume a sport until a medical professional clears their return.

“This is about the safety of our young people,” said Senate sponsor Jim Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican who has also done some high school coaching and officiating.

The measure includes provisions requiring students to be removed from an event if they show concussion symptoms like headaches, dilated eyes or vomiting.

Antonio Adams of Memphis coaches his 8-year-old son’s little league football team. He said such a law is needed because he sees how parents push their kids to be competitive at a very early age, and they often maintain that mindset when they’re older and are reluctant to leave games when hurt.

“A lot of people look at kids as being very resilient,” he said. “Well, kids are resilient … but at the same time they’re not robots.”

Under the workforce development law, students at the state’s technology centers and community colleges can combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and apply that experience toward a degree.

“It’s a common sense approach to education and workforce development, where we align the private sector’s needs with the state’s ability to meet them,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, one of the measure’s sponsors.

Note: Three of the 15 enacted in 2013 – and some details on the Amazon legislation – are given somewhat more lengthy treatment in the list below distributed by Darlene Schlicher, press secretary of the Senate Republican Caucus.

LEAP / Jobs and Higher Education — Legislation passed the General Assembly this year to create the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). The measure allows students at Tennessee’s technology centers and community colleges to combine occupational training in a high-skill or high-technology industry with academic credit and to apply that experience toward a degree. The legislation directs several state entities to work together in both establishing and carrying out the initiative.

The new law is modeled after “cooperative education” programs. These are programs where students are paid to learn while applying what they learn at work for credit toward a degree so that wages or other compensation received will not impact eligibility for state need-based financial assistance or grants. LEAP recognizes that an important outcome of a student’s education is job opportunity. Having employers work closely with state agencies creates increased collaboration and focus across the board, giving students the opportunity to attain credentials, while earning college credit.

Senate Bill 1330 / by Norris, Burks, Tate / Public Chapter 338 / DOE: For rules and regulations it become effective upon becoming law, otherwise it goes into effect January 1, 2014

Protecting Student Athletes / Concussions — A new law designed to protect student athletes who suffer concussions from risking further medical complications or death has been approved. The measure ensures guidelines are in place to help coaches, youth athletic instructors and parents recognize a concussion and its symptoms in order to keep an injured player from risking their health by returning to competition too soon.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that from 2001-2009, concussions among youth increased 60%, leading the agency to label concussion frequency as reaching “epidemic” proportions. Approximately 70.5% of sports-related emergency visits for traumatic brain injuries were among youth aged 10-19. Moreover, once an athlete has suffered an initial concussion, his or her chances of a second one are 3 to 6 times greater than an athlete who has never sustained a concussion.

The legislation requires schools and community youth athletic authorities where the majority of students are under the age of 18 to adopt guidelines based on those developed by the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH). The guidelines must include the nature and risk of concussions, training in recognizing signs and symptoms of head injuries and the necessity of obtaining medical attention for injured youth athletes.

The legislation also requires that coaches, volunteers and team medical providers complete a concussion recognition and head injury safety education course that would be available on the DOH website, free of charge. Coaches, as well as parents, must then sign and return concussion and head injury information sheets annually to school administrators or directors for community organizations to show they have reviewed the guidelines.

In addition, schools and organizations must have a policy of removing youth who show signs of concussion from activity for medical evaluation by a team doctor or designated person. The student athlete cannot return to any activity or competition until an evaluation and written clearance by a doctor who has either received training from the National Federation of State High School Associations or reviewed the CDC’s Concussion Toolkit for Physicians.

Sports that lead to greatest frequency of concussions are football for males and soccer for females. Forty-three states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws protecting athletes under the age of 18 from returning to play too soon after suffering the effects of a concussion.

Senate Bill 882 by Tracy, Hensley, Dickerson, Massey, Tate, Burks, Ford, Green, Haile / Public Chapter 148 / DOE: January 1, 2014

Tennessee Asset Forfeiture Law — A new law passed during the 2013 legislative session revising the process for government seizure of private property in criminal cases in order to curb abuse. This legislation establishes the legal rules relating to issuance of a legal warrant, the hearing process for property seizure, and the requirements of an affidavit supporting the warrant, as well as an appeals procedure. The legislation reforms the practice known as asset forfeiture which gives law enforcement officers the ability to take people’s personal property without charging them with a crime.

The state’s current civil asset forfeiture laws are written in such a manner that has allowed law enforcement officers unfairly to seize cash, cars and other property without the owner being in attendance. Abuse of the law has resulted in a practice known as “policing for profit” where police officers seize property without proof of a crime. Often, asset forfeiture cases take months to settle.

Senate Bill 891 by Hensley, Gresham, Gardenhire / Public Chapter 382 / DOE: January 1, 2014

Another January 1 significant date:

Jobs / Amazon — The General Assembly approved legislation in the 2012 session to solidify a jobs agreement reached last year between Governor Bill Haslam, legislative leaders and Amazon officials. Currently, Tennessee law requires that consumers pay use tax to the Tennessee Department of Revenue when making an online purchase from any retailer that does not collect sales tax. The new law establishes requirements for determining whether certain business affiliates have a physical presence in Tennessee sufficient to establish nexus for sales and use tax purposes. Nexus is a legal term referring to connection or jurisdiction within a State.

After 2013, responsibility for collecting and remitting the Tennessee tax will shift to the company. In the event that the U.S. Congress acts before January 1, 2014, all online retailers will collect sales tax at the time federal legislation is enacted.

When all five centers are built and staffed, Amazon will have a $350 million investment and 3,500 full-time workers in Tennessee, in addition to thousands of seasonal employment opportunities.

Senate Bill 2232 / House Bill 2370 / Norris, McNally / PC 624 / DOE: March 23, 2012