Georgia Gas Tax Increase Blocked
Georgia law provides for automatic annual increases in the gas tax when prices increase…except Gov. Nathan has signed an executive order to block what would have been a 1.6-cents-per-gallon increase this year. His aides say that will save motorists an estimated $40 million in taxes., reports the AP.
Deal had declined to step in and freeze the state sales tax when it rose by nearly 3 cents a gallon on May 1. Spokesman Brian Robinson said Friday the Republican governor decided to act this time because the state sales tax would be rising even as the price of gas is falling and Georgians had already been hit with an increase in May. The tax would rise because it is based on average gas prices over six months.
…The executive order Deal signed on Thursday means that rate will remain at 12.9 cents a gallon rather than rising to 14.5 cent a gallon. Many Georgia counties impose (an) additional fee that’s also pegged to gas prices.
(Tennessee’s gas tax is 21.4 cents per gallon, including a 1.4 cent inspection fee, unchanged since 1989. It generated $659.4 million last year. On each gallon, 7.9 cents of the tax goes to cities and counties; the rest to the state.)
Texas Wrangling With Amazon
Amazon.com has sweetened its pitch to Texas officials, but lawmakers – at least for now – said no to the online retailer’s offer to bring thousands of jobs to the state in exchange for a break on collecting sales taxes. More from an Austin American Statesman story:
After Amazon upped its number of promised jobs from 5,000 to 6,000, a joint House-Senate conference committee decided not to attach the Amazon proposal to Senate Bill 1, the fiscal matters bill being debated in the Legislature’s special session, a spokeswoman for the committee’s chairman, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, confirmed late Thursday.
It’s unclear whether lawmakers could bring the proposal forward in some other format during the special session, or whether Thursday’s decision effectively ends the negotiations between Amazon and Texas. Amazon officials were not available for comment.
Amazon initially offered Texas a deal that would create 5,000 jobs and invest $300 million in the state over the next three years. In exchange, lawmakers would agree to grant Amazon a 41/2-year exemption from collecting tax on online sales in Texas.
Amazon does not now collect sales taxes in Texas and many other states. But the comptroller’s office has moved to collect $269 million in past uncollected sales taxes from the retailer, and Amazon is fighting the assessment in court.
(As you may recall, action on a bill to require Amazon to collect sales taxes in Tennessee was postponed in the Legislature until January. The state attorney general has yet to issue a long-awaited opinion on the legalities involved under Tennessee law. Gov. Bill Haslam has moved to block any requirement that Amazon collect sales taxes.)
N.C. Governor Vetoes Voter ID Bill
In a move that could influence next year’s presidential election in North Carolina, Democratic Gov. Bev. Perdue vetoed a bill Thursday that would have required voters to show a photo ID. More from the Raleigh News & Observer:
Republicans hailed the bill as a common-sense way to ensure against fraud. Critics said it would suppress voter turnout, particularly among students, African-Americans and elderly people, calling it a modern-day poll tax.
“We must always be vigilant in protecting the integrity of our elections,” Perdue said in a statement. “But requiring every voter to present a government-issued photo ID is not the way to do it.”
In Tennessee, of course, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill mandating a government-issued ID for voting…. along with a bill that grants free ID to people who don’t have a driver’s license.
Texas Bill Bans Texting While Legislating
Scores of states and cities have recently enacted bans on texting while driving. But a proposed bill in Texas could make it the first state to prohibit a different kind of technology use: texting while lawmaking. More from a recent Governing magazine article.
The measure, introduced in March by Rep. Todd Hunter, would make it illegal for Texas legislators to send or receive a text, e-mail or instant message, or make posts to websites, during public meetings. It’s not a question of whether lawmakers are paying attention — although that’s an issue — but rather, the concern is that such communication violates open meeting laws.
If enacted, Texas would be the first state with a law of this kind. But the legality of texting while lawmaking has already been cause for debate in places around the country. In San Jose, Calif., controversy erupted in 2009 when a lobbyist texted the wrong city councilmember telling him how to vote. In response, the city adopted an ordinance requiring councilmembers to disclose relevant electronic communications they receive during meetings. The state also prohibited lobbyists and lawmakers from texting one another while on the floor or in committee.
(A couple of years ago, when legislators were considering a bill to ban texting while driving, sponsor Rep. Jon Lunberg, R-Bristol, sent a text message to House committee members urging their support while the bill was being debated…. and said so. Otherwise, one suspects there is some texting going on between lobbyists and legislators during other debates that is kept quiet. At the same time, there seems to be very little, if any, of the old tradition of hand signals from lobbyists to legialators — typically, say, lobbyist putting a finger to the nose to signal a ‘no’ vote on an amendment; a finger to the eye to signal an ‘aye’ vote, etc.)