Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel on Internet sales tax payments bill would benefit state:
The U.S. Senate last week voted to restore balance to the nation's retail market and to sales tax collections nationwide with the passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act.
Tennessee's Republican senators — Lamar Alexander, one of the bill's key sponsors, and Bob Corker — voted for the bill, which provides a way for states to receive sales tax payments on Internet transactions. The measure passed 69 to 27.
The bill now goes to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, where the bogus argument that it constitutes a tax increase might find a more receptive audience. Among the opponents are Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader who wields tremendous influence on Republican lawmakers, and the Heritage Foundation.
Tennessee's House delegation — particularly the East Tennessee contingent of U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, John J. Duncan Jr. and Chuck Fleischmann — should ignore, as Alexander and Corker did, the misrepresentations and outright fabrications of opponents, and vote in favor of the bill.
The problem of collecting sales taxes on Internet purchases has vexed policymakers over the past several years.
Sales taxes are collected by merchants at the point of sale and turned over to the state. ...
Tennessee residents who are not charged sales taxes by online retailers are supposed to pay the tax directly to state government, but few do. According to the national Conference of State Legislatures, Tennessee failed to receive $749 million in state and local sales taxes on Internet sales last year.
Some critics contend the bill would place an undue burden on businesses, especially in keeping track of the myriad tax rates in the various cities, counties and states. The bill, however, requires states to provide computer software free of charge to retailers so they can accurately calculate the sales tax on each purchase. States also would shoulder the burden of dividing the payments and distributing the revenues to local governments. Businesses with online sales of less than $1 million would be exempt.
In addition to Corker and Alexander, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam supports the bill. Tennessee's House delegation, however, is all over the map on the legislation, according to the Tennessean.
The bill is, as its title suggests, about marketplace fairness. Its passage would place Tennessee businesses on an equal footing with their out-of-state competitors and allow the state to claim millions of dollars in revenue owed it by consumers. A vote for the bill is a vote for fairness.
Tennessean, Nashville, Tenn. on Governor, citizenry say no to 'ag gag':
Gov. Bill Haslam has acted on behalf of all Tennesseans, and everyone who values the U.S. Constitution, by vetoing the "ag gag" bill.
The governor deserves credit for getting into this fight against HB 1191/SB 1248, using his veto against a bill that was overwhelmingly supported by lawmakers in his own party.
Those lawmakers would be well-advised to accept Haslam's judgment, which was informed by the state attorney general's opinion and the indignation of thousands of Tennesseans, who perceived that this legislation would be not only merely unjust but also dangerous.
On every level, "ag gag" was a failure.
It sought to protect people who inflict pain and damage needlessly to living creatures — to intimidate witnesses to abuse, thereby making prosecutors' jobs harder. It would have put journalists at risk, even if they were reporting on a crime that had nothing to do with animals, because the bill would have invalidated the state's shield law. And, whether or not its sponsors fully comprehended it, it would have stifled the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination that our country was built upon.
If that were not enough, "ag gag" nearly achieved one other misdeed: The people behind it put the entire farming community in Tennessee in a false light by suggesting all were in lockstep in support of this measure. We submit that those who did support it were misled by a few who had their own reasons for advancing this bill.
The legislation was built upon a lie. There is no need even for a revamped version of this bill to see the light of day, because the stated purpose of the bill, to prevent manipulation of animal owners by animal-rights groups, is a fiction. Just ask the prosecutors in the Jackie McConnell horse-soring case. They will tell you the evidence obtained by the Humane Society of the United States could not have been obtained in any other way.
Animal abusers do not advertise their wrongdoing, but the abuse must be stopped.
The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on veto invites lawmakers to build a better law:
In vetoing the animal cruelty bill, Gov. Bill Haslam took pains not to take sides in a controversy between agriculture and humane interests.
Instead, he focused on legal and constitutional grounds.
He pointed to the state attorney general's report that the measure was constitutionally suspect, and that it would in effect repeal parts of some laws already on the books.
King Solomon couldn't have done better.
The law would have required anyone with evidence of acts of animal cruelty to turn their evidence over to law enforcement within 48 hours. That was widely seen as an effort to gag investigations by the Humane Society and similar groups.
Haslam pointed to concerns by farm interests that the law should be even-handed, not an open invitation to anyone who sees livestock farming as inherently cruel.
A better law is needed, the governor said, and sponsors of the vetoed legislation agreed.
A foundation already has been laid by the opinion of Attorney General Robert Cooper, who said a model can be found in laws requiring witnesses to report abuse of children or adults.
Those laws describe which officials must be informed, grant witnesses confidentiality and immunity for reporting, and require the same steps regardless of whether witnesses plan to publish what they have seen.
The vetoed bill had barely squeaked through the legislature. We can hope for a measure next year that will have broad support.