Kemp Wins GOP Gubernatorial Run-off in Georgia

By Peter Brath

Despite finishing behind Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle by 13 points in their May primary, Secretary of State Brian Kemp rolled to a resounding 39-point victory over his rival in Tuesday’s runoff election for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Cagle won only two counties—Monroe and Stephens—as the establishment favorite mustered 30.6 percent of the vote. Kemp, who received President Trump’s endorsement on July 18, took 69.4 percent, including Cagle’s home county.

Cagle suffered from an embarrassing political moment when a recording surfaced of him criticizing the GOP primary and admitting that he supported bad policy to sabotage an opponent’s fund-raising while boosting his own.

In his victory speech, Kemp quickly turned his attention toward the general election, attacking Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams for connections to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and calling her radical.

Kemp received praise from his base for fiery ads attacking illegal immigration and defending gun rights, but Republican leaders worry this will continue to drive away moderate suburban Georgians that rejected Trump in 2016. He also received criticism for supporting a controversial religious freedom bill that many said was discriminatory toward homosexuals.

Abrams, a progressive gubernatorial candidate in a traditionally conservative state, was endorsed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both she and Kemp appealed to increasingly polarized bases to win their party’s respective nomination. However, it remains uncertain whether they will move to the middle to pick up Georgia’s growing population of moderates, or double down and aim for turnout. Either way, this election will be closer than Republicans had originally hoped for.

As of June 30, Abrams has raised more money than Kemp, with more than twice as much cash on hand. The Cook Political Report rates this election as ‘solid Republican’ and Inside Elections rates it ‘likely Republican.’


Utah Approves Online Sales Tax

Beehive State lawmakers approved legislation on Wednesday allowing the collection of online sales tax. The move follows several other state legislatures after the Supreme Court ruled in July that states could collect taxes from online retailers.

Utah’s legislation requires companies with 200 sales or $100,000 worth of sales a year to pay taxes on transactions. Utah currently has voluntary agreements with large online business, like Amazon and Airbnb, allowing the state to collect $140 million in taxes annually. However, the new legislation will allow the state to collect an additional $60 million in revenue, which will support tax breaks for manufacturers. To incentivize collection, Utah has allowed online business to keep 18 percent of collected sales tax, until the law takes effect in January 2019.

The vote comes after Republican Gov. Gary Herbert called legislators back to the state house for a special session. Herbert and other supporters believe the tax will boost the economy, while Democratic opponents believe the legislation is a giveaway to corporations. The governor is also pushing a November ballot issue that will increase the gas tax by 10 cents, bringing in an estimated $180 million to help fund public schools.


Illinois Governor Signs Gun Control Legislation

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed two pieces of legislation earlier this week that will increase gun control measures in his state. The two laws, which were signed on Monday, extend the waiting period for firearms to 72 hours and allows family, friends and police officers to petition a court to remove weapons from someone who may pose a threat of violence.

“In the wake of gun violence tragedies, we hear again and again from friends and family members who saw warning signs but felt helpless because they couldn’t keep guns away from someone who was troubled or unstable,” said Rep. Kathleen Willis, a Chicago area Democrat who sponsored the firearms restraining order bill. “With this bipartisan law, Illinois families and law enforcement officers can seek a firearm restraining order if a person’s gun possession would pose significant danger to themselves or others.”

Known as a “red flag” law, Willis’ legislation will consider whether a person has made threats or committed violence against someone else or themselves, committed violent crimes, violated protective orders or engaged in a pattern of violent behavior. A judge can then issue a 14-day order to confiscate weapons, but a petitioner must prove “clear and convincing” evidence that the person in question is potentially dangerous and should have firearms taken from them for up to six months.

Gun advocates say the law could lead to discriminatory practices while infringing upon civil liberties.

Rauner’s second piece of legislation extends waiting periods for all firearms for up to 72 hours. Previously, buyers had to wait 72 hours for a handgun but could pick up a rifle or shotgun after 24 hours.

A third gun control measure could reach Rauner’s desk, but he said he plans to veto the proposal. The bill would create a state licensing system that would require firearms dealers to crack down on illegal gun sales. Lawmakers have not sent the proposal to him, but Rauner says it will hamstring the state’s small business community.



Nebraska State Legislator Pushes Online Sales Tax Reform


Republican State Senator John McCollister

A Nebraska lawmaker has begun to push legislation that would allow the collection of online sales tax following a Supreme Court ruling in June. Republican Senator John McCollister of Omaha has begun circulating a petition to summon legislators into a special session that would force debate over an online sales tax proposal. McCollister currently has 10 signatures, but needs 33 to summon a special session of the state’s unicameral body.

McCollister said every week the state delays collection of online sales tax, they lose $3 million in monthly revenue.

“I think we have a fiduciary responsibility to collect the money,” McCollister told the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday. “This would all change if the governor were more amenable to a special session.”

McCollister’s petition comes after the Supreme Court ruled in June to overrule a 1992 decision that prohibited the collection of state sales tax from online retailers that don’t have a physical address in the state.

Republican Governor Pete Ricketts has said there’s no urgency to enact legislation, citing a need to wait on all the legal details. However, the governor has said he wants any additional tax revenue allocated toward property tax relief. Ricketts also signaled the funding could go to the state’s cash reserve fund to help subsidize programs under distress from an ongoing budget squeeze.

Nebraska has a law that allows the state to collect online sales tax, but legislation outlining the policies and procedures for collection was filibustered earlier this year. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, collects taxes on direct purchases made by Nebraskans. However, while Nebraska taxpayers are required to report online purchases from out-of-state entities, it almost never happens. As a result, most brick-and-mortar stores believe online retailers have an unfair advantage in the Cornhusker state.


Maine Legislature Overrides Governor’s Medical Marijuana Veto

By Danny Restivo

Maine lawmakers overrode Governor Paul LePage’s veto Tuesday, allowing doctors and nurses to prescribe medical marijuana for any patient they deem adequate. The Maine House voted 119-23, while the Senate voted 25-8 to override the governor’s decision on Friday to veto a medical marijuana reform bill.

Maine legalized medical marijuana prescriptions in 1999 for AIDS, post-traumatic stress and pains from untreatable ailments. The new legislation allows doctors to issue medical marijuana licenses for any therapeutic or palliative use. Supporters of the bill say medical marijuana could help treat opioid addiction.

LePage has been a strong opponent of any attempt to loosen the state’s marijuana laws. He’s cited—among other things—a lack of state oversight for vetoing the legislation.

“Passing legislation that would permit newly established manufacturing facilities to conduct this same work in the absence of rule or certification is irresponsible,” said LePage in a veto letter. He included several other issues regarding the legislation, like the establishment of a medical marijuana research fund and laboratory licensing procedures. He also referenced the bills failure to require drug tests for employees of caretakers dispensing medical marijuana, or sales tax registration before selling medical marijuana.

Maine currently has 42,000 certified medical marijuana patients. They spent more than $24.5 million at state medical marijuana dispensaries in 2017. The bill also requires caregivers who have a storefront operation to receive explicit permission from their respective municipality before operating a medical marijuana facility.

In early May, the Maine legislature overrode LePage’s veto of a measure that would allow the government to tax and regulate the commercial sale of marijuana.


New Jersey Budget Recap

By Peter BPhil_Murphy_for_Governor_(33782680673)_(cropped)rath

Governor Phil Murphy signed a budget into place Sunday night and avoided a government shutdown with just hours to spare. The new budget will increase spending by 4.2 percent and increase tax revenue by an estimated $1.5 billion.
While Murphy did not get the sales tax increase he wanted, he did get his millionaires tax, although not in the capacity he originally hoped. Murphy wanted to increase taxes on individuals making more than $1 million but had to compromise with a legislature that wanted no millionaires tax at all. The new budget will increase taxes on individuals earning more than $5 million.

The New Jersey legislature was able to avoid increasing the sales tax by arguing the recent Supreme Court decision allowing states to tax online sales would bring in the necessary revenue.
Other new taxes include an Airbnb and a ridesharing tax where customers pay 50 cents for solo trips or 25 cents for shared rides. Murphy had proposed a 6.63 percent sales tax. The budget also includes a 10-cent tax on each milliliter of liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes.
The budget also temporarily increases taxes on corporations through a surcharge on businesses making more than $1 million. Corporate taxes will increase from 9 to 11.5 percent for this year and next. However, the corporate tax rate will fall to 10.5 percent for the following two years, and will then return to 9 percent in 2023.

New Jersey will also aim to collect more than in $200 million in owed taxes.
This increased revenue should help pay for a $242 million boost to New Jersey Transit and education. It also includes an additional $402 million in funding for public schools and a $20 million increase to Murphy’s free community college program, which now has $25 million to offer to low-income residents who need help paying for community college. The new funding will also help pay for an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit from 35 to 40 percent of the federal tax credit over the next three years. The increase in direct funding for public schools will help offset the increase in the state income tax deduction for local property taxes.

Primary Recap

By Peter Brath and Danny Restivo

Republicans and Democrats in four states—Oklahoma, Colorado, South Carolina and Maryland—solidified their party’s respective nominees for governor after Tuesday night’s primary.
Former NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous clinched the Democratic nomination after defeating a large field of candidates. With 39 percent of the vote, Jealous’ closest competitor was Prince George County Official Rushern Baker, who captured 29 percent of the vote. Eight other candidates followed with single-digit tallies.

Jealous, a former Rhodes Scholar and top lieutenant to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, had received endorsements from Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Corey Booker (D-NJ). Jealous has selected Susan Turnbull, a Democratic stalwart who held local, state and national positions in the party.

Jealous will now face incumbent Republican Governor Terry Hogan, one of America’s most popular governor’s with a 71-percent approval rating. The Cook Political Report has labeled the race as “Likely Republican,” while Inside Elections has categorized the race as “Lean Republican.”

Five-term Congressman Jared Polis and two-term state Treasurer Walker Stapleton will face-off in November’s gubernatorial election. Polis, an openly-gay representative from the Boulder area, won nearly 44 percent of the Democratic vote. Meanwhile, former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy captured 26 percent and State Senator Mike Johnson had 24 percent. In the GOP primary, Stapleton had 48 percent, while his closest competitor, former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, took more than 30 percent.

Stapleton broke state fundraising records and counts Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as relatives. With a strong background in economics, Stapleton has received funding and endorsements from many members of the Colorado business community. Both candidates raised nearly $40 million combined, while Polis spent $11 million of his own money. Polis started an internet access provider company while a student at Princeton University before he sold it in 1999 for $430 million. If elected, he would become the first openly gay governor in the United States.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections both labeled this race “Lean Democratic.”

South Carolina
Republican Governor Henry McMaster defeated John Warren by 11 points to clinch the GOP nomination for Governor. McMaster took more than 53 percent of the vote, while Warren captured slightly more than 42 percent. Both candidates entered Tuesday’s contest after they secured the top two spots in the June 12 primary.

McMaster will now face Democratic State Representative James Smith in the general election. Smith captured almost 62 percent of the Democratic vote when he clinched the nomination on June 12.

McMaster is seeking his first full-term as governor. After South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was reelected in 2014, President Donald Trump tapped her to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017. As a result, McMaster moved from Lt. Governor to Governor and received a strong endorsement from Trump shortly before the primary.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have categorized the race as “Safely Republican.”

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Tulsa business executive Kevin Stitt took the two top spots in the Oklahoma GOP primary and will face each other in a runoff on August 28. While Cornett took 29 percent of the vote, Stitt grabbed 24 percent, edging out Lt. Governor Todd Lamb who earned 23 percent.

In the Democratic Primary, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson defeated State Senator Connie Johnson, 61-38 percent. Edmondson’s family has a long line of public service in Oklahoma; his father was former congressman Ed Edmondson, his uncle J. Howard Edmondson was Governor, while his brother James sits on the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have categorized the race as “Safely Republican” and “Likely Republican,” respectively.