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.

 

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.

 

California State House Amends Net Neutrality Bill

By
Danny Restivo

California_State_ Sen_Scott_Wiener

After the State Senate approved new legislation to mandate Net Neutrality laws in California earlier this month, a California House committee amended the legislation this week. As a result, the bill removes key consumer protections approved by the Senate.
Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco legislator who sponsored the bill passed by the California Senate, said he will no longer support the house legislation with the amendments included. Also, Wiener says he may withdraw the bill if he cannot come to an agreement with assembly members.

“These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only,” Wiener said in a statement. “In negotiations leading up to the committee hearing, I expressed a willingness to negotiate the provisions of the bills – and I remain willing to negotiate – but I can’t support a weak version of net neutrality that eliminates critical provisions.”

Senate Bill 822 passed in late May and enshrines the FCC’s net neutrality regulation from 2015. Earlier this year, the commission voted to remove the regulations, but several states have already begun taking action to stem the move. The California Senate bill bars internet service providers from throttling sponsored content or using deals to incentivize broadband companies from discriminating against other content on their network. While Washington and Oregon state legislatures have already passed laws restoring net neutrality, California’s measure would have gone further by banning zero-rating, which permits internet access to certain websites under specific conditions.

Rep. Miguel santiago
According to Wiener, Democratic Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, chair of the communications and conveyance committee, amended sections that now provide internet service providers with loopholes for charging access fees to content providers. Although Santiago’s committee approved the amended legislation 8-0, he’s pledged to work with Wiener to hammer out a compromise to get the bill to the governor’s desk.

Election Preview: Michigan Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Date: May 15, 2018

General Election: November 6th, 2018

After two terms as Michigan’s chief executive, Republican Rick Snyder will leave office with some of the lowest approval ratings in the United States. His handling of the Flint water crisis and financial mismanagement have plagued his administration. His performance has opened the door for Democrats, while some potential Republicans look to distance themselves from his tenure. The gubernatorial race in Michigan could become one of the tightest races in the 2018 midterms. Republicans have controlled state executive offices and the state legislature since 2011, while Democrats have held the state’s two Senate seats since 2001.

In the Democratic primary, Gretchen Whitmer, a former state senate minority leader from 2011 to 2015, remains the favorite. She has received endorsements from the United Auto Workers, the Michigan teamsters, the Michigan Education Association, the American Federation of State Council and Municipal Employees (the Great Lakes State has nearly 400,000 organized labor members). Whitmer’s campaign message is centered on workers’ rights, childcare and fiscal responsibility. Her closest challenger is Abdul El-Sayed, a Rhodes Scholar, medical doctor and former director of the Detroit Health Department. The 33-year-old is running to the left of Whitmer with a campaign focused on investments in the economy, education, and the environment. However, issues over El-Sayed’s state residency could upend his candidacy. Michigan law stipulates that a gubernatorial candidate must remain a qualified voter in the state for four years before an election. As a professor at Columbia University in New York City in 2014, El-Sayed said he maintained legal residence by owning a condominium in Michigan.

Trailing behind El-Sayed is William Cobbs, a retired Xerox executive and navy veteran who wants to improve education and the state’s infrastructure. Also running is Shri Thanedar, a businessman and entrepreneur who owns and manages several companies. He’s already contributed $6 million to his own campaign and wants to help small businesses grow by ending corporate welfare.

In the GOP race, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley have emerged as the two favorites. Snyder has already endorsed Calley, while President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have backed Schuette. Calley has begun touting his work to cut corporate taxes, while Schuette has pledged to create jobs. Snyder’s endorsement will certainly help Calley with fundraising opportunities. However, the attorney general has the support of a Republican president whose economic message resonated with the region’s blue collar workforce. Schuette leads in early polling, but his margin remains slim.

Also running in the GOP primary is State Senator Patrick Colbeck, Dr. Jim Hines, retired General Motors employee Earl Lackie, and Afghanistan Army veteran Evan Space.

According to a January poll among 600 voters by The Detroit News, Whitmer leads Schuette by seven points in a hypothetical matchup. In a matchup with El-Sayed, Schuette lead 37 to 33 percent. Furthermore, 62 percent of voters said they knew Schuette, compared to 42 percent for Calley. In the Democratic side, 35 percent knew Whitmer’s name, compared with 34 percent for El-Sayed.

According to the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections, the general election is considered a toss-up.

Election Recap: 2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Primary

Illinois gubernatorial candidates Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker will square off in the November general election after clinching their party’s respective nominations Tuesday night. Pritzker easily took the Democratic field, defeating his closest competitors by a 20-point margin. As the incumbent, Governor Rauner, narrowly fended off a challenge from his political right by State Representative Jeanne Ives. Rauner took 51.6 percent of the vote, while Ives had 48.4 percent, making it far tighter than pollsters had originally predicted. The Governor performed well in Cook County, while Ives picked up support in the counties outside Chicago and in rural regions.

However, Rauner’s primary performance could spell trouble. Illinois has a strong base of Democratic support, and a low-recognition candidate like Ives demonstrates the Governor’s political vulnerability.

Pritzker, who faced allegation surrounding his offshore banking accounts, as well as private FBI tapes, had outperformed expectations. With the support of powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, and an energized Democratic base, Pritzker sailed to victory with 45 percent of the vote among five other candidates. State Senator Daniel Biss captured around 27 percent, while Chris Kennedy had 24 percent.

Rauner versus Pritzker, a multimillionaire and a billionaire, respectively, has the ability to become the most expensive gubernatorial race in American history. They have already flooded the Land of Lincoln with a combined $150 million in campaign cash, less than seven months before the general election (the record was set in 2010, when Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman after they raised a combined $280 million to run for Governor of California).

For more information on the Illinois gubernatorial race, check out our primary preview.

 

2018 Illinois Gubernatorial Primary Preview

Primary: March 20, 2018

General Elections: November 6, 2018

The 2018 Illinois gubernatorial contest may become the most expensive governor’s race in American history. A multimillionaire incumbent and multibillionaire challenger have already flooded the Land of Lincoln with $180 million in campaign cash ahead of the primary. With eight months left until the general election, the current rate of spending will likely break the record before November (the record was set in 2010, when Democrat Jerry Brown defeated Republican Meg Whitman after they raised a combined $280 million to run for Governor of California).

Meanwhile, Illinois has serious budget issues, with nearly $9 billion in past due bills.

GovRauner
Governor Bruce Rauner

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will seek re-election under dismal circumstances. He’s among the most unpopular governors in America, with a 31-percent approval rating, according to a February Morning Consult poll. Rauner defeated Democrat Governor Pat Quinn in 2014, after riding a business-friendly message focused on streamlining government. Rauner, a former private equity manager worth several hundred million dollars, has delivered on few campaign promises since then. He’s also antagonized the state’s financial woes by vetoing legislation from the Democratic-controlled state house. In 2015, he tried to close a $1.5 billion budget gap by cutting a number of government programs, which angered many Democrats. Currently, the Illinois credit rating remains one level above junk.

Fortunately for Rauner, his missteps might not cost the him office. According to a February poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, Rauner leads State Representative Jeanne Ives, 51-31 percent. With a sample of 259 Republican voters, more than 18 percent remained undecided.

Illinois_Jeanne_ives
State Representative Jeanne Ives

Ives, a three-term assemblywoman from the western Chicago suburbs, has crafted a campaign targeting social conservatives in down state Illinois. She’s criticized Rauner for failing to deliver on spending cuts or holding government agencies accountable. In a controversial television advertisement, a pro-Ives group attacked Rauner on policies ranging from transgender bathrooms to sanctuary cities. The Republican Party has increased its presence in rural Illinois in recent years, which could benefit Ives. However, Rauner has far outspent Ives, raising more than $103 million, with more than half coming from his own fortune. Conversely, Ives has only reached $3.8 million, placing her in an uphill battle.

Illinois_JB Pritzker
J.B. Pritzker

The top Democratic nominee, J.B. Pritzker, is a multi-billionaire scion from a powerful Chicago family.  Pritzker has been a major figure in Democratic fundraising circles, while his older sister, Penny Pritzker, served as President Barack Obama’s Commerce Secretary during his second-term. With a personal wealth of $3.5 billion, Pritzker has used more than $63 million of his own money for the campaign. Yet his finances have become a point of contention: A March news story highlighted his offshore bank accounts, he has not yet released his tax returns, and he was caught on an FBI wiretap in 2008 discussing campaign funding and available statewide offices with former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich. Blagojevich, was sentenced to 14 years in jail on federal corruption charges after he tried to sell President Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat in 2008.

Pritzker also maintains a close relationship with Michael Madigan, Illinois House Speaker and Chairman of the State Democratic Party. Madigan is the longest-serving leader in any federal or state legislative body in U.S. history. He’s among the most powerful politicians in Illinois, known for steamrolling opponents and wielding heavy influence over legislation. His shadow looms large in this primary, even though allegations connecting him to impropriety have emerged.

Illinois_Daniel Biss
State Senator Daniel Bliss

In the SIU poll, which sampled 472 voters, Pritzker has 31 percent support among Democrats, with nearly a quarter undecided. Trailing behind the billionaire is State Senator Daniel Biss of Evanston, a progressive candidate who wants to collect tax money from financial transactions on the Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange. He once ran a Super PAC for Madigan, whose funding apparatus gave Biss more than $220,000 to help him win in 2010. However, his liberal bona fides have come under fire after he cosponsored a bill limiting the growth of retirement annuities for state employee pensions. The Illinois State Supreme Court struck down the legislation on constitutional grounds in 2015. Biss said he regrets the co-sponsorship but he still wants to reduce debts in the state retirement system. With roughly $5 million in campaign funding, he falls well short of Pritzker’s resources.

With 17 percent in the SIU poll, Chris Kennedy has emerged as a dark horse contender. As the son of Robert F. Kennedy, and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Chris has made gun control and mental health a centerpiece of his candidacy. He also wants to reform the state property tax system, calling it “a racket” in public. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois from 2012 to 2015. He was President of Merchandise Mart Properties, a commercial management firm based in Chicago.

Three other candidates have received single digit polling numbers: Bob Diabler, a Madison County school superintendent located west of St. Louis; Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence group Cease Fire Illinois; and Dr. Robert Marshall, a radiologist and Vietnam veteran who wants to divide Illinois into three separate states—Chicago, Chicago suburbs and rest of the state.

The Cook Political Report has categorized the general election as a toss-up, while Inside Elections has it tilting towards Democrats.

 

 

Pennsylvania Special Election Recap

PA_Conor_lamb
Conor Lamb

Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory over Republican Rick Saccone in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, held Tuesday, March 13th. Less than 600 votes separate the two candidates in a race where more than 227,000 votes were cast. Saccone has not yet ceded the race, while absentee ballots continue to trickle in.

Republican Party officials have already said they will request a recount. They’ve also sought to impound all voting machines citing voter irregularities.

Pennsylvania_Rick Saccone
Rick Saccone

This special election—like others before—was billed as a litmus test for the GOP ahead of the 2018 midterms in November. The district, which encompasses part of Pittsburgh’s suburbs and stretches into rural southwestern Pennsylvania, supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in the 2016 election. Registered Democrats have a large presence, but the district was considered safely Republican for more than a decade. Republican congressman Tim Murphy held the seat since 2003, until allegations surfaced of an extramarital affair and texts urging his mistress to have an abortion appeared in the media. Murphy resigned from office in October 2017.

Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and U.S. Attorney, campaigned as a moderate Democrat who supported gun rights and promised to protect social safety nets. Throughout his campaign, Lamb said he wouldn’t support Nancy Pelosi to lead House Democrats, while promising to back the President when it benefited the district. As a state representative, Saccone ran as a staunch supporter of the Trump agenda. The former Air Force officer had become known in the region for his firebrand conservatism.

Lamb outspent Saccone by nearly a five-to-one margin. According to pre-special election FEC filings, Lamb spent $3.1 million while Saccone doled out roughly $615,000.  Outside groups spent more than $13 million, with more than 80 percent supporting Saccone.

A new court-ordered congressional map will eliminate the 18th district in November. As a result, Saccone and Lamb could run again in separate districts during the 2018 midterms.

DMGS will continue to monitor this and provide updates as they develop.