California Institute for Federal Policy Research
California Capitol Hill Bulletin
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
By a wide margin of 69-27, the Senate on May 6, 2013 passed S. 743, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013. The bill will allow states to require online retailers, without a physical presence in the state, to collect and remit state sales taxes.
Similar legislation has been considered several times in the past, but has not been able to garner the support to move forward. The Senate vote indicates a recognition of the growth of internet sales and the negative impact the inability to collect taxes on those sales has had on the states. In addition, “brick and mortar” stores, which must collect sales taxes, argue that the exemption for most internet sales discriminates against them.
During Senate consideration, a Manager’s amendment was adopted by a vote of 70-24. It delays implementation of the bill until six months after enactment, and it clearly prohibits states from imposing any requirements on internet sales retailers that differ from those imposed on in-state retailers. The amendment also exempts from the tax collection requirement any online retailer that makes less than $1 million in annual internet sales.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has released a study estimating the lost revenues sustained by each state because of internet sales. It estimates that states lost a total of $23.3 billion in revenues in 2012; California, it found, lost $4.15 billion. http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/budget/collecting-ecommerce-taxes-an-interactive-map.aspx
On May 9, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee began what will be several days of markup on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (the proposal negotiated by the so-called “Gang of Eight”: Sens. Charles Schumer (NY), Lindsey Graham (SC), Richard Durbin (IL), Jeff Flake (AZ), Robert Menendez (NJ), John McCain (AZ), Michael Bennet (CO), and Marco Rubio (FL).
About 300 amendments have been proposed to the bill, although the Committee hopes to whittle down that number significantly as it wades through the bill.
The first markup session concentrated on Title I of the bill regarding Border Security. The Committee worked through 32 amendments on Thursday, beginning with an amendment in the nature of a substitute by the bill’s sponsors. Twenty-one of the amendments were adopted. The amendment makes technical changes and clarifies several provisions, including specific visas that will have surcharges and that surcharges do not sunset; that immigrant aliens with STEM degrees are exempt from the green card caps set in the bill, and that biological sciences are included in STEM fields included in the bill. The amendment was accepted by a vote of 14-4.
Several amendments were accepted by the bill’s sponsors and agreed to by voice vote; the majority of the amendments subject to a roll call vote were defeated, with the Committee’s Republican sponsors, Sens. Graham and Flake, aligning with the Democrats in opposition to them.
Among the amendments considered were:
– Feinstein 1 – Reauthorizes the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) and provides that the reimbursements to counties include pre-conviction costs, as well as costs associated with people with unknown immigration status. Adopted 10-8.
– Feinstein 10 – Establishes a grant program to improve the transportation infrastructure at existing and new international border crossings to facilitate safe and efficient cross border movements of persons and vehicles. Adopted by voice vote.
– Sessions: To expand the functions of the DHS Immigration Ombudsman to include providing assistance to individuals and families who have been the victims of crimes committed by aliens or violence near the United States border. Adopted by voice vote.
– Sessions 9 – To require the completion of the 700 miles of reinforced, double-layered fencing described in the bill as a trigger before adjusting Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status to legal permanent residence. Defeated by a vote of 6-12.
– Cornyn 6 – To amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to include human trafficking as a part 1 violent crime for purposes of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Adopted by voice vote.
– Grassley 4 – To prohibit the granting of registered provisional immigrant status until the Secretary has maintained effective control of the borders for 6 months and to apply border security strategies to all border sectors. Defeated 6-12.
– Cruz 1 – To replace title I of the bill with specific border security requirements that shall be met before the Secretary of Homeland Security may process applications for registered immigrant status or blue card status and to avoid Department of Homeland Security budget reductions. The substitute would triple the number of border patrol agents from about 21,000 to over 60,000; quadruple the number of cameras, sensors, drones and other technology on the border; require completion of US-VISIT system with biometric measures, and require operational control over 100 percent of the southern border. Defeated 5-13.
– Feinstein 2 – To provide additional permanent U.S. district court judgeships in southwest border States, including 3 new permanent judgeships in California, along with others in Texas and Arizona. Adopted by voice vote.
The Committee has scheduled Tuesday, May 14th and Thursday, May 16th to continue the markup, and further dates are expected. Chairman Patrick Leahy has said he hopes to move the bill out of Committee by the end of May. Other Senate Committee’s with shared jurisdiction over the bill have also begun to hold hearings (see related articles below).
A summary of key provisions in the bill can be found at: http://www.calinst.org/bul2/b2011.shtml#TOC1_1 . Further information on the bill, and the amendments considered by, and still pending before, the Senate Judiciary Committee, go to: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/
The Senate began consideration of S. 601, the Waters Resources Development Act of 2013 (WRDA), on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 and continued through the rest of the week. In brief, WRDA would authorize Army Corps of Engineers projects, including harbor dredging and protecting waterways from storm damage. It also would create a national levee safety program and a financing pilot program to provide loans and loan guarantees for flood control, water supply and wastewater projects. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee panel, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, approved the measure 18-0 on March 20, 2013. A separate bill, S.407, the Reinvesting in Vital Economic Rivers and Waterways (RIVER) Act of 2013, also aims to revitalize the nation’s waterways. Some provisions of S.407 may be incorporated into the final version of the WRDA. The Senate is still considering amendments to the WRDA as of Thursday, May 09, 2013.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the measure would cost about $5.9 billion through 2018. Spending would continue from amounts authorized to be appropriated under the bill after 2018, and CBO estimates that such spending would total $6.6 billion over the 2019-2023 period. The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that enacting the bill would reduce revenues by $135 million over the next 10 years; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending.
Specifically, the WRDA bill, as approved by the Committee, includes the following:
– Title I – Water Resource Projects. The CBO estimates that implementing title I would cost $3.4 billion over the 2014-2018 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Title I would authorize the Corps to construct water projects that are in the federal interest if it has completed a project report and has recommended to the Congress, prior to enactment of this legislation, that the project should receive funding for construction. One of the largest projects is the American River Watershed Common Features Project in Natomas Basin, California.
– Title II – Water Resources Policy Reforms. Title II would authorize the Corps to implement a pilot program, in coordination with state and local governments, other federal agencies, and interested parties, to stabilize riverbanks and reduce erosion on inland and intracoastal waterways in the United States.