The Minority Report: Streamlined Sales Tax

House Minority Whip Chris Shank and Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio discuss the proposed streamlined sales tax and why it would be a wrong turn for Maryland to adopt it.

To contact your legislators on the House Ways and Means Committee, you can get their information here.

To contact your legislators on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, you can get their information here.

Elected Dictatorship?

Why bother giving consideration to the merits of a proposal when you have the power, and the votes, to ignore it entirely? 

Yesterday, on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates, an amendment was offered to a bill up for consideration by the House. The merits of that amendment were neither debated nor voted on.

The bill in question is HB 45, which would require parental consent before a minor can obtain a tattoo, brand, or body piercing. The sponsor of the bill, Delegate Sue Kullen, stated on the floor of the House that part of the impetus for the bill was a case in Calvert County wherein a 14 year old girl was tattooed without her parent’s consent, and developed a MRSA infection. During testimony on the bill, the committee heard that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the provision of tattoo or piercing services is analogous  to an invasive medical procedure which requires parental consent – a minor is not capable of appreciating the consequences of such a decision and a parent’s consent should be required.

Subjecting oneself to this sort of procedure requires proper follow up care – in each case, infection and complications can result. It is also a decision which cannot be later undone without residual effects. Clearly, minor children ought to consult with and obtain permission from their parents before engaging in such a procedure.

The amendment in question, offered by Delegate Gail Bates, would have required parental consent for any invasive surgical procedure – logically, if a minor is not capable of giving informed consent to a procedure which pierces the skin with a needle, they are not capable of giving informed consent to a more invasive surgical procedure, requiring significantly more follow up care, with significantly higher risks.

The objections raised to the amendment by the Democrats were purely technical. The chair of the Judiciary committee questioned whether or not the amendment conformed to the rules of the House, insofar as each bill must pertain to a single subject, and no amendment may change the original purpose of a bill. The rules of the House exist to ensure orderly, reasoned debate on issues, followed by considered and deliberate voting.

Ultimately, however, the rules are interpreted and applied by the House as a whole – which translates to an up or down vote on any question of the rules. Despite an Attorney General’s opinion that the amendment was on the same subject, and a reasonable claim that the purpose of the bill was not altered, the amendment was ruled out of order. Once that occurred, the matter was no longer up for debate.

After a complex series of parliamentary maneuvers, the Speaker and the majority manipulated the rules of the House, taking advantage of superior numbers to do so, in order to stifle debate and avoid a vote.

Given the fact that the majority party has sufficent votes to kill any amendment, what is the harm in allowing free and open debate on an issue as important as the health and safety of minors?  One has to wonder what exactly they are afraid of.

Look Out! Maryland Looking To Plug “Revenue Leakage”.

As a general rule, Marylanders should always be on guard when they hear the phrase “tax fairness” or “tax simplification” from the Democrat leadership in Annapolis.  It was similar phrases that ushered in the largest tax increase in Maryland’s history just a few short years ago.  In an atmosphere where there is allegedly little appetite for any tax increases we find HB 337 – Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which has a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, February 18th.  While pitched as a bill about fairness and accountability it is actually little more than a back-door tax increase.  The ultimate goal of this bill is to force online retailers and catalog companies to collect and remit Maryland sales tax even if they have no physical presence in the state. 

Legislators who are proponents of this bill will tell you this is pro-businesses legislation – interesting since these are the same people whose tax policies caused Maryland’s business climate ranking to drop from 24th to 45th in less than a year.  If you want to see what this type of legislation does to business you need only look a bit north to New York who passed similar legislation this summer.  Overstock.com pulled all of it’s business out of the state almost immediately and Amazon.com is fighting the law in court – that is how pro-business this type of legislation is.

The truth about this bill is that tax-and-spend liberals are salivating at an opportunity to capture what they consider “revenue leakage”.  Estimates of exactly how much revenue is leaking vary widely.  Supporters of this type of legislation say that nationally the range is $19-$27 billion while others put the number much lower $3.2-$4.5 billion.  In Maryland, the number sits at just over $500 million – half a billion dollars in additional taxes foisted on the citizens of Maryland if this bill moves forward.  Once this frenzy of catching “revenue leakage” begins, where does it end?  Will we be putting agents from the Comptroller’s office at the Maryland/Delaware border to make sure everyone pays their “fair share”?