Supreme Court Decision on Collection of Internet Sales Tax

On June 21, the Supreme Court ruled in South Dakota v. Wayfair that state and local governments can require online retailers to collect and remit sales tax, regardless of whether the company has a physical presence in the state.  This 5-4 decision overturns a 1992 ruling that established the “physical presence test,” which holds that a state cannot require an out-of-state retailer with no physical present in a state to collect sales tax on goods that it ships to buyers in that state.  The 1992 decision was decided prior to the explosion of online shopping.  Nationwide, the Government Accounting Office estimates that between $8 billion and $13.4 billion in online sales taxes goes uncollected annually.  FAC will continue to monitor the next steps of the state and federal governments in response to this major decision. 

The South Dakota v. Wayfair decision can be read here

 

PILT Underpayment Litigation

Kane County, Utah successfully challenged Congress’ underfunding of the PILT program for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, resulting in back payments due to all local governments in the PILT program.  All Florida counties that receive PILT payments are members of the class established and are entitled to a portion of the litigation proceeds.  Funds will be divided among the participating local entities on a pro rata basis.  The law firm representing the class sent notices to impacted local governments on Monday, June 6, outlining the process for each county to participate in the case.  They have also created a website,  https://www.smithcurrie.com/piltpaymentsinfo/ , with the necessary documents and background information.  Though the class has been certified, PILT-receiving counties must confirm their interest in participating by completing the Class Action Opt-In Notice Form by September 14, 2018.

 

2019 Budget Bills

In order to complete a 2019 budget, Congress must pass twelve different spending bills by October 1.  The House approach has been to bundle these bills into a handful of “minibus” spending packages.  The first minibus package, H.R. 5895 (115), which passed the House by a 235-179 vote, combines the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch funding bills that has previously been approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  The $147 billion House package includes increased funding for the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  While the bill increases DOE funding overall, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive a significant $2 billion budget cut.  The House bill also expedites repeal of the 2015 Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule, which is currently in the process of being withdrawn and replaced by the EPA. Of note in the VA section is increased funding for mental health services and homeless prevention services for veterans, as well as funding for veteran-focused opioid prevention and treatment programs.

 

After receiving the bill from the House, the Senate took up H.R. 5895 on June 18.  The Senate retained only the bill number, deleting the substance of the bill and replacing it with its respective spending bills that had passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The Senate is in the midst of a lengthy amendment process and has not yet passed its version of the bill.  Unlike the House version, the Senate bill maintains funding for the DOE’s renewable energy office and also does not block the existing WOTUS rule.

 
Water Resources Development Act of 2018

Congress appears to be on track to pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), as the House passed the H.R. 8 (115), the 2018 WRDA bill, by a 408-2 vote on June 6.  Congress generally aims to pass a WRDA bill, which authorizes federal (Army Corps of Engineers) navigation, flood control and protection, ecosystem restoration, and other types of water projects, every two years.   H.R. 8 includes some Florida-specific provisions including hurricane and storm damage risk reduction in St. Lucie and St. Johns Counties, as well expediting construction of the water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee with the goal of reducing water discharges from the lake.  The reservoir project was previously authorized in 2017 state legislation as a priority of outgoing Florida Senate President Joe Negron. 

 

The Senate WRDA bill, S. 2800 (115), was advanced unanimously out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, but is not expected to be taken up on the Senate floor until July.  Like H.R. 8, S. 2800 includes provisions expediting construction of the water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.  Once the Senate passes S. 2800, the chambers will convene a conference committee to resolve differences in the two bills.

 

U.S. House voting on opioid legislation while the Senate continues to work

The House of Representatives has begun voting on dozens of bills aimed at enhancing the nation’s response to the opioid crisis after a series of committee hearings and markups in various committees throughout May.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently approved fifty-seven opioid-related bills, and members of the Ways and Means Committee advanced an additional seven. Other committees of jurisdiction, including the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committees, are working on measures relating to specific aspects of the crisis, such as drug interdiction and housing for individuals struggling with addiction.

This week (June 12), the House will consider approximately forty bills using a procedural motion allowing typically non-controversial measures to be fast-tracked for consideration. The remaining bills will likely be rolled into a comprehensive package next week. Additional amendments will likely be added to the larger package.

In the Senate, members on the Senate Finance Committee held a markup on June 12 to review the “Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act.” The legislation seeks to improve Medicare, Medicaid and human services program responses to the opioid crisis. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Judiciary Committees also advanced bills last month but have not moved the bills since. It is unclear whether the Senate will combine the various legislative proposals into a larger package or move bills to the floor individually.

Both the House and Senate will eventually have to resolve differences between their respective legislative packages before a final bill could be sent to the president’s desk.

 

Florida receives federal election security money

On June 7, Florida received a $19.2 million federal grant for election security.  While Congress originally approved these funds in March, Florida did not request its share until May.  The State Legislature must now approve the distribution of funds through a vote of the Legislative Budget Commission.  Funds will ultimately be shared among the county supervisors of elections, who will determine the best use of the funds in combatting elections security threats, including enhancing cybersecurity systems and technology, updated voting systems, as well as poll worker training and voter education.