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Arkansas House leader not expecting online tax bill

Medicaid-focused special session likely, Gillam says

By Michael R. Wickline

This article was published April 21, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam

Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said Thursday he doesn't expect Gov. Asa Hutchinson to include in his agenda for next month's special legislative session a proposal to persuade out-of-state retailers to collect taxes on their sales to Arkansans.

Legislative leaders said the tentative plan is for Hutchinson to issue a call for a special session that would begin May 1 and run until May 3. Hutchinson has said he wants lawmakers to consider his proposed changes to the state's Medicaid expansion, called Arkansas Works, for which he plans to seek waivers from the Trump administration.

Bills to collect online sales taxes were considered in this year's regular legislative session but not enacted. The regular session is now in recess and scheduled to adjourn May 1. The special session would start the same day. Governors set the agenda for special sessions when they call lawmakers to the Capitol.

"I have no expectation of that being on the call," Gillam said of the online tax proposal, two days after the Little Rock Board of Directors adopted a resolution calling on the Republican governor to "as quickly as possible" to place such legislation on the agenda. "The Senate didn't like the House bill and the House didn't like the Senate bill and I don't think the result will change in a special session."

Asked whether sales taxes and medical marijuana legislation would be on the special session call and whether the dates would be May 1-3, Hutchinson's spokesman, J.R. Davis, said Thursday, "We don't have the answers for these questions yet. The governor is focused on the waivers he laid out earlier this year, and will send the call out once all final decisions have been made."

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Before the Legislature recessed April 4, the House fell eight votes short of approving, in a 43-50 vote, a Senate bill aimed at persuading out-of-state companies without a physical presence in Arkansas to collect taxes on their sales to Arkansans and remit taxes to the state.

Senate Bill 140, by Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, was based on a South Dakota law that has been challenged in the South Dakota Supreme Court.

After the Senate approved SB140 in February, Seattle-based Amazon announced that it would begin collecting taxes on its online sales to Arkansans on March 1. The payments to the state started April 1.

SB140 would apply to any seller whose gross revenue from Arkansas sales exceeds $100,000 or had at least 200 transactions for delivery into Arkansas in the previous or current calendar year.

If these companies don't collect and remit these taxes, SB140 would require them to report each year to the Department of Finance and Administration the name and address of each Arkansas purchaser and the total amount paid, and provide notice to each Arkansas purchaser that the information has been provided to the state.

Files said there had been discussions with the governor's office about putting SB140 on the call for the special session.

"But at this point, I am continuing to pursue support to make sure if it is on the call, it has the votes to pass the House," he said. "I have gotten positive feedback and plan to visit with the governor by the end of the week about the options. I have also visited with city and county officials about it and they continue to reiterate how critical they believe it is to their local entities."

But House Democratic leader Michael John Gray of Augusta, who voted for SB140, said he doesn't expect the bill to be on the call for the special session.

"I think the governor has a narrow focus on health care for the special session," he said.

The Senate didn't vote on House Bill 1388 by Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville, which would require out-of-state retailers that don't have a physical presence in Arkansas and don't collect sales and use taxes to notify Arkansas customers that tax is due on their purchases. The bill is based on a Colorado law that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld.

As far as possible medical marijuana legislation being considered in the special session, Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, said he expects the Legislature to consider a bill in the special session containing the changes in the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment that lawmakers approved during this year's regular session.

The voter-approved measure appears in the state constitution, but it is not part of Arkansas code, he said.

The planned bill would add a new section to state legal code encapsulating all the state's marijuana laws -- including the amendment, legislative changes to the amendment and related marijuana laws -- House said.

"What the president of the Senate and the speaker want to do is pass one bill incorporating all of the changes and putting those changes into a statute that can be referenced," House said, referring to Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, and Gillam. "It's not going to be any substantive change. It is merely putting it into a special code section to be created."

Information for this article was contributed by Brian Fanney of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 04/21/2017

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 total comments

RBear says... April 21, 2017 at 6:19 a.m.

Much as I would like to see the online sales tax bill reconsidered in the special session, I prefer specials to be very narrowly focused. Medicaid expansion is something that needs to be taken up and Gov. Hutchinson has signaled his intentions on this. Anything else, including the trove of social conservative bills Rapert, Ballinger, and crew have in their pockets, should be kept in their pockets until the next biennium.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... April 21, 2017 at 7:23 a.m.

TEA.

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