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Cohen Named Ranking Member of House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Justice

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 21, 2015:

Congressman hopes to use senior post to vigorously protect civil liberties, prevent police overreach, and fight for voting rights; Congressman also retains seat on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee

[WASHINGTON, DC] – After serving on the House Judiciary Committee since joining Congress in 2007, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) was selected today to serve as Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee for the 114th Congress. The significant post, which Congressman Cohen also held for much of the 113th Congress, gives the Congressman broad jurisdiction over constitutional amendments, constitutional rights, Federal civil rights, ethics in government, medical malpractice and product liability, legal reform generally, and relevant oversight over those issues.

“Throughout both my legal and political careers, my central focus has been the fight to protect our civil rights,” said Congressman Cohen. “It is a compliment to be selected by my colleagues as the lead Democrat on the committee charged with safeguarding the Constitution and protecting our civil liberties. Whether fighting to secure the voting rights that we hold sacred, prevent police overreach and abuse, safeguarding a woman’s right to choose, or bringing justice to those impacted by racially-biased policies like mandatory minimum sentences, I remain committed to doing everything in my power to protect the Constitution and the civil rights of all Americans. I look forward to using this appointment, which I accept with deep humility and great responsibility, to continue the fight for the issues the people of Memphis sent me here for.”

Congressman Cohen, who was recently awarded with a perfect score for his votes on civil rights issues during the 113th Congress, was also selected to serve on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. That subcommittee has jurisdiction over patent and trademark laws, as well as regulation of information technology, Administration of U.S. Courts, Federal Rules of Evidence, Civil and Appellate Procedure, and judicial ethics.

TN State Library Hosts Prohibition Exhibit

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; May 2, 2013:

It was the constitutional amendment that tried – often unsuccessfully – to put Americans on the path to sobriety and in the process created a booming market for Tennessee’s providers of illegal moonshine whiskey.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which launched the Prohibition era in 1920, was called the country’s “noble experiment.” That experiment ended 13 years later with the ratification of the 21st Amendment – the only amendment to repeal another amendment – which halted Prohibition and brought imbibing back out of the shadows.

Now a new exhibit in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building chronicles the history surrounding the passage of both amendments.

This exhibit, entitled “The Saloon and Anarchy: Prohibition in Tennessee,” surveys the brewing and distilling industries in Tennessee prior to Prohibition, chronicles the rise of the Temperance Movement in the state and the impact it had on the passage of the 18th Amendment, examines the effect that the 18th Amendment had on moonshining in the state, and recounts the passage of the 21st Amendment.

Drawing on the wealth of material in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ rich collections, this exhibit features items such as: 19th and 20th Century temperance literature (such as the 1902 temperance tract: The Saloon and Anarchy, the Two Worst Things in the World, Versus the United States of America), temperance songs from the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection, the 1908 trademark registration by Lem Motlow (Jack Daniel’s nephew and business partner) for the phrase “Old No. 7,” and various pieces of Prohibition-related legislation from the records of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“The Prohibition era was a very interesting time in our state’s history,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “This exhibit gives Tennesseans the opportunity to learn more about that era and the thinking and attitudes that led first to the passage of the 18th Amendment – and then later to its repeal. I encourage those who are in the Nashville area to visit the exhibit at the State Library and Archives. For those who are unable to make the trip to Nashville, please check out the online version of the exhibit on our web site.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The library is located at 403 7th Avenue North in downtown Nashville, just west of the State Capitol building. A limited amount of public parking is available around the library building.

The exhibit will remain available for viewing until the end of September.

The online version of the exhibit is available at http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/prohibition/index.htm.

TNHDC Praise Cooper’s Proposal to Constitutionally Guarantee Voting Rights

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; May 2, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats are applauding a proposal by Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) to enshrine the people’s right to vote in the constitution. On Wednesday, Rep. Cooper announced that he would introduce a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that fully guarantees the people’s right to vote.

“The Republicans have worked hard over the past decade to find new and creative ways to get around the Voting Rights Act,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “The so-called ‘reforms’ they have introduced amount to little more than a poll tax designed to keep the poor from exercising their rights. This proposed amendment would halt the GOP assault on our rights and preserve our democracy for future generations.”

Earlier this year the Republican super-majority pushed through a proposal that would eliminate various forms of identification from being accepted at the ballot box. Additionally, an initial proposal to allow college students to use their state-issued ID was stripped in order to make it harder for young students to exercise their right to vote.

“We have seen an assault on voting rights like we haven’t witnessed since the 1950s,” said Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville). “By guaranteeing the right to vote in the constitution, we can once and for all say that no man or woman should be denied their God-given right to suffrage.”

TFA Accuses ‘Establishment’ GOP of Dismantling TN Constitution

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; March 19, 2013:

Tennessee Constitution under full attack by Establishment Republicans…

Increasingly, the evidence is coming into the “sunshine” that Establishment Republicans, like Haslam, Ramsey and Harwell, are working hard to impair, infringe or destroy our rights as citizens under the Tennessee and united states Constitutions. This attack is not limited to their assault on the 2nd Amendment or the 10th Amendment.

We have seen laws passed with the fanfare of these Establishment Republicans that reduce your ability to get reasonably compensated if you are injured or die in a job related accident – and more are pending. We have seen laws passed that impose serious limits on what a jury or a judge can award as factual damages if you are injured – thereby violating the constitutional separation of powers. We have seen laws passed that provide special protections to the Establishment Republican’s “masters” in insurance and medical fields but which do not apply equally to all citizens (i.e., due process violations). We have seen laws passed merely because of political correctness which violate the fundamental right of freewill.

We have seen issues arise such as Sen. Beavers’ and Rep. Butt’s bill under the 10th and 2nd Amendments to push back on the federal government but those bills were resisted at the apparent mandate of leadership through the “mouth” of leadership loyalists like Sen. Brian Kelsey and Sen. John Stevens or Rep. Vance Dennis. We can not let it be forgotten that legislators like Kelsey, Stevens, Overbey, Dennis and others would rather surrender all rights under the constitutions than to draw a line in the sand as a matter of state sovereignty and tell the federal government – which is our servant – NO MORE.

Last week, we have seen yet another Establishment Republican / RINO leadership attack on our rights. The attack comes in the form of SJR2. SJR2 is a move by Establishment Republicans to deny us as citizens our rights to elect – truly elect – our appellate and Supreme Court judges in Tennessee pursuant to the plain language of the Constitution. This is CRITICAL because if the legislature and the governor have in fact turned against us and our rights under the Bill of Rights then it may be that the courts – as the checks and balances against the other two branches of government – will become the battleground for protecting our rights under the Constitution. For that option to be effective, courts, as the Founders intended, should be accountable to the people through the election process. Establishment Republicans seek to destroy the separation of powers and change the constitution so that the courts – the third co-equal branch – are selected and appointed by the governor and the legislature rather than the people. If so, then to whom do YOU think the courts will be accountable when there are constitutional challenges to the acts of the governor or the legislature?

When SJR2 was on the House floor last Thursday, several Republicans (not in leadership) wanted to speak against the evil plan to destroy yet more rights of the citizens. Here is the report of Rep. Courtney Rogers who was prepared to speak against destroying the rights of the people to select the third branch of government:

On the House Floor:

Last update I wrote about SJR2, the resolution that proposes to make a new method of judicial selection constitutional that still deprives you of your right to vote for your supreme and inferior court justices. I concede that it is better than what is in place now — because it does transfer the power of selection from a committee that is entirely unaccountable to you, directly to both the Governor (power of appointment) and the legislature (power of confirmation). My objection is that it consolidates more power in the hands of government rather than restoring that power to yours. Why do I write about this again? I am doing so because of what transpired on the house floor when SJR2 was introduced for its third and final reading. The significance of the third reading is that this is when a proposed constitutional amendment is discussed and then voted on. It must pass by a two-thirds vote — to be placed on the ballot to be voted on by the people to accept or reject. We spent nearly 30 minutes on the floor debating whether a license plate should be illuminated or not when your headlights are on. When SJR2 was brought up, there were literally two seconds from introduction to the slam of the gavel. There was absolutely no discussion on an issue of this level of importance. I was going to speak from a different view — not the view of the legal community, which is very much heard in the halls downtown, but from the view of an average citizen — which is heard not so much. Rep. Rick Womick had also planned to speak. We both had our hands up — I stood up — even shouted, but the gavel beat me. It was like the Geico commercial where Mutombo (from the Congo that last played for the Houston Rockets), slams a box of cereal out of the hands of the kid trying to throw it in the shopping cart and then waves his finger at him. Whether the house majority agrees or disagrees — whether you agree or disagree with the amendment is not the issue at present. You should insist that thoughtful deliberation on issues such as this be permitted — regardless as to whether or not the ‘votes are there’ or regardless as to how much time could be saved. Intent can neither be confirmed nor denied (i.e. did they not want discussion for fear it wouldn’t pass?) — so I must stick with fact. The fact is, no discussion was permitted. I find it entirely unacceptable — as should you.

Each legislator has an equal vote, an equal right to be heard, to oppose, to support, to amend and to debate on any legislation on the floor. However, with Republican Super Majorities, those who would stand to support and defend the rights of the citizens against the nefarious desires of Establishment Republican leadership are discouraged or disallowed from speaking. They are intimidated by their party leadership. They are taken to the “woodshed.” They are called “fringe.” The interests of their constituents are ignored, suppressed and marginalized. Those citizens and districts which have elected constitutional conservatives are essentially disenfranchised as citizens by leadership.

To preserve and protect the Constitution —

Haslam must be reformed or he must go.

Ramsey must be reformed or he must go.

Harwell must be reformed or she must go.

Finally, we must “de-select” many incumbents who gladly drink the Kool-Aid of the Establishment Republicans and replace those who put “party first” with constitutional stewards who will put the constitutions and the people ahead of the “cocaine” offered to them in the context of partisan position and perceived power by the existing leadership of the Establishment Republican party.

Kelsey Files Resolution Promising Legal Action Against Feds for Violating 2nd Amendment

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; February 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and the Senate Judiciary Committee took action today that will simultaneously work to uphold the United States Constitution and promote the safety of law enforcement officers working to enforce our laws. SB 250, deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General and opposed by the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Governor Bill Haslam, failed to pass in the Judiciary Committee on a 4-4 vote.

Kelsey, an ardent 2nd Amendment supporter, today filed a resolution aimed at upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of Tennessee gun owners. The resolution recognizes the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and promises immediate legal action by the State of Tennessee should that right be infringed upon by the Federal government. “Senate Resolution 17 is the constitutional way to address executive orders and acts of Congress that attempt to violate the 2nd Amendment.” Based on the rule of law, this action takes our disputes to the courts.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” said Kelsey following today’s meeting. “The Constitution doesn’t let you force sheriff’s deputies, against their will, to shoot and kill federal authorities who are enforcing U.S. Supreme Court decisions.”

Senator Kelsey felt that supporting SB 250 would violate his oath to uphold the United States Constitution. Kelsey concluded by stating, “I will not violate my oath. I will stand by my oath, and I will stand by the United States Constitution.”

Tennessee’s Founding Documents on Display for First Time

Tennesseans will get an opportunity for a rare glimpse of the original handwritten copy of Tennessee’s constitution this week.

In fact, all can get a look at all three of the state’s constitutions: The original, penned in 1796, which set the groundwork for the state’s creation. The second, from 1834, that allowed those who weren’t property owners to vote for the first time — but took away the right to vote from free African Americans. And the constitution signed and voted on in 1870 in the aftermath of the Civil War.

That latest revision of the constitution abolished slavery and is the document that we live under today.

“Those are probably the most important documents that we keep,” Assistant Tennessee State Archivist Wayne Moore told TNReport.com. “They’re obviously the founding documents of Tennessee state government.”

On Monday the documents will be taken from a temperature-controlled locked vault, where they have not been available for the public to see, and digitized.

“It’s the first time these have been digitized to be available in a widely available form for the people in Tennessee,” Moore said. “One of the things that makes this kind of special is because those constitutions have always been stored away … and not available for anybody to see.”

After the documents are digitized — carefully, as some of the pages are so brittle they must be handled with cotton gloves and turned with a special spatula — they will be put on display as part of a week-long celebration that includes the opening of the Tennessee Judiciary Museum at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Supreme Court Building.

In addition to the opening, the museum will host the original constitutions on display on the following dates:

  • Thursday, Dec. 6 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 10 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 

“The museum provides a great opportunity for the people of Tennessee to actually see the original founding documents of our state, which established our three branches of government and our fundamental constitutional rights,” Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade said in a statement. “I believe that it will be a treasure for the people of Tennessee for generations to come.”

The display marks the 75th anniversary of the Supreme Court Building and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Tennessee’s founding documents are going on display as a debate is brewing in the state of Texas over similar important historical documents.

Every school child in Texas knows the famous “victory or death” letter — the plea for reinforcements written by Lt. Col. William Barret Travis on Feb. 24, 1836, as he and his outnumbered men hunkered down at the Alamo and faced Santa Anna’s Mexican Army.

But few have ever seen the original — even Texas’ official state historian — because of fears of what might happen to the document.

Moore said that kind of risk is worth it to show Tennessee’s history.

“It’s kind of a balancing act for us between preservation, which is our first priority, and access, which we also think is important,” Moore said. “These documents don’t mean as much in my view if the public never has an opportunity to see the landmark documents that govern their government. In their state, their government.”

In addition to the original constitutions, visitors to the museum will see a diorama of a judge’s chambers as it would have been when the building opened in 1937, a display of artifacts and documents from the appeal of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” in 1925, and a display of court records from the 1820s involving a land dispute with Andrew Jackson.

The Supreme Court building is at Charlotte Avenue and 7th Street, next to the Tennessee state Capitol.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Tax Break for Solar Firms Unconstitutional: AG

The state Attorney General released on opinion today saying that a controversial tax break for the solar industry appears to be unconstitutional.

The tax break cuts property tax bills for green energy companies. Attorney General Robert Cooper said this violates a provision of the state constitution that says the legislature cannot set different rules for different taxpayers.

The tax break was pushed through the legislature in the last days of former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration.

From the Attorney General’s opinion:

As with pollution control equipment, there is no basis to presume that all machinery and equipment used to produce electricity in a certified green energy production facility is of negligible value.

The Tennessean has been on the forefront of this story since the news of the tax break surfaced around the end of the 2010 session.

From The Tennessean:

The decision will likely rekindle efforts to repeal the property tax break. Bredesen, a Democrat, pushed breaks for green energy as part of his 2010 tax bill, arguing that the state’s nascent green energy sector needed to be bolstered.

But questions about the tax breaks began just weeks after they were passed when Bredesen and two top aides, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber and Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr, formed a solar energy company.

Comptroller Justin Wilson, a Republican, this year urged the GOP-dominated legislature to repeal the property tax break. Wilson said the break runs against a 1986 attorney general opinion that said the Tennessee constitution requires property tax rules to be the same for everyone.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@TNReport.com on Twitter @trentseibert or 615-669-9501.

Effort to Legitimize ‘Tennessee Plan’ Hits Dead End

The future of how top judges in Tennessee are assigned to the bench is in limbo now that a plan asking voters to formally endorse the status quo died on Capitol Hill this year.

Despite vocal support from the state’s three most powerful elected Republicans, lawmakers abandoned a plan to run the current judicial selection process by voters. Instead, the Legislature at this time appears to favor giving itself a confirmation role on judicial appointments, as is done at the federal level.

Lawmakers are looking to end debate once and for all about whether the state is following the intent of the Tennessee Constitution, which calls for judicial elections.

The Legislature considered several plans this year, including one that would require popularly electing judges. The only proposal that gained traction was an amendment to establish a new system giving the Legislature the authority to reject judges the governor wants to appoint — an effort that would ultimately need voter approval. The effort to legitimize the state’s current practice — supported by both chambers’ GOP speakers and the governor — failed in the House.

“I voted for both of them to keep them alive so we can try to get something on the ballot on 2014,” said Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the Government Operations Committee chairman who said he’d prefer popularly electing judges.

“I want to do all I can to put pressure to see that we come up with a Constitutional amendment…(so that) the people have the final say on how we choose our judges,” he said.

Gov. Bill Haslam said he supports the new plan which lets the Legislature approve judicial candidates — although he prefers sticking with the current plan. But the governor unequivocally opposes voters directly electing judges.

Meanwhile, many prominent legislative Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, have said it is clear to them the state Constitution in fact does explicitly require direct and contested judicial elections. And yet they, like Haslam, oppose statewide judicial elections. They instead want to amend the state constitution to erase the seeming disconnect between what the Tennessee Constitution mandates and what the state currently does.

Lawmakers, judges and constitutional scholars have argued for years over whether the yes-no “retention” elections meet the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

The Constitution says, “Judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state,” and adds that “the judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.”

The state’s powerful legal establishment likes things the way they are, and argues that as long as lawyers and judges are fine with the system, elected politicians ought to leave it alone.

“We never believed, we still don’t believe, that the Constitution has to be amended,” said Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association. “They ought to keep that and not be experimenting with other ways of doing it.”

The wheels could come off of the state’s judicial selection machine if lawmakers push too hard for change, said Ramsaur. So far, lawmakers have already shortened the lifespan of the Judicial Nominating Commission which now recommends judges for the bench. The panel is set to disband, by July 1, 2013.

Without the commission, Ramsaur argues, there’s no specific provision for exactly how to seat judges.

Bell says he’ll likely extend the panel one year at time to keep the cogs in the machine moving so long as lawmakers advance the constitutional rewrite. He said, however, that he’s leaving open the option of dissolving the commission should the measure stall.

Haslam, Ramsey and House Speaker Harwell early this year called for lawmakers to constitutionalize the state’s current practice of selecting judges, known as the “Tennessee Plan,” saying the system has a proven track record and the state ought to make sure its guiding document agrees with current practice.

The Tennessee Plan requires the governor appoint Supreme and Appellate court judges from a list of recommendations from the nominating commission. Those judges then face yes-no retention elections to renew their eight-year terms.

Their plan, SJR183, to constitutionally legitimize the current practice passed the Senate 21-9 but never made it to a vote on the House floor.

Instead, lawmakers favored refashioning a portion of the state constitution to resemble the federal practice of picking judges, namely where the President appoints and Senate confirms.

SJR710 lets the governor handpick top judges who then need to be OK’d by the General Assembly. Those judges would then be subject to yes-no retention elections to renew their terms.

The plan passed easily in both chambers, with a 70-27 vote in the House and 22-9 win in the Senate — about two-thirds of both chambers. Haslam says he’s behind the plan, but admits he’s worried giving lawmakers the opportunity to block the governor’s appointments, as is done in Washington to presidential appointments, which can lead to political games.

“In some ways you can say the federal system has worked well. On the other hand, it hadn’t sometimes when you’ve had one party hold up the President’s nomination for purely political reasons or vote against them for purely political reasons,” said Haslam. “In designing how the legislative confirmation process would work, I want to make certain that we have a process that is as free from politics as possible.”

Because the measure seeks to edit the Constitution, lawmakers will need to approve it again with two-thirds majority before the 2014 general election where voters will have the final say. If voters reject the change, Haslam says he wants to continue using the Tennessee Plan without skipping a beat.

No Sales Tax for Amazon in SC

South Carolina lawmakers have blinked in a stare-down with Internet sales giant Amazon.com over sales taxes, a development that could reverberate in Tennessee.

The House and Senate in South Carolina have voted to give Amazon a five-year exemption from collecting sales taxes, a move that comes after the company stopped a project in South Carolina because of the tax dispute.

Amazon has said South Carolina mistakenly thought the company was bluffing about stopping its activity in the state.

Amazon has reportedly made a similar threat to shut down new sites in Tennessee, where it is building distribution centers in Chattanooga and in Charleston in nearby Bradley County. The chairmen of the House and Senate finance committees in the Tennessee General Assembly — Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin — proposed legislation this year aimed at requiring sales tax collections on the Internet sales, but both deferred the legislation until 2012.

Amazon, based in Seattle, has begun its Tennessee hiring process for its distribution centers, including a series of hiring events across the state this week.

Advocates for allowing Amazon to forgo sales tax collections are looking at the company’s presence for its value in creating jobs, which have been scarce in the troubled economy. Reports have put an estimate of 1,400 jobs on the two facilities in East Tennessee, after an investment by Amazon of $139 million.

The Tennessee State Funding Board on April 12 approved $4 million for infrastructure and $599,500 for job training for the Amazon site in Chattanooga. The same day the board approved $2.2 million in infrastructure and $102,500 in job training for Amazon in Charleston.

The original Amazon deals in Tennessee were struck during the administration of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, although lawmakers have had difficulty finding out details of those agreements. Gov. Bill Haslam has said the state should honor its commitment to Amazon.

At issue is whether Amazon should have to collect the state sales tax of 7 percent along with the additional 2.5 percent local option sales tax, which combined make Tennessee’s sales tax among the highest in the nation.

Amazon says it is protected under the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause from having to collect the Tennessee sales tax because its distribution centers do not constitute substantial presence, or “nexus” in the state. The company’s position is that it does not have a retail presence in Tennessee, that its “fulfillment centers” simply distribute the goods and do not conduct sales.

Some Tennessee lawmakers believe the centers do create sufficient nexus to require collection of the taxes, as do a vast number of brick-and-mortar retailers in the state. Lawmakers have requested an opinion on the issue from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper.

A compromise was struck in the South Carolina legislature that provides a five-year exemption but says Amazon must include language in confirmation emails to customers on sales that the customer may owe a state tax on the transaction. At the same time, an Internet link must be provided the customer by Amazon to the South Carolina Department of Revenue. In addition, Amazon would have to inform customers of the yearly total of tax they owe on their Amazon purchases.

Amazon officials have reportedly said they will renew their construction on their South Carolina site when the legislative action becomes law.

In its most recent annual report to stockholders (pdf), Amazon said its fulfillment centers and customer service centers could result in greater tax obligations. The report notes that Supreme Court rulings have protected Amazon from sales tax collections.

“However, a number of states, as well as the U.S. Congress, have been considering or adopted initiatives that could limit or supersede the Supreme Court’s position regarding sales and use taxes on Internet sales,” the company report said.

“If these initiatives are successful, we could be required to collect sales and use taxes in additional states or change our business practices.”

Amazon has voiced its support for federal efforts to create a streamlined sales tax system that would address Internet sales tax issues, an approach Haslam has said is a better answer than having a single state tackle the matter. But questions have been raised about the willingness in Congress to enact such a measure, because it would clearly be viewed politically as a large tax increase on consumers.

Amazon has had a similar spat with Texas, where the company has yanked an expansion operation in a disagreement over collecting taxes. Texas has said it is owed $269 million. According to Site Selection magazine, which covers economic development issues, Amazon collects taxes in several states, including Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Dakota and Washington. It does not collect sales taxes in Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The company has cut off arrangements in Rhode Island, North Carolina, Hawaii and Colorado, the magazine reported.

Amazon has more than 50 fulfillment centers.

Amazon has said it hopes to bring several fulfillment centers to Tennessee, which it says could mean an additional 1,500 jobs in Nashville and Knoxville. Should the state agree to allow Amazon to avoid collection of sales taxes at its two East Tennessee sites, the precedent could factor in on future arrangements under the Haslam administration.

Haslam on Federal Court’s Ruling that ObamaCare is Unconstitutional

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Jan. 31, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Governor Bill Haslam issued the following statement today after U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled the entirety of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional:

“Today’s ruling was a crucial step in our fight against President Obama’s unaffordable healthcare mandate. I declared this law an ‘intolerable expansion of federal power’ when the bill was passed by Congress last March, and Judge Vinson’s ruling is yet another confirmation that the federal government significantly overstepped its authority.

“Our goal should be advocating for an approach that embraces healthy choices and personal responsibility and accountability for a healthy lifestyle. As governor, I am committed to controlling costs and improving Tennessee’s health status. Forcing mandates on states and individuals is entirely the wrong approach.

“We need to encourage our national leaders to use appropriate insights into the health care system to bring about real reform.”