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Senate Conservatives Fund Urges Alexander to Fight ACA Funding

Press release from the Senate Conservatives Fund; August 21, 2013:

Alexandria, VA — Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) announced a new 60-second radio ad Wednesday calling on U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to oppose all funding for Obamacare. Senator Alexander voted in favor of the FY2013 continuing resolution earlier this year, which included funding for Obamacare, and he has refused to oppose funding for the law’s implementation next year.

SCF’s radio ad will run on stations across Tennessee for two weeks beginning Thursday, August 22. The value of the media buy is $45,900.

 

 

“Republicans in Congress can stop Obamacare by refusing to fund it, but Senator Lamar Alexander refuses to join the fight.

“Lamar Alexander voted to give President Obama money to implement Obamacare earlier this year, and he’ll do it again if you don’t make your voice heard.

“Obamacare is unaffordable, unworkable and it’s unfair.

“It will hurt Tennessee families.

“Many could lose their doctors.

“Others may be forced to pay higher premiums.

“Obamacare is a job killer, yet Lamar Alexander refuses to do what it takes to stop funding for this liberal train wreck.

“Please visit Don’t Fund Obamacare dot com and sign the online petition urging Lamar Alexander to oppose all funding for Obamacare.

“Again, that’s Don’t Fund Obamacare dot com.

“This could be our last chance to stop Obamacare.

“It’s time for Lamar Alexander to start listening to us, not his friends in Washington.

“Send Lamar Alexander a message.

“Don’t Fund Obamacare dot com.

“Paid for by Senate Conservatives Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

“SenateConservatives.com.”

SCF is also running radio ads in North Carolina and South Carolina urging U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to oppose all funding for Obamacare.

Senate Conservatives Fund advocates for conservative policies and helps raise money for conservative U.S. Senate candidates.

Labor Complaint Against Boeing Opposed by Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam is among 16 Republican governors to sign a letter to the National Labor Relations Board asking it to dismiss its complaint against aircraft maker Boeing, which plans to operate a plant in South Carolina.

Like Tennessee, South Carolina is a right-to-work state. The NLRB claims Boeing chose to establish an assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., as retaliation for past labor problems the company has experienced in the state of Washington.

The NLRB formally issued a complaint against Boeing in April.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has written to Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel of the NLRB, taking issue with the agency’s action. The letter was dated June 16, and Haslam is among the signers.

The letter says that although South Carolina is a right-to-work state and Washington isn’t, the aircraft maker continues to invest and create jobs in both states regardless of their different policies on labor. The letter begins by saying the best announcement a governor can make during the recovery from recession is one about new jobs.

“When a company chooses to come to a state, it does so because the state has a low cost of doing business, a trained workforce and a favorable regulatory climate,” the letter said. “If the company chooses to locate in a right-to-work state, that is an added bonus.”

Haslam has repeatedly listed the fact that Tennessee is a right-to-work state as being among the state’s top selling points in attracting new jobs. Haslam has said his top priority is to make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for jobs.

The letter initiated by Haley says the NLRB has “overstepped its mandate” to protect workers and has instead chosen to protect only “the interests of organized labor.”

“This undermines the principles of free market capitalism upon which this nation is built,” the letter said. “It is clear that if the NLRB can charge Boeing and punish South Carolina, then it can do so to other companies and other states.”

The letter further states, “When we, as governors, are fighting to improve the economic interests of our states, the federal government should not stand in our way. While governors are trying to break the ties that bind free enterprises from doing business, the federal government should not tell Boeing where it can build airplanes.”

A hearing on the charge opened in Seattle on June 14 before an administrative judge.

On April 28, eight state attorneys general wrote to Solomon, calling on him to withdraw the complaint. Earlier this month, 16 attorneys general filed an amicus brief opposing the NLRB’s action. Tennessee’s attorney general, Bob Cooper, has not been among those signing onto the opposition.

Boeing selected Charleston in 2009 for an assembly line for the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

Tennessee recently found itself in a controversial jobs issue similar to one in South Carolina. Tennessee has struck a deal with Amazon.com to build two distribution centers, with the agreement that Amazon will not have to collect sales taxes in Tennessee on its transactions. The decision was made by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, and Haslam has agreed to abide by the agreement. South Carolina lawmakers balked at a similar arrangement with Amazon on collecting taxes, before reversing their decision after Amazon threatened to pull out of the state.

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Bredesen Busy Traveling, Lecturing, Promoting Health Policy Book

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen remains zip-lippped about what’s in the state’s deal with Amazon.com, although he has plenty to say about what he’s been doing since leaving office, which is traveling the country making speeches, mostly about health care.

“I’m not retired. I’m not vegetating,” Bredesen said. “I’m very active and trying to figure out how I can best use the next few years.”

Bredesen was at a campaign event Saturday in support of Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is running for re-election.

Nashville is still home base for Bredesen, but since leaving office in January he has traveled to various locations, from Chicago to Florida to the West Coast, to speak. He has primarily talked about health care, including one joint appearance with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but he has also spoken on the state’s experience recruiting international businesses like Volkswagen and Wacker Chemie.

One domestic business recruitment with Bredesen’s brand on it, however, remains a point of controversy in the state. Amazon is building two large distribution centers in and near Chattanooga. The Internet sales giant is making a $139 billion investment, offering 1,400 jobs and comes in with the agreement that it will operate without collecting sales taxes as a retail outlet would.

A couple of key lawmakers have cried foul, presenting legislation to force Amazon to collect the tax, but that effort has met resistance and even a threat from Amazon that it might pull out if forced to collect. Lawmakers have even asked the state’s attorney general to weigh in on their effort. The bill has been deferred to 2012.

Among lawmakers’ questions have been to what degree the agreement with Amazon has even been in writing.

“I’m just not commenting on stuff that’s going on like that right now,” Bredesen said. “We had an understanding with Amazon, and it was really Matt Kisber (former commissioner of Economic and Community Development) who did all the detail work on the thing.

“I think it was the right decision. I think the current governor thinks it was the right decision to get them here. I think they will be an important piece of the economy.”

The Bredesen administration made the deal after Bill Haslam was elected governor in November but before Bredesen left office. The most widely reported explanation for the arrangement has been that Bredesen told Haslam the state could either grant Amazon the ability to avoid collecting the tax or see the company go a few miles down the road and build its facility in Georgia. The same issue has played out in other states. Bredesen wanted the jobs in Tennessee, and Haslam has publicly said the state will honor the commitment.

Bredesen said there were compelling reasons for striking such a deal.

“Part of what appealed to me about Amazon was I worked real hard to get some of the knowledge-based jobs that require a college education, where you’ve got good salaries and so on,” Bredesen said. “A lot of the Amazon jobs are a little different from that. They’re working in a warehouse. We need those jobs, too.

“There are a lot of people in this state who just need a job with a good company with good benefits, and they’re not going to go back to college to do it.”

When asked last week where the attorney general is on the Amazon issue, Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for Attorney General Robert Cooper, said, “We’re working on it,” but she offered no elaboration on a potential opinion or when it might come.

Bredesen said getting a well-respected company like Amazon to build in Tennessee at a time when jobs are hard to come by seemed like the right deal to make. He was asked about the precedent, however, of setting up that arrangement, since Amazon is already making overtures of building even more distribution centers in Nashville or Knoxville.

“I think the governor has got to figure that out,” Bredesen said. “But in the scheme of things, if an Amazon were to be located here, ultimately these tax issues are going to be solved by the Congress.”

Haslam has also said no single state should have to work out the issue of collecting sales taxes on online sales. The issue is complex. Amazon is based in Seattle. Company officials point to the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution and say the existence of a “fulfillment center,” as Amazon is building, does not create substantial presence, known as nexus, to qualify as a point of sale.

“The two facilities happened on my watch, I think we made the right decision, I think the governor has backed that up, and how he treats the next two or three is up to Gov. Haslam,” Bredesen said.

As for the former governor’s travels, they’re the kind of speaking engagements one would normally expect after the publication last year of Bredesen’s book, Fresh Medicine — How to Fix Reform and Build a Sustainable Health Care System.

“I had a lot of requests to do that after the book came out in the fall, and you really can’t do it as a sitting governor,” Bredesen said. “You can’t take off and go to California for a few days and give speeches.”

He said the topic in such settings is beginning to move more toward the future of the health care system, rather than just reaction to the health care reform law. Bredesen’s book is due for a paperback version this fall.

“I’m up to my eyebrows in health care,” Bredesen said.

The event with Jeb Bush was a health care discussion held by the venture capital group Health Evolution Partners, where they had a “D” and “R” program, with Bredesen the “D” as a Democrat and Bush the “R” as a Republican.

Bredesen said he has put the notion of trying to serve at the federal level on health care policy on the shelf, adding that when it came up it was probably given more attention than it deserved. He also said Saturday he has no intention of running for the Senate. Bredesen was at one time considered a candidate to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services, which ultimately went to Kathleen Sebelius, a former governor of Kansas.

So for now, Bredesen is doing the speech-making tour and deciding what’s next. Bredesen was mayor of Nashville for two terms from 1991-99 and governor for two terms from 2003-2011.

“When I left the mayor’s office, after I left on Saturday, on Monday morning I was setting up my desk in a new office,” he said. “I’ve said this time, don’t do that, when you’ve got one more good career in you. Get a little space. Get some of these speeches done you wanted to do. Do a little writing, and let things gel a little bit.”

Bredesen said former first lady Andrea Conte now “enjoys being out of the line of fire,” and she’s doing a lot of the same things as her husband is.

“She’s been out and active and around doing different things, giving talks to different groups. She is spending serious time in the garden, and we’re having a great time right now,” said former governor Bredesen.

Mike Morrow is a correspondent for TNReport.com, a not-for-profit news organization supported by donors like you.

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.