The Council of State Governments - WEST


April 30, 2013

Annual Meeting
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July 30 - August 2, 2013

Las Vegas, Nevada

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Food Safety Modernization Act: Impacts for Farmers, Producers and States


May 2, 2 p.m. EDT
Results First: Moving States Forward
May 28, 3 p.m. EDT
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1107 Ninth St. 
Suite 730
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916.553.4423
Fax: 916.446-5760
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Marketplace Fairness Act Update

By Hans Poschman, Policy Analyst


On Friday, the U.S. Senate invoked cloture on the Marketplace Fairness Act and set May 6th as the day that the Senate will take final action. The Act would allow states to require all out-of-state sellers not qualifying for a small-seller exception to collect sales and use taxes. Essentially, the act requires larger mail order and online retailers to collect sales taxes on all purchases. The Council of State Governments passed a resolution in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act in 2012.

The U.S. Constitution grants states the right to levy taxes such as sales taxes, however online and mail order companies have not been collecting these taxes for many transactions. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota that business under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution must have a "substantial nexus" in a state for that state to require them to collect sales taxes. As a result, mail order and online retailers have used this case as a reason to not collect taxes. However, some states started to push back to redefine what a "substantial nexus" is by declaring that affiliates (people who send traffic to online retailers and get paid a percentage of sales that they directed to the site) constitute an in-state presence and therefore would require the retailers to collect sales tax. Online retailers have fought many of these laws in courts throughout the country. The Marketplace Fairness Act would explicitly allow states to require out of state retailers to collect the taxes as long as the state meets certain requirements.


While online sales make up only a small percentage of total sales, they are growing as a percentage of overall retail sales. According to the U.S. Census, in 2012 retail e-commerce sales totaled $225.5 billion and accounted for 5.2% of all retail sales, up from 4.7% the previous year. States with a sales or use tax residents are required to pay a use tax on any out of state purchases which they did not pay sales taxes. However, compliance rates are low and many states believe that they are missing out on a large chunk of revenue that they are due. In 2011, the California Board of Equalization estimated that taxpayers only paid 1.4% of use taxes due from online purchases. A recent study by the University of Tennessee estimated that states lost $12 billion in sales and use taxes from online sales in 2012 alone.  


Click here to see an estimate of how much tax revenue your state may be losing because of online retailers not collecting sales and use taxes.

This is the second in a series of short issue briefs that CSG-West will be publishing throughout the year. The issue briefs will cover a variety of topics. If you have a suggestion for a topic, feel free to send your ideas to
Webinar: Food Safety Modernization Act

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law Jan. 4, 2011, represents the most significant revision of food safety laws in the United States in more than 70 years. The legislation carried with it new mandates for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including comprehensive, prevention-based approaches across all aspects of the food supply system. Such a prevention-based approach will require food facilities to evaluate hazards in their operations and establish procedures to prevent contamination. The law also requires the FDA to establish safety standards for production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables based on the best available science. In addition to enhanced prevention and surveillance tools, the FDA also will have mandatory recall authority for all food products.


The law recognizes that food safety is at its heart a partnership among federal, state and local--as well as foreign--governments whose success is dependent on the capacity of these partners to fulfill their roles. Because of this, the Food Safety Modernization Act calls on the FDA to support, expand and strengthen the ability of all partners to conduct their responsibilities at the highest level possible.


This complimentary webinar from The Council of State Governments' regional offices and the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders Association will investigate recent developments as the FDA moves to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, including recently released regulations on produce and manufactured food, implications this new food safety regimen has for farmers, ranchers and food producers, and ways the changing food safety landscape will affect the states. 


Register Today

CSG-WEST State Visits Wrap Up
During the state visit to Arizona in March, Chris Whatley, director of CSG's Washington, D.C. office, made a luncheon presentation regarding Sequestration and its impacts to Arizona. Moreover, he provided attending lawmakers an overview of issues being discussed in the U.S. Congress.

Over the past several months CSG-WEST staff conducted state visits to all 13 Western state legislatures in session as well as the Canadian Province of Alberta.  All of the visits included meetings with legislative leaders (majority and minority), CSG-WEST committee chairs/vice chairs, legislative staff and alumni, as well as  lawmakers eligible for the Western Legislative Academy.  


State visits provide a great opportunity for CSG-WEST staff to get a perspective and understand the challenges, nuances and happenings within each of our Western states.  Such valuable insights helps CSG-WEST staff calibrate programming to ensure we are meeting our members' needs.  Moreover, state visits allow us to provide legislators and legislative staff information on CSG-WEST services and activities during the calendar year such as the upcoming Annual Meeting and the Western Legislative Academy. 


Overall, the state visits were positive. CSG-WEST enjoys great support in the region among its leaders, members and private stakeholders. Western lawmakers value CSG-WEST's smaller-scaled forums, regional focus, non-partisan, balanced approach, and the opportunity to exchange information on issues of regional relevance and to network across state lines. 


As a member-driven organization, we value and encourage legislators to provide us their suggestions of how we can enhance our services and value to Western legislatures.  As such, we welcome your ideas and input.  Please free to contact our Executive Director, Edgar Ruiz, at (916) 553-4423 or via email at  

The mission of CSG-WEST is to facilitate regional, nonpartisan cooperation and exchange of information, and to strengthen legislative institutions among our 13 member states. These services are achieved through a variety of programs and services offered to legislators and their staff, including the convening of policy forums, professional development training, international relations opportunities, publications and institutional links with other political entities in the West.

CSG-WEST serves the Western legislatures of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Associate members include the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the Pacific islands of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.