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Quotes of the week

Congress and the American people deserve to read Mueller’s full report, and we must demand complete transparency. It’s the only way forward from here. 
– U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, in a tweet joining fellow Dems in calling on the attorney general to give Congress and members of the public access to the special counsel’s full report from his investigation of President Trump. AG William Barr released a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation over the weekend.

Unfortunately, the investigation took almost two years and was a huge distraction from the significant problems facing our nation. Hopefully, the attorney general can quickly conclude his final report and allow us to turn our full attention to those other challenging issues.
– U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, in a tweet applauding the report’s findings that Trump’s campaign didn’t collude with Russian actors in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election.

What is it that we have a problem with, with children who are in special education?
– U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, as quoted in an NBC News report questioning Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing this week. The federal Education Department has proposed $7 billion in cuts overall, including nixing $18 million in federal funding supporting Special Olympics. DeVos called the Special Olympics as “an awesome organization” and said the agency “had to make some difficult decisions with this budget.”

Small business owners, in particular, have shared fears that they will be unable to bear the new compliance burdens and may have to shutter their businesses. 
– U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, touting his federal online sales tax bill. The bill comes after a June U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to collect online sales taxes from retailers without a physical presence in the state. Sensenbrenner’s bill would ensure states can’t retroactively collect the taxes on transactions before Jan. 1, 2019, among other things.

This week’s news

— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher is pushing a bill he says would prevent Democratic “court packing” efforts.

The effort, a constitutional amendment, would keep the U.S. Supreme Court’s size at nine justices.

The bill comes as Dem presidential candidates have expressed an openness to expanding the size of the high court. That includes U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kristen Gillibrand and Cory Booker, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, per national media reports.

Gallagher said in light of those “partisan calls,” the time is now to pursue a constitutional amendment.

“Americans rely on the Supreme Court to faithfully uphold the Constitution, and with Democrats’ partisan calls to increase the Court’s size gaining momentum, it is now more important than ever to preserve the legitimacy of the highest court in the land,” the Green Bay Republican said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced a companion bill in the Senate. The House bill has three GOP cosponsors.

Constitutional amendments must pass both houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority, before being sent to the states where three-fourths have to ratify them in order for the changes to be adopted.


— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is bringing back her bill aiming to curb stock buybacks and give workers a bigger say in company decision-making.

The Madison Dem’s legislation, called the “Reward Work Act,” would bar corporations from being able to re-buy their own shares. It would also let employees directly elect one-third of their company’s board members.

Baldwin called for rewarding hard work in a statement touting her bill, saying stock buybacks are increasing wealth inequality.

“Corporate profits should be shared with the workers who actually create them,” she said. “It’s just wrong for big corporations to pocket massive, permanent tax breaks and reward the wealth of top executives with more stock buybacks, while closing facilities and laying off workers.”


— Baldwin has also been named as one of the members of a new Dem panel aimed at addressing climate change.

The Madison Dem will be one of 10 members on the newly created Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Among its responsibilities will be holding hearings and issuing findings on the consequences of climate change and the opportunities taking action to combat it would bring, according to Baldwin’s statement.

“Taking bold action to confront climate change is not just an environmental goal; it is an urgent economic necessity for us in Wisconsin,” she said.


— U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson joined all Republicans this week in shooting down the Dem-backed “Green New Deal” on the Senate floor.

The measure failed on a 57-0 vote, with Dems, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, opting to vote “present” on the effort.

Johnson, R-Oshkosh, called it “astonishing” that while many Dems had co-sponsored the initiative, they “unanimously failed to vote for it.”

“If Democrats hypocritically say they support their $93 trillion spending boondoggle but then don’t vote for it, no American should take them or the Green New Deal seriously,” he said in a statement.

Senate Dems, per national media reports, framed the vote as a political sham.

See the roll call vote.


— The majority of Wisconsin House members backed overturning President Trump’s national emergency declaration again this week.

But the effort, which got a 248-181 vote, fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto of legislation blocking his declaration to go around Congress to fund a wall along the southern border.

All of Wisconsin’s Dems and two GOP reps backed the effort the second time it came to the chamber’s floor — the same Wisconsin members who voted to back the measure the first time around.

They were: GOP U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher and Jim Sensenbrenner and Dem U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, Gwen Moore and Ron Kind.

The Republicans were two of 14 in their party who supported the resolution. Meanwhile, GOP U.S. Reps. Sean Duffy, of Wausau, Glenn Grothman, of Glenbeulah, and Bryan Steil, of Janesville, again opted to oppose the bill.  

See the roll call vote.


— Wisconsin House members, led by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, are calling for an extension of Wisconsin’s SeniorCare prescription drug program.

The eight members asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a letter to provide a long-term extension to the program that expires March 31.

“Supporting this drug benefit program is in the best interest of American taxpayers, Wisconsinites, and the thousands of seniors enrolled,” they wrote. “We appreciate your consideration and attention to this request and look forward to working with you to continue to protect our states’ elderly population.”

See the letter.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (CA-14), Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and Congresswoman Ann Kuster (NH-02) introduced the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that states cannot require remote online sellers to collect sales tax retroactively on transactions made before January 1, 2019. It would also relieve small online businesses from sales tax collection obligations on transactions made in another state.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “I’ve heard from online sellers in Wisconsin and across the country who are concerned with the complexity of the post-Wayfair tax regime. Small business owners, in particular, have shared fears that they will be unable to bear the new compliance burdens and may have to shutter their businesses. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to provide clarity and certainty to all online sellers as well as relief to the small businesses that need it the most.”

Rep. Eshoo“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, which is why Congress must do everything it can to ease the cost of complying with new online sales tax laws. This bipartisan bill protects small businesses from the complicated and burdensome patchwork of state and local tax laws resulting from last year’s Wayfair Supreme Court decision.”

Rep. Duncan“As a small business owner and former auctioneer, I understand the threat posed by the complications and uncertainty from the Wayfair Supreme Court case. The results of the case would be detrimental to small businesses around the country, and I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan solution to provide relief.”   


Last June, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair that overturned decades of precedent regarding online and interstate sales tax collection requirements. In Wayfair, the Court struck down the “physical presence” standard established under National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill. and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. Under that precedent, out of state sellers, also known as “remote sellers,” were not required to collect sales tax on transactions made in a state in which they did not have a “physical presence,” such as an office, store, or warehouse.

Since then, some states have begun requiring all remote sellers that continue to do out-of-state business to navigate the more than 10,000 different tax jurisdictions each time they complete a transaction. While some retailers can absorb the costs of the additional regulatory burden, thousands of independent online entrepreneurs are harmed.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last July titled “Examining the Wayfair decision and its Ramifications for Consumers and Small Businesses.”

How the bill works:

The Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act bans retroactive tax collection requirements and creates a small business exemption. Specifically, it would bar states from imposing sales tax collection duties on remote sellers for any sale that occurred prior to January 1, 2019. It would also exempt small business sellers who gross less than $10 million in annual sales from collection duties until states produce a compact, approved by Congress, to simplify collection to the point where no small business exemption is necessary.

Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced similar legislation in the 115th Congress. 

By: Edwin Mora of BREITBART

WASHINGTON, DC — Antisemitic slurs by U.S. lawmakers are making the United States a weaker ally to Israel and damaging America’s credibility in Middle Eastern nations involved in efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to achieve peace between the Jewish republic and Palestine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers.

In recent days, members from both parties, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), have blasted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for antisemitic slurs. However, the secretary did not name the Minnesota Democrat.

Pompeo did condemn antisemitic remarks by U.S. lawmakers as “abhorrent,” during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Although Rep. Omar belongs to the panel, she was not present at the time that Pompeo made the remarks.

Pompeo’s comments came in response to queries from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) who asked:

We’ve seen the rising level of anti-semitism across our country and even in our own government institutions. Several high-profile individuals have spouted off anti-Israel rhetoric that has had to be countered with condemnation resolutions by the House. The administration is currently attempting to craft a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians…do these statements damage our standing with Israel and make us a weaker ally? And Secondly, do these types of anti-semitic acts and rhetoric damage the United States’ credibility in the Middle East nations that will be involved in the final agreement?

The secretary of state responded:

I think the answer to both questions is yes and anti-semitic language is abhorrent regardless of the U.S. diplomatic outcome, but yes it makes it more difficult undoubtedly. …Language used by members of Congress matters. These countries all around the world are listening to you all they’re watching. They’re watching to see if this a whole of United States government process. They’re watching voices even if sometimes those voices are outliers. They don’t always know what to make of it.

Noting more Jews identify as Democrat, the mainstream media have been countering U.S. President Donald Trump’s assertions that antisemitism is growing among Democrat-elected officials and Jews are leaving the party.

President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been working on the administration’s Israel-Palestine peace plan.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) led a delegation-wide letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in support of Wisconsin’s SeniorCare prescription drug assistance program.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “I’m proud to lead our delegation in supporting this vital program that helps tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s senior citizens afford their life-saving medications.”

Below is the text of the letter:

March 25, 2019

The Honorable Alex Azar
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Azar:

As members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation, we wish to express our support for Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program and request your immediate attention to provide a long-term extension of this program, which is set to expire on March 31, 2019.

Wisconsin’s SeniorCare program provides prescription drug assistance to low-income seniors, age 65 and older, whose income does not exceed 240 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 45,000 seniors throughout our state rely on federal matching funds for the SeniorCare program to purchase affordable life-saving medications. To deny approval of a long-term extension would cause potential breaks in prescription drug coverage, confusion, and bureaucratic problems for vulnerable seniors who are otherwise satisfied with their coverage.

Since its implementation in 2002, this successful program has proven to be a responsible steward of taxpayer funds, while providing quality care to our state’s seniors. SeniorCare saves Medicaid money and has consistently achieved budget neutrality. Additionally, SeniorCare allows Medicaid greater flexibility than the Medicare Part D program to negotiate the best price for prescription drugs.

We respectfully ask that you fulfill our request for a long-term extension of the SeniorCare program, so Wisconsin seniors can continue to get prescription drugs at a price they can afford. Supporting this drug benefit program is in the best interest of American taxpayers, Wisconsinites, and the thousands of seniors enrolled. We appreciate your consideration and attention to this request and look forward to working with you to continue to protect our states’ elderly population.


F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.                                         Ron Kind
Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

Gwen Moore                                                                  Sean Duffy
Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

Mark Pocan                                                                    Glenn Grothman
Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress

Mike Gallagher                                                              Bryan Steil
Member of Congress                                                    Member of Congress 

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation:

"Throughout this process, I have repeatedly said that Special Counsel Bob Mueller should be able to finish his investigation unimpeded and that I would withhold judgment until then. After two years, millions of taxpayer dollars, and the full power of our legal system, Mueller has confirmed that the President did not collude with Russia. The special counsel’s investigation was free of political bias, and it will be a mistake for my Democratic colleagues to continue pursuing this disproven narrative for purely partisan purposes. I am eager to read the full report, but today’s top line summary from the Attorney General is a welcomed vindication for the President."

By: Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON – The news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no coordination by President Donald Trump or his aides with Russian election interference was welcomed by GOP members of Congress on Sunday.  

"NO COLLUSION!" House member Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a vocal Trump supporter, exclaimed on Twitter, saying, "Now it's time for Democrats in Congress & the media to apologize, move on, and help us keep making America great!" 

In a prepared statement, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said: 

“We should all be happy that after an extensive investigation, the Special Counsel ‘did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.’ Unfortunately, the investigation took almost two years and was a huge distraction from the significant problems facing our nation. Hopefully, the attorney general can quickly conclude his final report and allow us to turn our full attention to those other challenging issues.”

According to a letter released Sunday by Atty. Gen. William Barr, Mueller "did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election." 

On the separate question of whether  the president committed obstruction of justice with respect to the Russia investigation, Barr wrote that Mueller "did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other –– as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction." 

Barr reported that the "Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'”

In a statement Monday, House Democrat Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said: 

“Just a handful of individuals have read the Special Counsel’s report, meaning nearly everyone who is making conclusions regarding it, has not read it. Given Attorney General Barr’s role as a political appointee — as well as President Trump’s record of essentially firing Attorney General Sessions over fears that he would not protect him, we must demand transparency and read it ourselves to draw our own conclusions. The American people deserve the full truth behind the Special Counsel’s report and any attempts to censor it will be unacceptable." 

Other Wisconsin Democrats echoed that sentiment. Senate Democrat Tammy Baldwin said on Twitter Tuesday: 

"Special Counsel Mueller's independent investigation did not exonerate President Trump. Attorney General Barr needs to release the full Mueller report and underlying documentation. The American people deserve to know why the President has not been cleared of wrongdoing." 

Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore said Tuesday: "The Special Counsel states that 'while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.' The full report and findings should be released to the public and Congress."

Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, former House judiciary chair, issued the following statement Monday: 

“Throughout this process, I have repeatedly said that Special Counsel Bob Mueller should be able to finish his investigation unimpeded and that I would withhold judgment until then. After two years, millions of taxpayer dollars, and the full power of our legal system, Mueller has confirmed that the President did not collude with Russia.

"The special counsel’s investigation was free of political bias, and it will be a mistake for my Democratic colleagues to continue pursuing this disproven narrative for purely partisan purposes. I am eager to read the full report, but today’s top line summary from the Attorney General is a welcomed vindication for the President.” 

By: Rusty Mehlberg of WTMJ

Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin has chimed in as well about the Mueller report:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin ?@SenatorBaldwin

Special Counsel Mueller's independent investigation did not exonerate President Trump.

Attorney General Barr needs to release the full Mueller report and underlying documentation.

The American people deserve to know why the President has not been cleared of wrongdoing.

173 people are talking about this

Original story

Reaction from congressional members regarding the summary of the Mueller report provided to them has been split between Republicans and Democrats.  Wisconsin's congressional delegation is no exception.

"There's nothing in there that surprised me," says Republican congressman Glenn Grothman to WTMJ. "I think it would be bizarre that anybody would believe that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians."

Grothman adds that the time has come for Democrats and the press to shift their focus to more important matters, such as the budget deficit, immigration, and welfare programs.

Republican Congressman Sean Duffy agrees with Grothman, going onto Twitter to say that Democrats and the media need to apologize for thier actions.

Sean Duffy ?@RepSeanDuffy


Now it's time for Democrats in Congress & the media to apologize, move on, and help us keep making America great! 

Justice Department: Mueller did not find that Trump campaign or its associates 'conspired or...

Justice Department: Mueller did not find that Trump campaign or its associates 'conspired or coordinated' with Russia
108 people are talking about this

In a statement to WTMJ, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner says, Throughout this process, I have repeatedly said that Special Counsel Bob Mueller should be able to finish his investigation unimpeded and that I would withhold judgment until then.

"After two years, millions of taxpayer dollars, and the full power of our legal system, Mueller has confirmed that the President did not collude with Russia. The special counsel’s investigation was free of political bias, and it will be a mistake for my Democratic colleagues to continue pursuing this disproven narrative for purely partisan purposes.

"I am eager to read the full report, but today’s top line summary from the Attorney General is a welcomed vindication for the President. 

As first reported by TODAY'S TMJ4's Charles Benson, Senator Ron Johnson says he hopes Attorney General William Barr will complete his final report soon.

Charles Benson ?@CharlesBenson4

Just in: @SenRonJohnson on Mueller Report: “We should all be happy that after an extensive investigation, the Special Counsel ‘did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.’”

See Charles Benson's other Tweets

For Democrats, their reaction has been on the summary itself, saying that it is enough to be made public.

Congressman Mark Pocas posting on Twitter that he wants the full report made public as soon as possible.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
Rep. Mark Pocan ?@repmarkpocan

BREAKING: Attorney General Barr has just released his summary of the #MuellerReport to Congress.

RT to demand that the AG release the ENTIRE report, not just his four page summary.

The American people deserve transparency.

150 people are talking about this

There was a similar reaction from Senator Tammy Baldwin prior to the summary's release.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin ?@SenatorBaldwin

Special Counsel Mueller and law enforcement officials have provided a full report to the Trump Dept. of Justice and it should be released publicly so the truth can be revealed to the American people.

532 people are talking about this

By: Logan Hullinger of the York Dispatch

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey stopped by York County to advertise his recent legislation that would allow the U.S. to cut some ties with foreign countries that illicitly produce fentanyl if they don't follow its anti-narcotics efforts.

The Republican stood among county officials and police officers Thursday, March 21, in the York County Commission meeting room voicing his hopes to advance the bill after previous versions failed to make it beyond the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The introduction of this synthetic opioid has taken this crisis to a whole new level of lethality," Toomey said. "It has made it even more devastating than it was before... Cooperation with other governments is extremely important if we're going to be successful in shutting down the supply."

The bill: If passed, the bill would have the government gather information about illicit fentanyl production in foreign countries and cut off any nation that unlawfully produces the drug from taxpayer-subsidized foreign aid and Export-Import Bank loans unless:

  • The country has emergency scheduling procedures for new illicit drugs.
  • The county can prosecute criminals for the manufacturing or distribution of controlled substance analogues. 
  • The country requires the registration of tableting machines and encapsulating machines.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, is co-sponsoring the bill. A partner bill is also in the House, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, and co-sponsored by six others including Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster.

These standards already apply under the Foreign Assistance Act to countries the U.S. has identified as major producers of drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana. The bill would add fentanyl to the list.

Just last year, U.S. Customs and Border Control seized 110 pounds of fentanyl — worth 1.7 billion — from China at the Port of Philadelphia. CBP data shows China is the main source of the drug.

Local fentanyl: And the presence of the drug is well-known in York County, said District Attorney Dave Sunday. There were 144 opioid-related deaths in the county in 2018, 129 of which involved fentanyl. Just four years earlier, there were no deaths involving the drug.

"Fentanyl has absolutely decimated our resources locally," Sunday said. "It's decimated them in some ways that aren't quantifiable. It has put us in the position where every single day we ask, 'What can we do to fight this in every way possible?'"

Sunday commended Toomey's efforts, which the senator said he expects will face little resistance in Congress. But he also drew attention to state Sen. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg.

Earlier this year, Regan introduced bipartisan legislation imposing stiff mandatory minimums on those indicted on fentanyl-related charges, a move that he says will target dealers and help address the epidemic. The bill sits in the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

If passed, someone caught with the drug could face a mandatory minimum of up to 96 months in prison and a $25,000 fine, depending on the quantity.

"This has reached the point where it's claiming far too many lives," Regan said. "We can't mess around with this anymore."

By: Mike Brest of The Daily Caller

New information was released on Thursday surrounding Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

Cruz’s office confirmed to The Daily Caller last week that the senator plans to introduce the resolution that would specifically denounce anti-Semitism. Congressional sources also confirmed to the Caller on Thursday that the text of the resolution was sent late last week to all of the Senate offices.

The resolution, which is in response to the anti-hate resolution that passed the House earlier this month, does not mention any names or specific incidents of anti-Semitism; rather, it is meant, more broadly, to reaffirm the Senate’s stance against anti-Semitism of all kinds.

The anti-hate resolution the House passed earlier this month with a 407-23 vote came in response to comments made by Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar that questioned if some members of Congress have a “dual loyalty” to the United States and Israel. She later doubled down on those comments despite backlash.

The resolution eventually ended up condemning the following: “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.”

Many Republicans, such as Florida Rep. Greg Steube, voted against the resolution because he felt the inclusion of all types of bigotry shouldn’t have been the resolution’s objective. 

He, along with Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Louie Gohmert of Texas, introduced a follow-up resolution in the House last week specifically to condemn anti-Semitism.

An overlooked ruling could force small businesses to pay sales tax in dozens, even hundreds, of jurisdictions where they have no representation

By: Eric Boehm of Reason

When he started selling race car equipment 40 years ago, Chris Heitman never imagined that he'd have to learn which states charge sales tax for fireproof underwear.

"Is it clothing? Is it specialized equipment? That's the question," he says. And since the answer isn't always clear, he errs on the side of charging the tax—better to overcharge a customer than to face the wrath of the taxman, after all.

Heitman and his wife, Carla, have been running Pegasus Auto Racing Supplies since they founded the company back in 1980, out of a two-story building in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Until last year, that meant Heitman was responsible for collecting and paying sales taxes to exactly one place: the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. But thanks to an under-the-radar ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in June, he's now receiving letters, phone calls, and emails from revenue officials across the country, each wanting a piece of his business.

The source of Heitman's frustrations is Wayfair v. South Dakota,which allowed states to collect sales taxes from online businesses located beyond their borders. Many states view the Wayfair ruling as a potential tax revenue windfall in which the taxes are paid by non-residents who can't vote against them. That's why businesses like Heitman's are now facing the chilling prospect of owing taxes in dozens, and possibly hundreds, of different jurisdictions—while being hounded by out-of-state tax collectors.

Since the Supreme Court issued its ruling in June, Heitman has been scrambling to become compliant with tax commissions and revenue departments from coast to coast. He's spent thousands of dollars on new software to help navigate the complexities of state sales tax law, but that's only been so much help. "It almost seems like I have another full time job dumped on me with this sales tax thing," he says. "It's burning me out."

As the 2019 tax season begins, states are ramping up efforts to squeeze extra revenue out of remote retailers like Heitman, putting an expensive new burden on businesses that have found broad customer bases online. The burden is particularly large in the five U.S. states that charge no sales tax, where entrepreneurs could now be charged with paying a tax they have never had to pay before, to a government over which they have no voice. And while Congress could clean up the Supreme Court's mess, it's far from certain that it will.

The Supreme Court Overturns a Sales Tax Precedent

The question of whether states can charge taxes on out-of-state goods predates the U.S. Constitution. In fact, it's one of the primary reasons it came into being in 1787.

The Articles of Confederation allowed each state to set its own rules for cross-border trade, creating barriers to interstate commerce. The Constitution thus gave the federal government explicit control over interstate commerce. In Federalist 42, James Madison said this was necessary, because otherwise states "would nourish unceasing animosities, and not improbably terminate in serious interruptions of the public tranquility."

In the decades that followed, various Supreme Court rulings developed into a legal doctrine known as the "dormant Commerce Clause." This assumes the Constitution forbids state-level policies that limit the free flow of commerce. That rationale was the basis of Quill Corp v. North Dakota, a 1992 Supreme Court ruling blocking North Dakota from collecting sales tax from a catalog-based office retailer that sold goods to other businesses in the state, but that did not have a physical location in North Dakota.

Last year, South Dakota succeeded where North Dakota had failed. At the root of the Wayfair case was a South Dakota law claiming that the state had the authority to collect sales tax from any business that made at least 200 transactions or $100,000 in sales into South Dakota in a single year. The Supreme Court upheld that law, and ruled that the 1992 North Dakota ruling was "unsound and incorrect," as Justice Anthony Kennedy put it in the majority opinion—the last that he would author before retiring in July.

The earlier Quill ruling, he wrote, had become "a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that decide to limit their physical presence and still sell their goods and services to a state's consumers—something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced." The 5-4 majority cut across the Supreme Court's usual ideological lines, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining conservative justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and the moderate Kennedy in support of South Dakota's law.

The court's liberal wing, minus Ginsburg, joined Chief Justice John Roberts' dissenting opinion, which largely agreed with Kennedy that Quill was decided incorrectly, but insisted it was Congress' duty to fix that problem.

"By suddenly changing the ground rules, the Court may have waylaid Congress' consideration of the issue," Roberts wrote. States had been petitioning Congress for years to change the rules for interstate sales taxes, but Roberts worried that an abrupt change of direction ordered by the courts would steer state efforts towards "securing new tax revenue from remote sellers."

A Ruling Both "Sweeping and Vague"

In the months since the Wayfair ruling, Roberts' concerns have been vindicated. The ruling was both "sweeping and vague," says Andrew Moylan, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for lowering taxes. "The result is that there's an enormous amount of gray area that states, businesses, and policy experts are trying to define in the face of very thin guidance from the Court."

The most important of those gray areas is the question of when a business is considered to have done enough business in a certain state to owe sales tax there. The South Dakota law that was the basis of the Wayfair case specifies a threshold of 200 transactions or $100,000 worth of sales. That's a high enough threshold to exempt most small businesses and online sellers from owing sales taxes to South Dakota. But using the same standards in a state with a lot more potential buyers—California, for example, whose economy is more than 50 times larger than South Dakota's—has the potential to ensnare many more businesses.

With no clear instruction from the federal government, states have quickly stepped up to fill in their own. Days after the ruling, lawmakers in New Jersey introduced a bill to hit out-of-state retailers with a 6.625 percent tax on sales into the state—and state lawmakers touted the potential for it to generate more than $300 million in annual revenue.

In many cases, new legislation wasn't even required. In January, the New York Department of Taxation and Finance reinterpreted existing sales tax rules to cover any business that does more than $300,000 of gross sales in the state or made 100 transactions with New York customers. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administrators announced in December that remote sellers will owe taxes if they do more than $100,000 in California sales or have 200 transactions. The state expects to generate $500 million from those new collections. Most other states have made similar changes to their laws or tax codes, or are now considering such changes.

It's not just states. In many places, counties and cities have their own sales taxes applied on top of the state rate. In the 45 states with sales taxes, there are more than 12,000 tax jurisdictions, says Moylan. Although it is unlikely that a small business would do enough sales in that many locations to hit the sales tax threshold, it's not impossible. Heitman does enough sales in California that he worries he could be on the hook for taxes in some of those local jurisdiction too—although he's not entirely sure.

Determining where and what a business owes is its own burden, and the largest costs are born by medium-sized businesses like Heitmans. Bigger businesses are better able to handle the increased compliance costs created by Wayfair, and truly small businesses are unlikely to surpass the various sales thresholds to trigger tax collections—but for those in the middle, the sudden shift in the playing field is "hair-raising," says David Mittelstadt, a tax attorney from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and chairman of the Tennessee Bar Association's tax section.

The transaction limits are what will capture many of them, he predicts. "Because, you know, 200 sales when you're selling industrial turbines is one thing," says Mittelstadt. "If you're selling t-shirts, you could hit those thresholds at a very low volume of sales."

That's exactly what's facing Kenny Ballard, CEO of The Mountain, a New Hampshire-based company that sells T-shirts online—including the internet-famous shirt featuring three wolves howling at the Moon. At approximately $25 per shirt, 200 sales into a certain state is a mere $5,000 in revenue for Ballard's company but would be enough to trigger tax obligations, cutting into profits and requiring new expenditures on reporting and compliance.

For business owners, the challenge isn't just determining if they owe, it's determining what. State sales tax codes are notoriously complex, and no two are exactly alike. In Pennsylvania, for example, most clothing is exempt from the state's 6 percent sales tax—unless it is considered formalwear or recreational equipment. In practice, that means a pair of gloves would not be taxed, except if it's considered skiing equipment, in which case the exact same pair of gloves wouldbe taxed. New York taxes Yoo-hoo, a milky, chocolatey drink—but not chocolate milk. Coffee is not subject to sales tax in Colorado, but you will be charged tax if you get a to-go cup with a lid, which is considered "nonessential packaging" under state law.

That's why Heitman spends a lot of time thinking about the tax status of fireproof underwear, but he's hardly alone. Micro-retailers operating through marketplace sites like Etsy, for example, sell all variety of handmade items—from homemade moccasins to unicorn fluff. Adding to the confusion, transactions of non-taxable goods in some states still count towards the overall transaction threshold that determines whether a seller has to pay taxes. Since the Wayfair ruling, Etsy has updated its seller handbook to keep users aware of the shifting playing fields, and the platform is now collecting and paying sales taxes on behalf of users in states where the laws have changed.

For small businesses operating outside of an online marketplace, software can help navigate the complexity of suddenly having to understand thousands of different tax codes. But it's only so useful, and it can be expensive. Heitman says he paid $6,000 for a program that calculates taxes owed based on buyers' ZIP codes, but it's also brought him additional frustration. "Some of the addresses cannot be validated," he says, recalling an order that was shipped to a building at Newark Airport. The address was rejected because it was not in the U.S. Postal Service database. "Apparently the Postal Service doesn't deliver there—but this was a large package shipped by UPS."

"It's just ridiculously time-consuming every month," he says.

A Problem Fixed by Software—or Congress?

In writing the majority opinion in Wayfair, Justice Kennedy waved away some of Roberts' worries about how the court's abrupt overturning of the decades-old precedent would create chaos by pointing to the fact that computers could solve the mess—or that they would, maybe.

"Eventually, software that is available at a reasonable cost may make it easier for small businesses to cope with these problems," he wrote. And if that doesn't fix it, he added with one of the all-time great hand-waves in Supreme Court history: "In all events, Congress may legislate to address these problems if it deems it necessary and fit to do so."

So, will it?

Even before Wayfair, there were good reasons for congressional action on an issue that fits very squarely within the enumerated power of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce. In the wake of last year's Supreme Court ruling, congressional involvement now seems both more urgently needed and less likely to happen.

One potential vehicle for resolving problems created by Wayfair is a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), first introduced in October and likely to be re-introduced to the new session of Congress within the coming weeks. His bill, the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act, would add important specifics like prohibiting states from collecting out-of-state sales taxes on transactions that occurred before January 1, 2019, essentially giving businesses much-needed time to get up to speed on the new requirements without suddenly being hit with tax bills they weren't expecting.

Most important of all, the bill would create a $10 million sales tax exemption for all small businesses that do not have a physical presence in a given state. That means upping the $100,000 threshold in the South Dakota law that triggered the Wayfaircase to a level far in excess of what a small business would have in sales—effectively removing the ability of states to target all but the largest of remote sellers.

"Small business owners, in particular, have shared fears that they will be unable to bear the new compliance burdens and may have to shutter their businesses," Sensenbrenner says. "I've heard from online sellers in Wisconsin and across the country who are concerned with the complexity of the post-Wayfair tax regime."

The bill is likely to have bipartisan support in the House this year, with Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) lined up as co-sponsors, along with Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).

But cities and states eyeing a windfall in new tax revenue are likely to organize against congressional action. Late last year, a coalition of groups including the Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, and the United States Conference of Mayors sent a letter to Congress decrying efforts to "undermine" the Wayfair ruling.

States With No Sales Tax Fight Back

While many states likely will work to keep the Wayfair ruling, a smaller group are already organizing to fight its effects. No state is likely to fight harder than New Hampshire, which has a long track record of defending its residents from out-of-state tax collection.

In December 1976, the New Hampshire State Police literally arrested two agents from the Massachusetts Tax Commission. The agents had been staking out a parking lot in the small town of Hinsdale, barely five miles north of the Massachusetts border, looking for Massachusetts license plates as part of an effort by other New England states to crack down on tax-free cross-border holiday shopping. Unhappy with other states targeting shoppers and businesses in New Hampshire, Gov. Meldrim Thomson told the state police to keep an eye out for revenue agents—and to charge them with loitering if they were caught.

The two officers were released without charges, but the incident prompted the president of the Massachusetts State Senate to threaten—only probably in jest—to declare war on New Hampshire. The arrests were part of a long-simmering conflict between New Hampshire and its neighboring states over sales tax collection. Following Wayfair, New Hampshire has been moving to fortify itself once again.

"Our retailers don't have the infrastructure set up to collect sales taxes," says Nancy C. Kyle, president of the New Hampshire Retailers Association. "New Hampshire has chosen to balance its budget without the use of sales taxes, so making our businesses collect sales taxes for other states, that's just ludicrous."

So while other states hurried to legalize out-of-state tax collections in the wake of the Wayfair ruling last year, New Hampshire's lawmakers were rushing to the barricades. Gov. Chris Sununu called the state legislature into a special session to create a legislative task force to address the Wayfair ruling and issued an executive order telling the Department of Justice to monitor for tax collection activities by other states against New Hampshire businesses. "Our goal is basically to create every possible barrier that you can imagine, so that even if we are forced to do it, it would be really hard for any jurisdiction to try to do it," Sununu, a Republican, told the Conway Daily Sun at the time.

The state also set up a website inviting businesses to report collection efforts—although the website is clear that the state will not represent New Hampshire-based businesses if they are targeted by out-of-state revenue hounds.

"You can't let one state impose its law on another state. That's my real concern," says state Rep. Betty Gay (R–Rockingham). She's sponsoring a bill this year declaring the right of New Hampshire businesses to refuse to collect and remit sales tax to other states on the grounds that such a requirement would violate the state and federal constitution. Other bills would require out-of-state taxing authorities to comply with all New Hampshire revenue laws before being able to collect from in-state businesses, as well as force other states to reimburse New Hampshire businesses for any costs incurred.

It might not require the physical arrest of revenue offices, but New Hampshire public officials are doing everything short of standing at the border and daring other states to try it.

"It's part of our identity, and it's part of how we survive as a state," says Gay. Forcing New Hampshire businesses to collect sales taxes for other states would be "more than an inconvenience or an expense," she says. "It would be cutting us off at the knees."

They might get some help from Congress too. Last month, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) teamed up to introduce a bill fully overturning the Wayfairruling. Montana is another of the five states with no sales taxes (Alaska, Delaware, and Oregon are the other three).

"States like New Hampshire have a competitive advantage because of our lack of a sales or income tax," Hassan told Reason. "I'm deeply concerned that the backward Supreme Court ruling would threaten that advantage or inhibit economic growth by requiring small businesses to collect internet sales tax for other states." It's familiar territory for Hassan. In 2009, as a member of the state House, she sponsored a bill to make it illegal for New Hampshire to share tax information with other states.

"There's something psychological about not having to pay a sales tax that people really enjoy. You have an 8 percent sale—no one is going to go to that. But to avoid paying the 8 percent sales tax, they'll drive up here to New Hampshire," says Kyle. "They feel like they are sticking it to the government."

"It's Going to Be Just Horrendously Expensive"

The days of paying no sales tax online in states like New Hampshire may feel good, but they are probably coming to an end. Even critics of the Wayfair ruling don't deny that the Quill decision—decided two years before existed, when mail order catalogs were the cutting edge of retail—was an anachronism. With e-commerce accounting for more than $500 billion in sales during 2018, and certain to keep growing, it was really only a matter of time before states convinced Congress or the courts to let them have a larger slice of that pie.

It's up to Congress, then, to restrict overly aggressive state revenue departments, limit the confusion facing e-retailers of all sizes, and help small businesses that cannot afford the burden of dealing with hundreds of different taxing jurisdictions at once.

"It costs a lot just to have our accounting firm do our sales tax returns just for our home state of Wisconsin," says Heitman. "If I start having them do all these individual tax returns for all these states it's going to be just horrendously expensive."

State lawmakers and tax officials don't have much of an incentive to follow in New Hampshire's footsteps. In fact, the opposite is true. But even in the absence of federal legislation, state policymakers should be careful not to break the Golden Rule. "Do unto residents of other states as you would have those states do to your residents," says Bartlett Cleland, a vice president of the American Legislative Exchange Council. In the rush to squeeze cash from other states, lawmakers might end up encouraging more aggressive raiding of their own businesses, he warns.

That sounds a lot like what was happening during the Articles of Confederation. "I think a lot of this is a failure to appreciate history," says Cleland. "I don't think anybody is thinking about the very logical conclusions to these things."

If states wrote simple, flat tax requirement for out-of-state retailers, Heitman says that would help. Illinois, for example, has a flat rate of 6 percent for online sales taxes, which at least does away with confusion over what items are subject to tax. Better, he says, would be a federal law that exempts the first $500,000 of sales into any state. That's the sales threshold that Texas set on January 1 when it announced it would start collecting taxes from remote sellers.

Until that happens, Heitman will have to keep trying to figure out whether Connecticut taxes fireproof underwear. "My wife, she can see that it's stressing me out. What do you do? Do you keep fighting it or just give up? I hate talking that way, but it's just frustrating."