Skip to content

By: Naomi Jagoda of The Hill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers rolled out legislation on Friday that's designed to provide certainty to businesses following the Supreme Court's online sales tax ruling in June.

The bill would provide a framework for when states can require out-of-state online retailers to collect their sales taxes.

"Online sellers need clarity and stability in the sales tax arena," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), one of the bill's authors. "Our bill will protect small businesses and internet entrepreneurs from excessive regulatory burdens."

In its June opinion in South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Supreme Court overturned a 1992 ruling that restricted states' ability to compel out-of-state internet business to collect their sales taxes.

The court praised features of South Dakota's law requiring certain online retailers to collect its sales taxes, but the court didn't provide specific criteria for what would make a state's online sales tax law constitutional.

Critics of the Supreme Court's ruling are concerned that it will be burdensome for small online retailers, since there are thousands of state and local tax jurisdictions across the country.

Sensenbrenner's bill is aimed at addressing those concerns. It would prevent states from requiring remote sellers to collect sales taxes on purchases made before the Supreme Court's ruling was issued. It also would only allow states to impose sales tax collection duties on remote sellers for purchases made after Jan. 1, 2019.

Additionally, the legislation would prevent states from requiring online retailers with less than $10 million in sales to collect their sales taxes until the states come up with a compact simplifying their sales-tax collection that's approved by Congress.

Sensenbrenner's bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

Sensenbrenner, Eshoo and Lofgren had participated in a friend-of-the-court brief that argued that Congress was better suited to address the online sales tax issue than the Supreme Court.

The bill was praised by the National Taxpayers Union, which has been a critic of the Wayfair ruling.

“Chaos is brewing across the country as states have scrambled to seize new tax power for themselves after the Court’s ruling in Wayfair," said Andrew Moylan, head of the group's interstate commerce initiative. "By solving some of the most vexing questions, like retroactivity, state implementation dates, and obligations for small sellers, Congressman Sensenbrenner’s bill is a great start down the long path of crafting a remote sales tax system that underscores, rather than undermines, important principles of free markets, limited government, and simplicity.”

But the National Conference of State Legislatures, which cheered the June Supreme Court decision, has blasted Sensenbrenner's proposal.

"The Sensenbrenner legislation is an unwarranted intrusion on state authority which if enacted would continue the competitive advantage online sellers enjoy over Main Street sellers," the group said.

Joseph Bishop-Henchman — executive vice president of the Tax Foundation, which was favorable about the Supreme Court ruling — said he thinks the bill is "a good basis for further discussion.” But he said that states don't have a lot of confidence that Congress has the ability to pass compacts like those envisioned in the legislation, and he said that the bill should recognize the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement that has been adopted by more than 20 states.

By: Todd Ruger of Roll Call

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged Congress on Wednesday to update the landmark law that protects voter rights, finding in a new report that a 2013 Supreme Court decision helped lead to elections with voting measures in place that discriminate against minorities.

But opposition from Republican lawmakers has stalled legislation to change the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since the 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down a key enforcement mechanism in the law. Current efforts appear stuck for the same reason.

“Today’s report reflects the reality that citizens in the United States, across many states, not limited only to some parts of the country, continue to suffer significant, and profoundly unequal, limitations on their ability to vote,” commission Chair Catherine Lhamon said in a news release. “That stark reality denigrates our democracy and diminishes our ideals.”

The Shelby County decision struck down Section 4 of the law, which required some states with a history of discriminatory voter laws to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before implementing voting laws. That section created a formula for how states and jurisdictions should comply with the pre-clearance standard, which the conservative justices who formed the majority called outdated and said Congress “may draft another formula based on current conditions.”

The commission’s 402-page report found that states previously covered under the pre-clearance requirements passed new laws and voting procedures — strict voter identification laws, closing polling places, cutting early voting and removing names from voter registration rolls — that are hurting minority voting rights.

And it found the Justice Department can still enforce the Voting Rights Act through Section 2, but that is an “inadequate, costly, and often slow method” that allows elections to take place under laws later found to be discriminatory. It also limits the DOJ’s ability to supervise elections.

“This report puts a federal imprimatur on what we have been saying: the right to vote is under attack, and that diminishes our democracy,” said Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The Voting Rights Act was reauthorized in 2006 unanimously in the Senate and with an vast majority in the House, and signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy introduced the Senate version of the bill, which has 49 co-sponsors, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski as the only Republican. In the House, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner has been pressing for his version of the bill and has 88 co-sponsors, but only nine of them are Republicans.

What a great time of year in Wisconsin! Summer is moving on and all that comes with fall is settling in: cooler air, Packers, Badgers, crunch time for Brewers, and back-to-school. Reality is hitting families all over our state as most students return to the classroom and begin preparation for their future. As important decisions are being made about next-steps, I hope public service, and specifically, service in our United States military, will be under serious consideration. 

I am proud that each year I have had the privilege of nominating some of the finest young men and women of the 5th Congressional District to attend our nation’s military academies. This is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job as your Congressman; and I have been humbled by the hard work and dedication these students have demonstrated from the time they contact my office when they are in high school until the time they serve as leaders in our military. In 2017, at the recommendation of my Academy Selection Committee, I had the honor of nominating 34 exceptional young men and women. 

The U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and Merchant Marine Academy accept qualified candidates who have been nominated by their Member of Congress. The academies consider evidence of character, scholarship, leadership, physical aptitude, medical fitness, goals and motivation in evaluating nominees. Upon graduation, students are commissioned as officers in their respective military branch.

Now is a good time to remind those interested in pursuing a nomination that the applications are currently being accepted. Interested students who reside in Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District seeking to enter a service academy in the summer of 2019 (class of 2023) must submit an application to my Brookfield office no later than Friday, October 12, 2018. Information about the process can be found on my website (https://sensenbrenner.house.gov/academy-nominations), or by contacting my Brookfield Office at 262-784-1111.

Washington, D.C.—The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today announced Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) ranks first on the list of House members for having the best voting record on lowering taxes and limiting government. Notably, Sensenbrenner has received this “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” every year he has been in Congress, and has ranked first on this list four times since NTU began its rankings in 1992. Each year, NTU examines every roll call vote taken in the House and Senate, then weighs them based on fiscal or regulatory impact to taxpayers.

“My record reflects I have been unwavering in my efforts to stand up for taxpayers – fighting to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly and effectively. I am proud of the recognition I have received from the National Taxpayers Union, and I thank NTU for all the work they do in bringing attention to these crucial issues,“ said Congressman Sensenbrenner“I will always keep taxpayers as my top priority and will continue to be their voice in Congress.”

“Only lawmakers with a voting record that is the best-of-the-best will earn NTU’s Taxpayers’ Friend Award,” said Pete Sepp, president of NTU. “Congressman Sensenbrenner has demonstrated a tireless commitment to supporting taxpayers’ interests in Washington, and a dedication to solving the government’s tax-and-spend problems with action rather than just words. Fixing America’s budget problems takes hard work, and Congressman Sensenbrenner has been doing that work every single day.”

You can view NTU’s full 2017 congressional scorecard here.
You can view the NTU Taxpayers’ Friend List here.
You can view NTU’s methodology here. 

Brookfield, WI—The National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC), which represents 40 state narcotic officer associations and more than 60,000 law enforcement officers, announced its support of the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) have introduced companion versions of the SOFA Act in the House and Senate, respectively.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The SOFA Act will help empower law enforcement officers to combat the growing spread of deadly fentanyl analogues. As criminals look for new ways to circumvent our laws, we must adapt to the evolving threats in the opioid epidemic. I thank the NNOAC for their service keeping our communities safe and for their support of this important legislation.”

NNOAC President Bob Bushman: “We appreciate the leadership from Chairman Sensenbrenner and Senator Johnson on this important issue. With more than 72,000 drug poisoning deaths in 2017 alone, many of them related to the ever increasing use of fentanyl-laced heroin, this tragic epidemic will only get worse unless we put forward every tool possible to tackle it. We urge swift consideration and passage of the SOFA Act.”

Senator Ron Johnson: “The SOFA Act will give law enforcement important new tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufacturers and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law. I appreciate the support of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition for this important bill. I join them in urging Congressional leadership to pass the SOFA Act as soon as possible.”

You can read more about the SOFA Act here.

You can read the bill text here.

You can view the full text of the NNOAC letter below:

 

Dear Congressman Sensenbrenner,

I am writing on behalf of the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC), which represents 40 state narcotic officer associations and over 60,000 law enforcement officers, in support of your legislation, H.R. 4922, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act.

As you know, cases involving fentanyl have exploded, and we are seeing drug overdose deaths surge because of it. Confiscations or seizures of fentanyl have risen by nearly seven-times from 2012 to 2014, with 4,585 fentanyl confiscations in 2014. Disconcerting, because of the potency of fentanyl, fentanyl related deaths have more than doubled from 2013 to 2014. Fentanyl is now the fifth most commonly found drug in an overdose death. It is tragic to witness the devastating effect that the opioid and heroin epidemic is having on our communities. Many of us have family members or friends who have been afflicted with addiction, or sadly have overdosed.

To tackle this growing problem, we believe SOFA provides significant steps to combat and deter the fentanyl trade. By immediately rescheduling nineteen fentanyl analogues to Schedule I and making it easier for DEA to reschedule other fentanyl analogues, it will enable law enforcement to be more pro-active in responding to the opioid crisis. NNOAC appreciates that you sought to address the whack-a-mole challenge of targeting the quickly altered chemical makeup of dangerous narcotics to avoid prosecution. By empowering DEA to respond sooner with drug scheduling authority, it will make it easier to keep up with the new compounds.

The ever-changing nature of synthetic opioids have made our ability to go after those who produce, traffic, and distribute the poison that is flooding our streets ever more difficult. Tragically, every day that we continue to debate how to tackle the opioid problem, 91 more Americans have lost their lives from an overdose. With fentanyl being added to the mix, it has only exacerbated the carnage.

We appreciate the hard work that you have put in to this legislation and believe that SOFA will provide an additional valuable tool to help get this epidemic under control. Please consider us as a resource at your disposal as you move forward with this legislation and other policy initiatives.

Sincerely,
Bob Bushman
President
National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition

By: Jessie Opoien of the Cap Times

Attorneys general from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are calling on congressional leaders to pass a Wisconsin-led effort to curb overdoses by limiting access to deadly fentanyl analogues. 

Led by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, the National Attorneys General Association sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging the "swift passage" of the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act. 

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, both Wisconsin Republicans, would allow the Drug Enforcement Administration to classify more than a dozen fentanyl analogues as Schedule I, a classification given to drugs with no medical use and a high risk for abuse.

Fentanyl itself is a powerful, synthetic opioid painkiller that can be administered safely by doctors to patients in extreme pain. But street drug manufacturers have created variations that are becoming a fast-growing contributor to opioid-related deaths. 

The legislation would not only give Schedule I status to currently known fentanyl variations; it would also allow the DEA to immediately classify new analogues as they are created and discovered, allowing for speedier criminal prosecution. 

In a statement, Sensenbrenner said the legislation is an "essential piece of the puzzle" as lawmakers work to combat the prevalence of fentanyl and its variants.

"The scourge of addiction and overdose deaths has devastated thousands of American families, including my own," Johnson said in a statement. "The widespread introduction of fentanyl and its analogues into illicit drug markets has resulted in skyrocketing overdose rates throughout the country. The SOFA Act will give law enforcement important tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufactures and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law."

In the letter signed by 52 attorneys general, the legislation is billed as a move that "unplugs the entire fentanyl machine in the first instance." 

similar bill was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker late last year. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths resulting from synthetic opioid use — generally fentanyl — increased in Wisconsin from 66 in 2010 to 288 in 2016. As national drug overdose deaths hit a record high last year, the increase was attributed in large part to synthetic opioids.

By: Steve Birr of the Daily Caller

Attorneys general from every state, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, are uniting to push for congressional action on “vital” legislation to aid law enforcement in the fight against fentanyl.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat, sent a bipartisan letter to Congress Thursday on behalf of the National Association of Attorneys General calling for “swift passage” of a bill giving the Drug Enforcement Administration power to list all current fentanyl analogues, as well as any future chemical variations that emerge, as Schedule I controlled substances.

Fentanyl analogues, or synthetic replications of the opioid painkiller with slight chemical alterations, are increasingly prevalent in drug supplies across the country, however, prosecutions often cannot move forward without the controlled substance designation.

Officials argue the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act will close these loopholes and give federal officials the tools to proactively fight international traffickers who frequently manufacture new fentanyl analogues that spread death throughout the country.

“Combating the newest front in the crisis — fentanyl and its analogues — will require an all-hands-on-deck effort and passing the SOFA Act is an essential piece of the puzzle,” Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, sponsor of the SOFA Act in the House, said in a statement Thursday. “I’m extremely grateful to AGs Schimel and Jepsen for leading this bipartisan letter and to Senator Johnson for his efforts in the Senate. It’s imperative that Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell bring the SOFA Act up for consideration when Congress reconvenes.”

Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is blamed as the primary fuel of the current opioid epidemic ravaging the country. Only 2 milligrams of the synthetic opioid can cause an adult to suffer a fatal overdose. Fentanyl analogues vary in strength and can be up to 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

Data released by officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 11 reveals the majority of opioid-linked deaths throughout the U.S. are now the result of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues. The report shows synthetic opioids killed roughly 27,000 people across the U.S. over the 12-month period ending in November 2017, up from roughly 19,413 lives in 2016 and 9,580 lives in 2015.

“The widespread introduction of fentanyl and its analogues into illicit drug markets has resulted in skyrocketing overdose rates throughout the country,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said in a statement Thursday. “The SOFA Act will give law enforcement important new tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufacturers and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law.”

Drug overdoses, fueled by synthetic opioids, are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under the age of 50. Officials with the CDC estimate drug overdoses killed roughly 72,000 people across the U.S. in 2017, exceeding the annual death toll from car crashes and guns.

By: Marivic Cabural Summers of the USA Herald

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general supporting a proposed legislation to solve the ongoing opioid epidemic across the United States.

On Thursday, Becerra and his fellow attorneys general released a letter encouraging the “swift passage” of the bill called the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act.

U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. and Sen. Ron Johnson introduced the SOFA Act to eliminate a loophole in the federal law that allows the distribution of fentanyl analogues, which have been involved in opioid overdose deaths.

“The SOFA Act will eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then introduce these fentanyl analogues into the opioid supply,” the attorneys general wrote in their letter.

“The SOFA Act unplugs the entire fentanyl machine in the first instance by making fentanyl analogues illegal as soon as they are manufactured, which occurs most often abroad in countries without adequate controls.”

In a statement, Becerra said the “opioid crisis is a public health emergency.” He said it becomes “deadlier and more widespread” because of fentanyl analogues. Then he added that the government should prohibit the manufacture, distribution and sale of these drugs.

Furthermore, the California attorney general said the SOFA Act is critical to help combat the opioid crisis. He said the legislation will provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to keep communities safe.

Fentanyl Analogues Involved in Many Opioid Overdose Deaths

Fentanyl analogues imitate the effect of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid widely used as pain medication for late-stage cancer patients, but contain untested chemicals.

Last month, the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reported that the number of opioid overdose deaths involving fentanyl analogues had increased significantly.

According to the agency, the number of opioid overdose deaths was 11,045 from July 2016 to June 2017. Out of that number, 2,275, or 20.6 percent, involved some type of fentanyl analogue, such as carfentanil.

By: Bill Glauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Attorneys general from 50 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico released a letter Thursday to urge "swift passage" on a opioid bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

The bill is called the SOFA Act and is aimed at cracking down on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be be used safely as a painkiller under proper medical care.

But recreational use can be deadly, especially with the creation of slight variations known as analogues, which fall into a legal loophole.The Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues bill toughens enforcement.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, and Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, a Democrat, spearheaded the bipartisan letter from the National Association of Attorneys General to Congressional leadership.

The bill shares the acronym of an organization started by Lauri Badura, of Oconomowoc, whose son Archie died of an overdose in 2014. She founded Saving Others for Archie, Inc. to raise awareness and fight the opioid epidemic.

“Heart-wrenching stories like Archie Badura’s are far too common today," Sensenbrenner, a Menomonee Falls Republican, said in a statement. "The opioid epidemic impacts everyone in some way — it doesn’t discriminate by age, race, socioeconomic status, or location."

Sensenbrenner called on House Speaker Paul Ryan of and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the bill up when Congress reconvenes.

Schimel said passing the act "is vital to the front line law enforcement fighting the opioid epidemic every day.”

Johnson said the SOFA Act "will give law enforcement important new tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufacturers and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law."

In their letter to Congress, the attorneys general write: "The SOFA Act will eliminate the current loophole which keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then introduce these fentanyl analogues into the opioid supply.

"In short, the SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the Drug Enforcement Administration to proactively schedule all newly modified fentanyl analogues and thus will assist law enforcement’s efforts on the front end. The SOFA Act unplugs the entire fentanyl machine in the first instance by making fentanyl analogues illegal as soon as they are manufactured, which occurs most often abroad in countries without adequate controls."

By: Katie Delong of FOX 6

MADISON — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has joined 52 other attorneys general, submitting a letter to Congress, urging the passage of legislation aimed at closing a loophole that has allowed those who traffic deadly fentanyl to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.

The legislation is called the “Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act.”

“A small amount of fentanyl has the ability to cause great harm, even to unsuspecting people like children and first responders at overdose scenes. Attorneys general in all 50 states agree — passing the SOFA Act in Congress is vital to the front line law enforcement fighting the opioid epidemic every day,” said Schimel in a news release.

Led Schimel and George Jepsen of Connecticut, the attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico sent the letter to Congress on Thursday, Aug. 23.

The SOFA legislation was authored by Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson.

“The scourge of addiction and overdose deaths has devastated thousands of American families, including my own. The widespread introduction of fentanyl and its analogues into illicit drug markets has resulted in skyrocketing overdose rates throughout the country. The SOFA Act will give law enforcement important new tools to curb the supply of illicit fentanyl and close legal loopholes that have allowed criminal drug manufacturers and traffickers to stay one step ahead of the law. I appreciate the support of Attorney General Schimel and such a broad bipartisan collection of attorneys general for this important bill. I join them in urging Congressional leadership to pass the SOFA Act as soon as possible,” said Senator Johnson in the release.

“Combating the newest front in the opioid crisis — fentanyl and its analogues — will require an all-hands-on-deck effort and passing the SOFA Act is an essential piece of the puzzle. I’m extremely grateful to Attorney General Schimel for his leadership on this effort,” said Sensenbrenner in the release.

Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance, and when used as prescribed by a doctor, can be a safe painkiller. However, outside of careful supervision, fentanyl and any analogues that are manufactured illicitly, can be lethal.

According to the release, the SOFA Act would eliminate the loophole that keeps the controlled substance scheduling system one step behind those who manufacture fentanyl analogues and then introduce them into the opioid supply. The SOFA Act utilizes catch-all language which will allow the DEA to proactively schedule all newly-modified fentanyl analogues.

CLICK HERE to view the letter submitted to Congress.