In a legal setback for states seeking to collect taxes from Internet sales, the Illinois Supreme Court in October struck down the legislature’s 2011 Main Street Fairness Act.According to USA Today, the decision marks the first time a state’s Internet sales tax law has been invalidated. Illinois’ measure is known as an “Amazon” law, named after the online retailer.
Twelve other states, including Kansas and Minnesota, have such laws, which establish in statute what is known as a “click-through nexus.” If potential customers are referred to an out-of-state seller via the website of an in-state small business or blogger (“click through”), a nexus is established. Internet retailers such as Amazon commonly employ these types of performance-marketing agreements.
The U.S. Supreme Court has limited a state’s ability to collect sales taxes from Internet retailers who do not have a physical presence in the state. However, a third party can create the “substantial nexus” that a state needs — hence the passage of these “click through” laws. Due in part to conflicting state court rulings (Illinois’ measure was overturned while New York’s was upheld), the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually weigh in on the constitutionality of these “Amazon” laws.
Wisconsin, Kansas allow for small-business ‘crowdfunding’
Wisconsin lawmakers passed a bill in October that they say will provide a new way for the state’s small businesses to access capital — “crowdfunding.” AB 350received unanimous approval in the Assembly and Senate.
According to The Milwaukee Business Journal, the measure seeks to build on the success of Internet-based funding platforms such as
Kickstarter, where individuals can and do pledge money in support of a wide range of creative projects (proposals to make a movie, for example).
The legislation changes Wisconsin’s securities laws to allow in-state businesses and potential investors to connect via crowdfunding platforms. Without the change in law, the bill’s authors say, the price of registering to sell securities was simply too high for many businesses.
Federal crowdfunding legislation was signed into law last year, but the rulemaking process for it has not yet been completed.
Two years ago, Kansas became the first U.S. state to change its securities rules to allow for crowdfunding, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Under the Invest Kansas Exemption program (legislative action was not required to implement it), small businesses can raise up to $1 million through the sale of securities.
Minnesota poised to have strongest biodiesel mandate in the nation
A decade ago, Minnesota became the first U.S. state with a biodiesel mandate, a move that has since been followed by six other states (none in the Midwest).
The state now hopes to advance production and use even further, with plans in place to adopt a first-in-the-nation B10 mandate: a requirement that all diesel fuel sold in the state contain 10 percent biodiesel and 90 percent petroleum. The higher mandate, set to take effect in July of next year, will only apply in warm-weather months.
Under Minnesota’s groundbreaking 2002 law, B2 was required.Subsequent legislation increased the mandate to B5 and called for an increase to B10 provided that a variety of conditions were met (a sufficient fuel and feedstock supply, for example, and an adequate blending infrastructure). The mandate will be raised to B20 in 2015 if those same conditions are met.
Though no other Midwestern states mandate that biodiesel be sold, some encourage or require its use in government vehicle fleets, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. Five of the nation’s top 10 biodiesel-producing states are in the Midwest: Iowa (second), Illinois (fourth), Minnesota (fifth), Indiana (eighth) and North Dakota (10th).
In Midwest, states mixed on need for new water quality standards
A push in Iowa by environmental groups to establish new state water quality standards ended in defeat this fall.
In a unanimous vote, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission rejected a proposal to create numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The Sioux City Journal reports that state officials want more time to study the efficacy of current nutrient-reduction strategies before implementing any new rules.
Across the Midwest, concerns about nutrient pollution have increased due to a rise in harmful algal blooms, which can create “dead zones” in water bodies and force the closure of beaches due to health concerns. For more than a decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has encouraged states to set science-based numeric standards to control how much nitrogen and phosphorus is discharged into the nation’s water bodies.
Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin already have numeric standards in place. Wisconsin has the region’s most comprehensive standards; they apply to discharges of phosphorus into lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. According to the EPA, Indiana and Ohio are scheduled to have numeric standards by 2016. Ohio’s standards will be among the most comprehensive in the nation.