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National Retail Federation Backs Plan Allowing States to Collect Internet Sales Taxes

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The National Retail Federation issued a written statement urging the House Judiciary Committee to support H.R. 3179, the Marketplace Equity Act.  The legislation would allow states to require internet retailers to charge state sales taxes.

NRF Senior Vice President David French said, “The National Retail Federation has long supported sales tax fairness legislation, and we are encouraged by the momentum that is building toward a solution.  As retailing evolves and Internet sales become a more prominent portion of total retail sales, it is critical that Congress support pro-small business reform of a broken sales and use tax collection system.”

Vice President French said, “A federal solution to the Quill decision will allow states to broaden the base and apply their taxes equally to all items sold promoting an efficient sales tax system.  This reform is necessary to reduce the uncertainty currently rampant as shown by state-by-state attempts to establish nexus for collection purposes artificially stifling the growth and expansion of small and medium sized business across the country.”

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is a vocal proponent of making retailers pay Alabama sales taxes no matter where they operate.  In a letter to Congress on April 19th Gov. Bentley wrote, “The bills will give Alabama the authority to collect sales taxes — as we currently do from local brick-and-mortar retailers — that are already owed from online retailers.  Allowing us to effectively close this sales tax loophole would help both our state’s finances and our state’s small businesses.”  “When local retailers lose business, jobs are threatened, communities that depend on the businesses suffer and our state’s economy pays the price,” the governor wrote.

The Alabama Retail Association said in a written statement in April that they support, “Federal legislation that would level the playing field for all retailers and close the online sales tax loophole. Online-only retailers, such as Amazon.com and Overstock.com, exploit a loophole in the tax code that pre-dates the Internet and allows them to forgo collecting sales tax at the point of purchase like their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This gives online retailers an average 8.33 percent and as much as a 10 percent price advantage over Alabama small businesses.”

Vice President French said, “Allowing states to capture remote sales tax revenue equitably regardless of a retailer’s business model is meaningful pro-small business reform of a broken collection system. This competitive disadvantage must be cured with Congressional action.”

French’s comments were made in written testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing on Tuesday to consider H.R. 3179, the Marketplace Equity Act.  H.R. 3179 was authored by Representatives Steve Womack (R) from Arkansas and Jackie Speier (D) from California. The bill would address the 1992 Supreme Court decision Quill v. North Dakota.  In the Quill decision, the court said states can only require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax only if they have a physical presence or nexus in the state.

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Governor Bentley has estimated that making internet retailers charge sales taxes could generate $one billion over the next five years for the State of Alabama.

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Health

Three firefighters, police officer in Mobile test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Three firefighters and a police officer in Mobile have tested positive for COVID-19, city officials said Tuesday.

James Barber, executive director of public safety with the city of Mobile, said during a press conference Tuesday that the four city employees tested positive.

The positives come after Mobile-based Synergy Laboratories donated 500 “test kits” and 131 asymptomatic first responders were given the 10-minute rapid blood tests on Monday.  

Barber said the four employees have been quarantined at home until swab tests confirm the virus and physicians provide further guidance.

The rapid blood tests search for antibodies in the blood, which could show a past infection, but not necessarily active infections that are still contagious.

The swab tests will confirm an active infection if one exists. It’s possible the first responders have already recovered from the virus and are no longer contagious.

“That testing continues today,” Barber said of the rapid blood testing of first responders.

Barber said he didn’t have results from Tuesday’s testing yet, but that Monday’s testing resulted in just more than 3 percent of those tested showing positive results for COVID-19. 

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There were 53 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus in Mobile County as of Tuesday evening, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

As of Tuesday evening, there were 999 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama, 13 confirmed deaths from the virus and 23 total reported deaths, some of them not yet confirmed as being caused by the virus.

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Economy

Freelancers, gig workers can begin filing unemployment claims

Chip Brownlee

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Stock Photo

Employees like freelancers and the self-employed can now file for an unemployment claim in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Labor said Tuesday, under the CARES Act, the coronavirus response bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.

The Alabama Department of Labor is encouraging employees who believe they may qualify for programs under the CARES Act to file a claim.

These employees will also need to certify weekly to continue to let the department know that they remain unemployed.

Although ADOL does not yet have technical guidance or a start date regarding the CARES Act programs, benefits may be paid retroactively from the time the employee separated from his or her job or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.

In Alabama, many freelancers, independent contractors and the self-employed are not typically able to file for unemployment insurance.

Last week, more than 70,000 people filed an initial jobless claim. Claims can be filed online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382.

The Department of Labor is asking for patience when trying to file a claim.

ADOL says employees who may be affected include:

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  • The self-employed
  • Church employees
  • Non-profit and governmental employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig economy workers
  • Those who have exhausted their regular UI benefits.

These employees should also meet one of these conditions:

  • The individual has been diagnosed; or
  • A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed; or
  • The individual is providing care to a household or family member; or
  • A child or other person for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
  • The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or
  • The individual was scheduled to start work and does not have a job as a result of COVID-19; or
  • The individual has become “the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19”; or
  • The individual has to quit their job because of COVID-19; or
  • The individual’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.

This list is not exhaustive.

Further details regarding the CARES Act programs will be forthcoming, the department says, including information regarding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides for an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation benefits.

The additional $600 weekly benefit will only be available for weeks beginning March 29, 2020

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Health

Two hospital employees in Huntsville test positive for COVID-19

Chip Brownlee

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Stock Photo/Huntsville, Alabama

A physician and another employee at Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the hospital said Tuesday.

“Crestwood Medical Center learned that 2 of our associates (one physician and one employee) have tested positive for COVID-19,” spokesperson Lori Light said in a statement Tuesday.

One is in the hospital for care while the other is at home under quarantine.

The hospital has also had two patients test positive in the Emergency Department, but neither of the patients needed inpatient care, the spokesperson said.

“Working in coordination with the health department, we are following established CDC procedures to identify and communicate directly with any potentially exposed staff and patients,” the Crestwood Medical Center spokesperson said.

Overall, there are at least 13 COVID-19 patients in Madison County, the hospital’s CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said Tuesday during a briefing.

There are 11 inpatients at Huntsville Hospital’s facilities, according to Huntsville Hospital spokesperson Susan Esslinger.

In Alabama, the number of positive cases is nearing 1,000. At least 23 deaths related to COVID-19 have been reported. The Alabama Department of Public Health has officially confirmed 13.

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Crime

Alabama inmate killed by another inmate at Ventress Correctional

Eddie Burkhalter

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via the Alabama Department of Corrections

A Birmingham man serving at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton was killed by another inmate, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. 

Dennis Benson, 40, who was serving a 36-month sentence for possession of a controlled substance and receiving stolen property, died March 30 after being attacked by another inmate, ADOC said in a statement. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Benson by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” the department said in a statement.

Benson’s cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death, according to the department. 

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