Minnesota businesses push for Internet sales tax

One way or another, you know this is coming. The AP reports: “Representatives of Minnesota businesses large and small ramped up pressure on state lawmakers to collect sales taxes on purchases made through online-only retailers. The public push Thursday … included an all-hands-on-deck news conference outside a small St. Paul toy store. It comes with time winding down on the 2012 session. The plan has bipartisan backing and support from Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, but advocates worry it is stalled. State Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said Minnesota could expect about $4 million next year and more later if purchases made through Amazon, Overstock.com and others had Minnesota tax applied. The debate over whether online retailers must collect taxes from customers in other states centers around a decades-old U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a mail-order company. In that case, the court said retailers have to collect state tax only if they have a physical presence in a state, such as a retail store.”

A Lake Street landmark of sorts may be getting a new lease on life. Don Jacobson writes for the Strib: “The historic but long-troubled Coliseum Building in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood has new owners, who say they hope to breathe new life into the landmark property. The commercial building at the northeast corner of E. Lake Street and 27th Avenue S. was purchased out of foreclosure last month for $2.28 million by a team of local investors. Larry Hopfenspirger and Dr. Elmer Salovich, an Edina-based orthopedic surgeon, led the group. … The pair say they’re looking to build off an ambitious $5.1 million rehabilitation project launched in 1999 by restoration expert Fred Lehmann. He aimed to turn the Coliseum Building into a showpiece for the Lake Street-Hiawatha Avenue area. The former owner, with the help of more than $1 million in tax-increment financing from the city, completed extensive interior renovations and restored its original 1917 facade before ultimately falling victim to financial troubles and legal disputes with the city. … One of the Coliseum Building’s claims to fame is an expansive second-floor ballroom with high ceilings that served as a popular social center until the 1980s. It will now be used as a magnet to attract an anchor tenant under the new ownership group.”

Elsewhere, sometimes things are just too gay … . Eric Roper of the Strib reports: “The Gay 90’s club downtown wanted to blare its show times on a big marquee, but the city told them it was too much for Hennepin Avenue. Peter Hafiz, owner of the Gay 90’s on 4th Street and Hennepin, planned to revamp their iconic sign and add a 30-foot marquee with electronic text announcing times for drag shows and other events. The Gay 90’s has been one of the city’s most prominent gay bars since the 1970s. Formerly dubbed the Casablanca Lounge, it regularly hosts drag shows and dance events. ‘I just wanted to fall in line with the avenue,’ Hafiz said of the $200,000 renovation. ‘This thing would have been just spectacular.’ ”

Honeywell’s thermostat might not be “cool,” or “hot,” but the company has seven patents … Leslie Brooks Suzukamo at the PiPress writes: “Nest Labs of Palo Alto, Calif. had developed a controller it called the Nest Learning Thermostat that has generated positive buzz. But Honeywell, whose Automation and Control Solutions unit in Golden Valley developed the iconic round wall device, sued Nest in February for allegedly infringing on seven Honeywell patents. ‘This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated for decades,’ begins Nest’s legal reply filed Thursday … ‘No less than than New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today have lauded the Nest Learning Thermostat as ‘gorgeous, elegant and very, very smart’; ‘intuitive … sophisticated … [and] right on the money’; and ‘hot’ — unlike ‘the thermostat on your wall [that] is probably a blah-looking controller you face only when it’s time to warm or cool the house,’ the filing continued. That ‘blah-looking controller’ belongs to Honeywell, Nest says. Nest denied it infringed on the Honeywell patents and said Honeywell has lost other patent lawsuits related to its round thermostats.” IMHO, that Nest thing is kinda cool.

And no it was not, in fact, the actual head of a guy from Tomah named Stan. A PiPress story reports: “A 24-pound Dutch cheese named the best in the world at an international competition held in Madison last month has been auctioned off for $8,400, or $350 per pound. The wheel of Vermeer, a low-fat Gouda-style cheese, scored a mild upset at the World Championship Cheese Contest, beating out two cheeses from Switzerland and preventing the Swiss from capturing a fourth straight title. It was sold as part of an auction of gold-medal cheeses that raises money to help educate cheesemakers. The Vermeer was made by Friesland Campina, a company based in Steenderen, Netherlands. The plant’s cheesemakers were scheduled to receive their award at a ceremony Thursday evening. … The World Championship Cheese Contest is held every two years in Madison. This year’s contest featured more than 2,500 entries from 24 countries. U.S. cheesemakers dominated the competition, with gold medals in 55 of the 82 categories. Switzerland was second with seven gold medals, followed by Canada with six and Denmark with five. America’s dominance was led by a strong effort from Wisconsin, which accounted for 30 of the nation’s 55 gold medals. New York won nine golds, while California and Vermont each had three.”

I’m not sure what she expected. But Melanie Nathan appears to have got what she wanted out a visit to Marcus Bachmann’s “Pray Away the Gay” clinic in Stillwater. On her blog, “Gay U.S.A. 2012,” Nathan writes: “Bachmann & Associates had no idea that they were the target of yet another undercover gay advocate visit, and this time it was in the form of a young lesbian, a filmmaker from GAY U.S.A. the Movie. While the visit was contrived, and the character expounded upon, the reality and the seriousness of the possible harm to young gays and lesbians cannot be overstated. Last week as co-producer on the film, I helped Kristina Lapinski set up and pursue a counseling session at one of the two Bachmann clinics in Minnesota, where she played the part of a confused 24 year old lesbian who had just moved from California to Minnesota to marry her long time male friend, Jake, all to please her Christian parents. … Below is Kristina’s full verbal account of the session, and after I heard it, I was left thankful that we have an opportunity to expose this type of practice through this article and GAY U.S.A. the Movie:-
‘I went into the session using a different last name. I didn’t want to give my real last name just in case they ‘googled’ me and found out I was a gay rights activist.  I described my future husband as my best friend, my buddy. I told her about my desire to start a family and please society and my religious community. I told her I had been with a woman, and found that to be true love.  I made my uncertainty clear, that I had two options either to go through with the marriage or to refrain because I thought I was a lesbian. She asked me if I had slept with my fiancé and I told her that I had not yet and that I was not attracted him. She said ‘how can you know how it will be until you try’? She asked if I believed in God, and I answered, ‘yes.’  She pulled out a bible, handed it to me and asked me to read a passage out loud. It was about love, and then she asked me to analyze it with her. We talked about love and commitment, and even though I have never been attracted to my fiancé, the commitment, she noted, was a form of love.” Kind of like when I commit to a car loan.

It’s not going to be easy … Jim Ragsdale of the Strib writes: “The battle over a photo ID requirement that would change Minnesota’s voting system shifted into campaign gear Thursday with the formation of a broad coalition of labor, community, seniors and student groups determined to persuade voters to defeat the measure. ‘The job of our campaign is to peel back the layers of the voter ID amendment, just like an onion,’ said Dan McGrath, head of TakeAction Minnesota and spokesman for the organization. ‘As voters do this, they will realize, this voter amendment stinks.’ The Minnesota AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Farmers Union and AARP were among the dozens of organizations that on Thursday announced a campaign to defeat the proposed photo ID constitutional amendment when it appears on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.”

An AP story reports on a move to ban smoking in foster homes: “Smoking would be forbidden in all foster homes in Minnesota if a DFL representative from Duluth succeeds in promoting his proposal. Sponsoring Rep. Tom Huntley said that the bill was introduced too late to pass as stand-alone legislation but it could pass if it were added as an amendment to another piece of legislation. ‘I think the general public, when this is explained to them, would support it,’ Huntley said. St. Louis, Lake and Beltrami counties are among those that already require foster homes to be smoke-free. A pending bill would make Minnesota the 18th state to enact such a ban. The Minnesota Foster Care Association says most foster parents likely would support such the ban.” I assume this is aimed at the foster parents, right?

Nick Coleman tears into Florida Congressman Allen West for his blatherings about Commies in Congress. “This week, a Republican Congressman from Florida named Allen West came out of his swamp to say, ‘I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.’ Specifically, he said later, he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has 80 members and is co-chaired by Keith Ellison, the Democratic Congressman from Minneapolis who may not be a Commie but who is the next best thing to mouth-breathers: Muslim. You may have noticed that the right-wing snake handlers who now control the Republican Party have been creeping up to this kind of thing for several years, tossing ever-more strident ‘Commie’ allegations at Democrats: Socialists, they call them. Or worse, they charge that Democrats want to make us ‘like Europe.’ With universal health care. Ewwww. But Allen West is not just another yahoo. He’s the Tea Party’s Great Black Hope, a conservative black ex-military guy who they hope will be a great vice-presidential running mate for White-on-Rice Romney. West may be a demagogue, but he’s not stupid, and when he casts the Commie slur on huge numbers of Democrats, it is with intent, and with malice.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 04/13/2012 - 07:44 am.

    West is just a metaphor, a hallmark of the times?

    If we could just wave a flag over all our past wars. If we could make the faces of children killed in Iraq, Afghanistan disappear etc? .Images the make us look more like invaders not saviors to the world?

    And those drones? A godsend or more of the same faceless acts slaughtering carelessly to protect our boundaries from devious intent of others – perceived or real? Where did all our boogeymen come from in this century? Why do they, “the others’ – other nations; other peoples – hate us? Questions we cannot or dare not answer?

    So along comes a fool walking in the muddy footprint of McCarthyism revisited

    If we could just put all our fears and denials behind us; bury them and then wrap out our fear of others by surveillance; on our borders, then on ourselves?

    Is it the last act; the final blow to our own credibility on the world stage of an aggressor nation when we run out of military funds or nations to control; someone new to hate?

    Then surely this is the time to turn on ourselves;? All wars will begin now within our borders against ourselves?

    We cannot trust ourselves…Voter ID?

    We cannot trust our neighborhood…neighborhood watch with and all acts acceptable?

    One just never knows these days when hate and fear laced with denial…when killing becomes a ritual, an addiction; all that satisfies and gives us security is more killing?

    West is just one figure but lacking the charismatic appeal that McCarthy projected, but someone else will pick up the slack…Tea Party, Romney?

    Fear, hate, denial ? Where are we going here? We get more media space for private adventures than public policy? Way to go eh?

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/13/2012 - 07:51 am.

    Strib voter ID story hacked?

    It’s 7:50am as I write this, and since 6:45am the Strib’s voter ID story is blocked on all three of our computers as containing malware. No other story has this problem.

  3. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 04/13/2012 - 08:41 am.

    Taxing “online-only retailers” today; will garage sales be next?

    Plain and simple…to levy MN sales taxes against out-of-state “online-only retailers” creates a trade barrier “among the several states”. With this initiative, the Minnesota legislature is trying to put their finger on the scales of interstate commerce.

    And, if this becomes law, and other than court cases, what could follow? Charging out-of-state online retailers a higher tax than MN retailers? Garage sales?

    This is a federal issue and it will Congress — and likely SCOTUS will ultimately need to wade into the mire and save the day (chuckle).

    The “Commerce Clause” in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, and Clause 3) states that congress shall have power “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

    And does anyone really believe that MN retailers, big box or little box, will suddenly become more competitive if Amazon or eBay or whoever levies a few percent sales tax?

    Lots of luck on that one…

    What is reducing retail consumption in Minnesota and other states is not a sales tax disparity between states or involving online transactions; it is the lack of disposable income in the pockets of consumers.

    Gee, do I need to explain everything to the legislature?

  4. Submitted by Jim Camery on 04/13/2012 - 09:51 am.

    A current commie count

    Are there even 78 communists left in all of America?

  5. Submitted by Charles Spolyar on 04/13/2012 - 09:59 am.

    Commies in Congress

    Is it even POSSIBLE to join the Communist Party anymore?

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/13/2012 - 11:18 am.

    I Buy Quite a Bit on the Internet

    But I’m not opposed to paying state sales taxes on those purchases. It’s what’s required in order for me to continue to do my fair share in financing all the state amenities upon which I and those I love and value depend.

    As far as I’m concerned, my computer IS a “physical presence” in Minnesota, since it becomes nothing but a physical terminal, a VIRTUAL representation, in essence, making my computer become the “store” of the retailers to which I’m connecting. I have no more control over that virtual, online store, than I would over a physical retail outlet. The same is true for all those other people who connect to online retail sites.

    If you value efficient government operation, effective public schools, the protections provided by law enforcement and fire department personnel, etc: all those things that the “conservatives” have tried to make you hate, when they try to make you hate and resent “government,”…

    those same things that would render your life a chaotic mess with ZERO quality of life if they ceased to be there for you and your community,…

    then you shouldn’t mind paying your share of sales taxes for the things you purchase online.

    • Submitted by Richard Pecar on 04/17/2012 - 07:29 am.

      Is a print catalog also a “vitrual store”?

      Using your logic, are not “virtual stores” also the combination a telephone and a sales catalog through which consumer goods may be purchased from another state?” Are not a TV and a phone also a “virtual store” through which a person can “order now and save?”

      What lacks in your scenario is the physical presence of an outlet…and a “physical outlet” is tghe trigger and requisite needed to tax. The word “virtual” and “store” means ”existing in effect, but not in form” and a “product of one’s imagination.”

      The taxes contemplated under this initiative will not help any Minnesota retailer. People that buy online aren’t trying to avoid sales tax, they buy online or off TV adv’s or catalogs to save time, or to buy something that can’t be found locally, to access larger selections of goods, and they sometimes pay shipping…

      The way these folks save money is they never buy gas for their car.

  7. Submitted by r batnes on 04/13/2012 - 03:05 pm.


    my computer blocked the, “Bachmann comes home to a fight” story this morning around the same time as well. In fact, the entire Strib site seems to be a little quirky today.

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