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  1. #1
    Full Member Zdig's Avatar
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    Nancy Skinner - California Assembly Member
    Message to Nancy Skinner: AB 178 is such a bad idea I don't even know what to say!

    California State assembly member Nancy Skinner is clearly misguided and does not understand this industry she is attempting to legislate.

    Nancy Skinner should think about working to make the state of California more business friendly, not to drive even more business out of this state!

  2. #2
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    I hesitated, but I think it's helpful to offer some feedback on how to effectively communicate with a legislator.

    In this case, Zdig has expressed opposition to AB 178, but even if Ms. Skinner or one of her legislative or campaign staff members reads this post, it would likely not be considered seriously.

    Here are some general guidelines on how to make a letter to a legislator more likely to be considered:

    • State where you reside. Legislators will be more sensitive to their own constituents (people who reside in their districts), and even if you reside outside the district, your comments are more likely to be considered if you are a California resident (many legislators have aspirations to statewide office). Many legislators also strive to send a response to each letter from a constituent (which requires a name & address, or at least an email address).
    • Identify yourself, if possible. Anonymous (or pseudonymous) comments will be viewed as less credible, although they might be considered if some specific reason is given to explain why anonymity is required ("my employer will fire me if he learns that I am telling you, but I believe that you should stop companies like his from dumping toxic waste into kindergarten sandboxes").
    • Be specific. A legislator can't really respond meaningfully to claims that a bill is a "bad idea," that the bill or legislator is "clearly misguided," or that the legislator "does not understand this industry." Why is the law a bad idea? How can the legislator be educated?
    • Avoid personal attacks or insults. (I don't think anything in Zdig's post reaches this level, but certainly there is a hostile tone.)
    • Don't accuse the legislator of having irrational objectives (don't put the legislator on the defensive). I assume that Ms. Skinner would agree that part of her job is to "make the state of California more business friendly," and does not wish to "drive even more business out of this state." These issues can much more effectively be raised by identifying them as "unintended effects of the bill," rather than assuming that they are the intended goal of the legislator. In fact, you could reword this in a positive way: "I'm sure that Ms. Skinner wishes to help California residents and businesses thrive in this poor economy, and does not want to drive them out of state. However, I believe this bill would injure California businesses and would almost certainly lead successful Californians to move to other states to protect their income."
    • Provide details about how you believe the law would impact you (or if you're a NY affiliate, how their similar law has impacted you).
    • Try to identify some "common ground," if possible. For example, if you agree that our schools and roads need funding, and/or that tax evasion is bad, say so -- and explain why you don't think this bill is the right solution to the problem.
    • Offer constructive alternatives. How could this bill be amended to be more acceptable? (The original version of this bill is absurdly overbroad, so amendments are required for the law to be passed, but I don't think that the core concept of an "Amazon tax" could ever be enacted without harming me.) Every legislator likes to boast about how their bills have improved Californians' lives, so how might the bill be amended to allow Ms. Skinner to retain "bragging rights" and provide a benefit to the state, without harming California residents? What other alternatives are available that would be more effective? (I think California would gain much more by joining one of the "streamlined multi-state sales tax" organizations, which the legislature could demand.) The ideal "amendment" might be to change the bill to "require a study of the impact of sales-and-use-tax evasion and identify possible solutions and their relative costs and benefits."
    • Provide "cost-benefit" data, if possible. If you believe that it's unrealistic to expect a $55 million increase in sales tax collections from this law, explain why. If you think that the legislator hasn't considered (or properly valued) the negative impacts of the bill, explain (how many affiliates will lose how much income? How many might move out of the state?).
    • Identify areas for further study, or others who might be able to share information useful in evaluating the bill's impact. For example, before passing this law, California legislators ought to know the impact of the New York law (both on sales-tax revenue and on lost income by New York affiliates) -- but I don't think there is any way to actually measure either side! Or suggest that legislators specifically invite input from California companies like Commission Junction who have relevant data and who would be impacted by the law.

    Last edited by markwelch; March 2nd, 2009 at 02:35 PM.

  3. #3
    Full Member Zdig's Avatar
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    Mark,

    You make some great points. I was honestly just so blown away by this legislation that I did not even know where to begin. I don't think I was being hostile, just voicing my disagreement.

    I was hoping to see what kind of replies would come of this thread. I'm very interested to see what others think...

  4. #4
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zdig
    Mark,

    You make some great points. I was honestly just so blown away by this legislation that I did not even know where to begin. I don't think I was being hostile, just voicing my disagreement.

    I was hoping to see what kind of replies would come of this thread. I'm very interested to see what others think...
    Excellent analysis and suggestions from Mark, and I'm happy to say that the content of the letters I sent last Thursday to the bill sponsors, my Assemblyman, and the Revenue/Taxation committee members follow most of his suggestions.

    I'm sorry to say, however, that after also stopping by my Assemblyman's local office on Thursday and leaving a copy of my letter with a receptionist who assured me that a top staff member would call me, I have heard nothing from his office.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  5. #5
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    How about, "Nancy, can my family and I live with you if this bill passes and I lose my income, the bank forecloses on my house and we're kicked out on the street, thus creating more of a burden on the state? If not, we'll be the ones camped out on your front lawn."
    Hi, I'm a signature.

  6. #6
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    She's No Lightweight
    In speaking with Skinner it is clear that she knows her stuff and, while not familiar with the negative impacts on affiliates in NY, clearly has a grasp of the issues. Dismiss/belittle her at your peril.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador La_Valette's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bennet
    In speaking with Skinner it is clear that she knows her stuff and, while not familiar with the negative impacts on affiliates in NY, clearly has a grasp of the issues. Dismiss/belittle her at your peril.
    Based on the substance of the bill, I beg to differ with the assertion that she knows her stuff. This bill would lead to businesses simply firing their California affiliates and result in a tax decrease for California, not an increase.
    Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try. -- Homer Simpson

  8. #8
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    I agree with La Valette and think that Mark addressed this point quite well - the change, as written, is ridiculously over broad and could easily be interpreted to apply to a wide variety of non-affiliate entities, including television, radio, and print.

    At the end of the day, affiliate marketing is a form of advertising, not sales.
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  9. #9
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    Nancy Skinner did not write this bill.

    Instead, Ms. Skinner and Mr. Calderon were lobbied by someone, probably the independent booksellers' groups who have long experience lobbying aggressively (first against big-box bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble, then Wal-Mart, and more recently against Amazon and other internet booksellers).

    Note that AB 178 lists both Skinner and Calderon as sponsors; AB X3 27 lists only Mr. Calderon, so this may have come from him first, and Ms. Skinner may have signed on based on representations that it was an "easy win" (since Amazon.com "rolled over" in response to the New York law) and that it would raise $50 million or more in sales taxes that California desparately needs (and which are legally owed by consumers).

    Ms. Skinner and Mr. Calderon were probably "sold" on the bill based on the fact that the New York law was enacted and was not stricken down by the trial court (which is called the "Supreme Court" in New York State). I hope that Ms. Skinner and Mr. Calderon were not tricked into believing that an appellate court has ruled in support of the law (I can't even find any record of an appeal by Amazon.com of the trial court's decision). Probably most important, they were probably told that Amazon.com is now collecting tens of millions of dollars in sales taxes for New York. (Push this button, get this result. Easy.) They were probably told that the only negative impact would be on out-of-state resellers and a few "disguised salespeople" who live in California.

    The lobbyists who persuaded Mr. Calderson and Ms. Skinner to sponsor this bill did not inform them that thousands of New York web publishers (small business owners) lost substantial income because hundreds of out-of-state merchants cancelled their advertising in order to avoid the onerous sales-tax-collection duty. Nor did they point out that the bill, as written, also applies to newspaper and broadcast advertising (in New York, the sales-tax collection agency "interpreted" the law to apply only to internet sales, and not to ordinary advertising on web sites; there's no reason to expect California's Franchise Tax Board to interpret the law so narrowly).

    Note that some supporters of the bill are already dismissing claims that California jobs would be lost, because they point out that none of Amazon's New York associates were terminated -- I'm not sure if they are just "willfull ignorant" or intentionally deceptive in pretending that it's Amazon's affiliates who are being terminated and losing income because of the New York law.

    While I think AB 178 is a bad idea that won't increase tax revenues for California, I definitely agree with the independent booksellers and others that California must take appropriate action to insure that sales and use taxes are collected fairly and efficiently for all products sold to Californians. And the US Supreme Court did something pretty remarkable in the Quill case: it came quite near to specifying exactly what steps the states should take to create a sales-tax system that could be imposed on out-of-state resellers. Unfortunately, more than two decades later, only a few states have made reasonable efforts (and California is not one of them).

    The idea that Ms. Skinner doesn't "know her stuff" is not only illogical (after all, she was elected to the California Assembly), but also largely irrelevant: if there is something about this bill that she doesn't understand, then it's the job of California citizens to help educate her (and her colleagues). It's also important to recognize that all legislators rely heavily on staffers, who usually develop some level of expertise "when necessary," and who often require their own education about industries and issues that they don't already understand.
    Last edited by markwelch; March 22nd, 2009 at 03:59 PM.

  10. #10
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    Amazon is much more than a bookstore these days, so its going to be a broader group than bookstores behind this.

  11. #11
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    >>after all, she was elected to the California Assembly

    LOL

  12. #12
    Full Member Zdig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bennet
    In speaking with Skinner it is clear that she knows her stuff and, while not familiar with the negative impacts on affiliates in NY, clearly has a grasp of the issues. Dismiss/belittle her at your peril.
    dismiss/belittle Nancy Skinner at my own peril? is that a threat?

    thanks for the laugh.

    You sound like a Nancy Skinner staffer or possibly a Nancy Skinner intern. In any case, I was neither dismissing nor belittling Nancy Skinner. I was merely voicing my disagreement with this absurd legislation.

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