Tag: Amazon.Com

The California Flap: January 23, 2013


San Diego, California

The California Legislature is in session.

Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s is here.

Some important deadlines to remember:

  • January 25, 2013: Deadline to send bill ideas to the California Legislative Counsel for drafting.
  • February 22, 2013: Deadline to introduce bills.

Each member of the Assembly and State Senate are allowed to introduce up to 40 bills in this two year legislative session.

On to the morning’s California headlines:

  • Friends remember Bob Larkin, long-time Republican and Simi Valley activist – Bob Larkin, a gregarious, small business owner, who once headed the county’s Republican Central Committee and championed Simi Valley causes has died.Larkin, who served as the committee’s chairman in the early 1990s, was a moderate Republican who was critical of the very conservative branch of the party and in return received criticism for some of his opinions, but he was unwavering in his beliefs, friends recalled on Monday.

    “He was always dedicated to what he believed in,” former U.S. Congressman Elton Gallegly, a Simi Valley Republican, said. “He clearly was involved. He was not afraid of controversy. He was not afraid or taking a controversial opinion. He wasn’t one of these guys who was out on a soap box waiving his finger at anyone. He let people know what he thought.”

    Larkin, who was in his mid 70s, died over the weekend.

  • Amazon to build huge distribution center in Tracy – Amazon said Tuesday it will employ hundreds of full-time workers at a new million-square-foot distribution center it will develop in Tracy, part of its quest to provide next-day and same-day deliveries.”It’s great to be getting these jobs,” said Michael Ammann, CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership. “This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility. It is not just going to be a few people with forklifts in a warehouse. It is going to be a very sophisticated operation for Amazon.”

    Potentially 500 or more full-time Amazon employees could work at the Tracy site.

    Amazon in late 2012 opened a center to fill customer’s orders in San Bernardino. And in the Stanislaus County city of Patterson, Amazon is building a distribution center that could employ 350 to 400, according to estimates from the governor’s office and the city of Patterson.

  • Assembly Democrat wants grocery store ban on plastic bags – Assemblyman Marc Levine announced today he will revive a proposal banning all single-use plastic bags in California grocery stores.Under the proposal, most grocery retailers could no longer provide thin plastic bags for customers starting in 2015. For 18 months, retailers could offer paper bags made of recycled materials or reusable plastic bags for customers to bag their milk, eggs and other groceries.

    Starting in July 2016, grocery retailers could only provide reusable plastic bags, which many stores already offer at a fee. The new proposal, Assembly Bill 158, also leaves room for stores to provide recycled paper bags at a charge.

    Levine, a San Rafael Democrat in his first term, argues that the proposal would save marine life because he says single-use plastic bags account for roughly 10 percent of ocean debris. Environmental groups have backed similar bills in the past.

  • Herdt: Bob Larkin rang a bell; state GOP didn’t hear – Larkin died suddenly at his Westlake Village home on Saturday, and will be remembered as a civic-minded community leader in eastern Ventura County, as a dedicated businessman who continued to serve his customers every day until his death, a good-natured friend, a loving husband and a devoted golfer.
    As for his political epitaph, it can be written in four words: “I told you so.”

    Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, who benefited from Larkin’s support and mentoring, said recent history has proved Larkin to be something of a political prophet.



But, Herdt has the politics wrong and I will write about it another time.

  • Proposition 8: Backers of same-sex marriage ban make arguments to Supreme Court – Supporters of California’s Proposition 8 on Tuesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, firing the first legal volley of many to come before the justices hear arguments in the historic case in late March.In an 83-page brief, Proposition 8’s defenders decried a federal appeals court’s ruling last year declaring the 2008 gay marriage ban unconstitutional. California voters had a right to define “the vital social institution of marriage” as being between a man and a woman, the Proposition 8 legal team wrote.

    “In short, there is no warrant in precedent or precept for invalidating marriage as it has existed in California for virtually all of its history, as it was universally understood throughout this nation (and the world) until just the last decade, and as it continues to be defined in the overwhelming majority of states and nations,” they declared.

  • California sees a revenue bump after tax changes – After years of budget agony, California is seeing something strange this month: a heap of excess cash.The state is poised to finish January about $4 billion ahead of what forecasters expected in income taxes, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office – the biggest one-month overage that state fiscal experts can recall in recent memory.

    California also set a single-day record Jan. 16 when the Franchise Tax Board received $2.2 billion in taxes, mostly in payments from the 6 percent of filers who pay quarterly rather than have money deducted from paychecks.

  • Glendale City Council To Consider Gun Show Ban – City council members will consider a proposal Tuesday evening that would ban gun shows at the Glendale Auditorium.The Glendale Gun Show has been held at the auditorium since 1992 and is next scheduled to take place in March.

    Last year, three gun shows were held within city limits.

    City councilman Rafi Manoukian first suggested the proposal in December after the fatal shooting of 27 children and adults in Newtown, Conn.

    The council has several options for the ban: canceling rental contacts with the Glendale Gun Show for coming events, banning all gun sales on city property, and allowing the show to operate through the rest of 2013 and then enforcing a ban.

    But not all city residents believe a gun show ban will prevent violence.

  • Honda v. Khanna: Could Silicon Valley be ground zero for 2014 House Asian-American battle royale? – Ro Khanna — the former Obama Administration trade executive and Democratic rising star with a $1.2 million warchest — may be eying a big move: a House race against Democratic South Bay incumbent Mike Honda in 2014.That would be a 2014 Democrat v. Democrat battle worth watching.

    For one thing, it would represent a generational fight — pitting a 71-year-old, longtime political veteran of Japanese ancestry against a 35-year-old emerging leader of the South Asian Indo-American community, which is booming and flexing its muscle in the South bay.

    It would be a challenge of a longtime, traditional, respected Democratic labor favorite and party leader against an up and coming Democrat with tech saavy — and big Silicon Valley ties.


Amazon to Recapture Up To 80 Per Cent of Local California Sales Taxes?


Amazon.com’s internet sales will be forced to collect California sales taxes this fall under compromise legislation passed last year.

But, now Amazon will be constructing fulfillment centers in California and making deals with local governments to win up to 80% of the sales tax back.

Such a deal.

Amazon.com Inc.for years has fought government efforts to tax e-commerce. Now it’s poised to pocket millions of dollars in sales taxes paid by California customers.

As part of a pact reached last year with state lawmakers, some online retailers agreed to begin collecting sales taxes this fall. About half of the projected $316 million raised in the first full year is expected to come from merchandise sold by Amazon, which is also setting up two California fulfillment centers that will employ at least 1,000 workers each.

San Bernardino and Patterson, where the centers will be located, will gain not only jobs but also a tax bonanza: Sales to Amazon customers throughout California will be deemed to take place there, so all the sales tax earmarked for local government operations will go to those two cities. It’s a windfall so lucrative — about $8 million a year initially for each city — that local officials are preparing to give Amazon the lion’s share of their take as a reward for setting up shop there.

Talks with Amazon about a so-called sales-tax rebate are still in the early stages. But in Patterson, a struggling Central California community of 21,000, Mayor Luis I. Molina said he’s ready to do what it takes to help his city.

As I said before, the only ones who will lose on taxing the internet are the California consumers themselves.

Now, some of the tax money, which was supposed to achieve “fairness” for the brick and mortar stores will be going back to Amazon.com anyway.

Only the Democrats in the California Legislature and lame-brained California Governor Jerry Brown could craft such a crappy deal for California consumers and taxpayers.


Flap’s California Morning Collection: May 4, 2012


Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks, California

Good Friday morning!

The California Legislature is in session. There are no California Assembly and State Senate Floor Sessions today.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

The Democrats are playing golf at Pebble Beach.

Today’s the first day of the 15th annual Speaker’s Cup, a two-day golf outing in Pebble Beach to raise money for the California Democratic Party.

Tickets start at $25,000 and top out at $65,000. The higher amount will get you in the door for both days, and includes golf for four, hotel accommodation, dinner for eight people, plus a spa treatment per day for each non-golfer or guest of a golfer. Those prices are even steeper than for the Pro Tem Cup held in March.

The Speaker’s Cup is being presented by AT&T, which has sponsored the event for more than a decade. Last year, it spent more than $225,000, and the swag included a new iPad delivered with a thank-you note signed by Democratic Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and AT&T’s chief of government relations, according to this Los Angeles Times report.

On today’s California headlines:

Jerry Brown says tax signatures in hand

Gov. Jerry Brown said this afternoon that he has collected enough signatures to qualify his tax initiative for the November ballot.

“We should have them all,” the Democratic governor told reporters after speaking to a business group in San Jose.

Constrained by a short timeline, Brown and his supporters raced to collect more than 800,000 valid voter signatures by early this month, relying on robotic telephone calls, mailers and payment of as much as $3 per signature for signatures gathered on the street.

The measure would raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California’s highest earners.

Brown’s remarks came just hours after Republican leaders assembled at the Capitol to kick off their campaign against the measure. Brown had no comment about the Republican effort, except to say it wasn’t news.

California GOP launches statewide political tour

Republicans want to be known as the “party of yes” in Sacramento. And one of the first things they want to do is convince Californians to vote no on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax hikes.

“We think that’s the wrong way to go,” said California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro at a Thursday news conference outside the Capitol. “There is an alternative to simply raising taxes.”

Del Beccaro is launching an old-fashioned whistle-stop tour by riding the train around the state to push Republican policies. His first stops are Martinez and Bakersfield.

He was joined at the news conference by GOP lawmakers including Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare). They criticized legislative Democrats for not pushing Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension proposals, which Republicans have endorsed.

DA Steve Cooley refiles perjury, voter fraud charges against Richard Alarcon and his wife

Citing serious procedural errors by the District Attorney’s Office, a Superior Court judge on Thursday threw out a felony voter fraud case against City Councilman Richard Alarcón and his wife.

An indignant District Attorney Steve Cooley re-filed the charges only hours after the court’s decision.

In a stunning, see-sawing day of legal filings, Judge Kathleen Kennedy dismissed the two-year old case, which alleged the Alarcóns lived outside their City Council district and lied on voter registration records.

The prosecution, Kennedy told attorneys, failed to present evidence to the grand jury that might have exonerated Alarcón. Moreover, key terms such as “residence” and “domicile” weren’t adequately explained to the jury.

“I don’t know if the Alarcóns are guilty or not of these particular charges,” she said. “But I don’t think exculpatory evidence was properly provided.”

The ruling ended a grueling legal battle – at least temporarily – for the veteran San Fernando Valley politician and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca.

Amazon to open Stanislaus warehouse

Fulfilling an unofficial pledge to California officials, Amazon.com said Thursday it will open a warehouse in Stanislaus County.

Amazon’s announcement comes nine months after the Internet giant settled a huge sales tax fight with the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The company promised to bring 10,000 jobs to California over several years, and the warehouse in Patterson, about 17 miles from Modesto, represents a kind of down payment.

In announcing the warehouse, Amazon Vice President Dave Clark hailed “the support from Governor Brown and state and local officials.

“We look forward to creating hundreds of full-time jobs with benefits in Patterson when the facility begins shipping to customers in 2013,” Clark said in a press release.

Amazon didn’t specify how many workers it would hire. Rod Butler, Patterson’s city manager, said in an email that “we are expecting at least 1,000 full-time regular jobs, with several hundred more seasonal jobs during the holiday season.”

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters daily video: Tax showdown looms



Amazon.com and eBay Take Their Online Sales Tax Fight to Washington


You remember the Flap which was sort of resolved in California a few months ago.

Now, the conflict is being staged in Washington and in the Congress.

A Capitol Hill clash between Amazon.com and eBay complicates California’s hopes for an online sales-tax fix.

The fight flared Wednesday, underscoring how big differences between the Internet sales giants stand in the way of congressional efforts to help California and other states collect hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.

Each side has its respective political champions, and each side wants small businesses exempt from the burdens of collecting state taxes for online sales. They diverge sharply, though, over what “small” means.

“We want to stand with the little guys,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, noted at a hearing Wednesday in the House of Representatives, “and the difficulty is, who is that?”

The Seattle-based Amazon wants a much more limited small-business exemption than eBay, which is based in Lofgren’s hometown. So long as the companies remain apart, they can’t put their combined weight behind an online sales-tax bill, versions of which have been floating around Congress for years.

The differences and the delays matter because the clock is ticking, particularly in California.

As I have said before, I don’t really think the various online retailers will be able to work out any legislative compromise particularly going into an election year. There really needs to be a national solution to the collection of state sales taxes for online businesses, but I do not foresee it anytime soon.

The federal courts may eventually decide the issue, but this will take many years and lots of expensive litigation.

States drool with anticipation of receiving a piece of the online sales tax pie, but to capture tax revenue from customers of companies that do not have a physical presence in their state, they will have to wait.

Is this fair?

I suppose it depends upon your business interests and your own TURF.


Flap’s California Morning Collection: October 24, 2011


Monterey, California

The California Legislature is not in session.

But, the Senior Legislature is.

The California Senior Legislature opens its 31st session at 9 a.m. in the Assembly chambers. Listed speakers for the four-day event include Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Health and Human Services Secretary Diane Dooley and Democratic Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino. More information is here.

And, President Obama is accessing his California Campaign ATM again.

President Barack Obama makes another swing through California this week, starting with a fundraiser tonight in Los Angeles and a sit-down with Jay Leno.

The commander in chief’s evening, in fact, will be chock-full of big Southern California names.

Air Force One is scheduled to land at LAX at 4:50 p.m., after which Obama will be whisked to the home of Hollywood notables Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. There, “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria is co-hosting a Latino gala fundraiser for Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro are among those expected to attend. Tickets range from $5,000 to $35,800.

Plus, I am in Los Angeles today and am praying the President’s Air Force One is late, so I can get back to Thousand Oaks uneventfully around 5 PM tonight.

On to today’s headlines:

Jail expansion: Counties seek millions from state

California counties are lining up to secure millions of dollars in state funds to expand jails now that Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan is under way to shift the incarceration of some felons from prisons to jails.

But while many county officials cheer the availability of $600 million in state funds to add more jail beds, opponents of prison expansion say building more incarceration space will discourage prosecutors, police and other public safety officials from seeking alternatives to lockups.

“We’re terrified that California … is using realignment as a cover to push unnecessary and unneeded jail expansion projects,” said Emily Harris, statewide coordinator for Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a coalition of more than 40 groups focused on limiting prison spending. “It eliminates the incentive for counties to do things differently.”

Brown’s program, known as realignment, took effect Oct. 1 and is designed to ease prison overcrowding by sentencing thousands of nonviolent felons to county jails instead of state prisons.

California leads way in putting Amazon in its place

California’s role as a pioneer of crucial social, political and technological movements — the Internet, clean air standards, property tax reform, Lindsay Lohan case law — is part of the legacy we teach our schoolchildren.

In that context, it’s not too early to ponder the state’s role in putting Amazon.com in its place, even though the ink is not quite dry on the deal signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month requiring the giant online retailer to collect sales tax on purchases by its California customers.

The settlement shut down a potentially ugly fight that started when Brown signed a bill finding that the company’s physical presence within the state was sufficient to require it to collect sales tax, then was escalated by Amazon’s launching of a campaign to place a repeal referendum on the June 2012 state ballot.

The company backed up its threat with a $5.25-million fund for signature-gathering and other purposes. The original bill was designed to comply with a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that a state couldn’t force a business to collect sales tax unless the business had a physical presence, such as a store or office, within its borders.

The deal pushes off Amazon’s duty to collect California sales tax until next September, unless Congress passes a bill simplifying sales taxes nationwide first. (Don’t hold your breath.) That means the loss of one year’s revenue, which has been estimated at $200 million.

In return, Amazon has dropped the referendum and made an informal commitment to open two distribution centers, or warehouses, and create about 10,000 jobs in the state.

The key question, of course, is who won? I’ve been thinking about that lately, because the outcome of the battle of California has been resonating in the halls of Congress and statehouses across the country.

“The tide is turning, a little,” Michael Mazerov, who has followed the issue for the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told me. “Will Amazon throw in the towel? It’s too early to say.”

What’s clear is that a key mechanism of Amazon’s business model, which was to exploit the price advantage it gained by not collecting sales tax from its customers, is beginning to come apart, in no small degree because of California.

Since bricks-and-mortar retailers as well as some of Amazon’s online rivals collected the tax at the point of sale either by law or voluntarily, the difference could come to as much as 10%. (Among Internet-only retailers of general merchandise that haven’t been collecting sales tax in California, Amazon, with $34 billion in sales in 2010, is the big dog by a huge margin; the next biggest, according to the marketing website Internet Retailer, appears to be L.L. Bean, which owns retail stores and outlets mostly in the East and had $1.4 billion in sales in 2010.)

“We won,” says Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Assn., who supported the compromise. He observes that if Amazon had placed its referendum on the June ballot, the law Brown signed would have been suspended at least until the vote — and repeal would have been a real possibility. In other words, the compromise gained Amazon little more than three additional months free of collecting, while removing the threat that the law would be overturned.

And what of that promise of warehouses and jobs? Although new jobs and construction aren’t to be sneezed at in today’s crummy economy, these will likely be low-wage positions.

Moreover, to maintain its reputation for speed and efficiency Amazon eventually would need expanded distribution facilities in California, its largest domestic market, no matter what.

California’s agreement has led other states to reconsider the sweetheart deals they offered Amazon on tax collection in the past, when the company insisted on exemptions in return for the construction of in-state warehouses and hiring of hundreds or even thousands of workers. In Tennessee, for example, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, quietly cut a deal to exempt the company from collecting sales tax as part of a deal to attract at least two distribution centers that Amazon had threatened to build across the state line in Georgia. How quiet was this arrangement? State officials aren’t even sure if it was set down in writing, as opposed to being a “handshake deal.”

Barack Obama Campaign Strategy Keeping Hollywood Out of Sight

Like every Democrat, President Barack Obama covets Hollywood’s financial support. But there’s a growing sense that he doesn’t want to be seen with industry figures.

A source close to the White House tells The Hollywood Reporter it was no accident stars were absent from an Oct. 13 state dinner for Korean president Lee Myung-bak. Industry attendees included only American Beauty producer Bruce Cohen and the evening’s performers, the Ahn Trio sisters and singer Janelle Monae.

Celebrities have long been a fixture at White House gatherings. Obama’s previous state dinners have included such A-listers as Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

But Obama might want to put visual distance between himself and boldface names. Facing a close race, strategists might want to head off allegations that he is starstruck, as GOP candidate John McCain portrayed him in 2008 ads.

Obama seems to be positioning himself as a guy on the side of the middle and working classes. Being photographed with wealthy celebrities while preparing for a possible run against Mitt Romney could undermine his effort, especially if he intends to portray the former Massachusetts governor as a rich man who doesn’t care about working people and who laid a fair number of them off.

“State dinners need to make an imprint, but they shouldn’t be ostentatious at a time when Obama is spending all day talking about jobs and the economy,” says Donna Bojarsky, a public policy consultant. “Everyone gets it.”

The president’s longtime friend George Clooney stayed mostly out of sight in 2008, saying he’d learned a lesson when his father lost a congressional seat after a campaign in which his celebrity son was very visible. Still, Obama will be back in Hollywood on Oct. 24 for private fund-raisers co-hosted by Eva Longoria, Melanie Griffith and Will Smith.

Enjoy your morning!