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Posts published in “Day: January 17, 2012”

Supporting the SOPA/PIPA strike

This site has opted not to be among those striking in protest over the SOPA and PIPA measures in Congress; we chose to explain our view here instead. But we do strongly support the effort, and agree that those two measures - billed as anti-piracy but carrying a prospective reach much broader and much more dangerous - must be stopped.

Some of the leading figures in working to stop these measures do come from the Northwest, including Senators Ron Wyden - one of the first to stand up on it, bring national visibility to it, and the prime backer of a filibuster-if-necessary - and Maria Cantwell. Most members of the Northwest delegation haven't yet made a clear statement of support or opposition to the bills. A request from here: Urge them to oppose the bills, and soon.

A good but simple introduction to the problems involved is available. The strike's page is online (at last check).

WA Bill of the day: House Bill 3563

So far 26 Washington House members (all Democrats to date) have signed on with House Bill 2463, which would impose a capital gains tax - but with a twist: Just capital gains over $10,000, amounts below that being exempted.

Washington doesn't have a capital gains tax at all, which sets it out from the other Northwest states - Oregon has an upper bracket at 11% (high nationally) and Idaho at 7.8%. It's generally tied (as in those states) to income taxes, and since Washington has no income tax, there's no capital gains tax.

Except that this bill would add one specifically. The Washington Budget and Policy Center, which supports the bill, offers this case for it:

Capital gains are the profits people accrue from selling stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets. The proposal would create a new 5 percent excise tax on capital gains above $10,000 per year ($5,000 for single filers).
The proposal does not tax all capital gains. The first $10,000 of anyone’s yearly capital gains would be exempt from the tax. The profit from the sale of anyone’s primary residence also would be exempt.
Under the proposal, for 97 percent of Washington households there would be no tax increase at all. In fact, the richest one percent get three-quarters of all capital gains generated in the United States (see graph below).
This tax on profits from high-end financial transactions wouldn’t affect retirement savings, the sale of farmland, charitable giving, or assets left to family members as part of a will.
The idea of taxing capital gains is not new: 42 states have already figured out that capital gains are a revenue resource that makes sense. Oregon taxes capital gains at 11 percent and in Idaho the rate is 7.8 percent.

There will be a big fight, and the odds are against it. But since the day of taxes-are-off-the-table seems to be ending, it may get more of a hearing than usual.

ID Bill of the Day: House Bill 370

Trail
Tom Trail

The Idaho medical marijuana bill has been introduced, by Representative Tom Trail, as he had said last year he would do. House Bill 370 does not have much chance of passage, or of clearing its first committee vote - if it gets one. (If it does, we'll be curious to see who else votes for it.)

Proposals along these lines, or further down them, have either become law in Washington and Oregon or have been strongly discussed for years. Outright state legalization (which still wouldn't mean federal legalization) is likely on the Washington ballot this year. But the subject has gotten no traction in Idaho.

How little traction? For some years, Trail has proposed (last year, along with Representative Brian Cronin, D-Boise) resolutions backing legalization of industrial hemp. Though biologically related to marijuana, it cannot be used to get high: Its uses are industrial, and many. It could be a major crop in Idaho, as Trail has noted. Many of the founding fathers, including George Washington, grew it. But last year it failed in the House Agriculture Committee.

Still, the rationale language in the new medical marijuana bill is strong: "Compassion dictates that a distinction be made between medical and nonmedical uses of marijuana. Hence, the purpose of this chapter is to protect from arrest, prosecution, property forfeiture, and criminal and other penalties those patients who use marijuana to alleviate suffering from debilitating medical conditions, as well as their physicians, primary caregivers and those who are authorized to produce marijuana for medical purposes."

We'll see how far compassion gets this bill.