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Sen. Mike Enzi - November Newsletter

A message from Senator Mike Enzi

With Thanksgiving and the holiday season right around the corner and with Veteran’s day last week, I always look forward to the opportunity to reflect on what I am grateful for and to encourage others to look at all of the blessings in their lives.

I know many of you will be spending time with friends and family next week, but whether you’re staying home this year or traveling across country, Diana and I wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

In this newsletter, my staff and I have summarized some of the important issues I have been working on for Wyoming. More information is available on my web site.  I look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or comments.

Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter.   

Headlines & Highlights

The Marketplace Fairness Act

We all know about paying state sales taxes.  We walk into the shop on Main Street, grab our item then pay for it plus tax at the register.  What you may be surprised to know is that we owe that same state sales tax on that book, sweater, software or car part we bought online.  Many online sellers don’t collect the tax and many purchasers don’t even know they owe it.  Consumers who are unaware of the tax owed are hurting local businesses and even affecting the condition of local roads and schools.  Not collecting this tax puts the local merchants who are required to charge it at a disadvantage to online sellers and states have to do without this revenue.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, next year this online sales tax loophole will cost states $23 billion in avoided taxes.  Wyoming alone could potentially lose an estimated $61 million.  If Wyoming had that revenue it might be able to lower property-tax rates or find it easier to avoid a state income tax.

Then why haven’t states closed a loophole that subsidizes online sellers at the expense of Main Street retailers and subsidizes some taxpayers at the expense of other taxpayers?  The short answer is: The Supreme Court said that with congressional action, states could require out-of-state businesses to collect sales taxes. That was in 1992 and the times have changed.  Technology has advanced that would make it easier for online sellers to collect the tax owed in the buyer’s state and send it back to that state. 

My proposal would exempt sellers who make less than $500,000 in total remote sales in the year preceding the sale from being required to collect the sales tax.

It’s time Congress advances too and gives states the option they’ve been asking for nearly two decades.  I introduced bi-partisan legislation on November 9 with Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and eight other members that would do just that.  It’s the Marketplace Fairness Act, S. 1832.  This is not a new tax or a tax on the Internet as some would have people believe.  States and Main Street retailers are now reminding Congress that, under our nation’s Constitutional framework, states should have the right to decide for themselves whether to collect — or not to collect — their own state sales taxes. It’s a states’ rights issue. I agree.  More information on my bill is available at, keywords “Marketplace Fairness”. 

Click here to read an op-ed written by Senators Enzi and Alexander published in the National Review Online.

Still More Work to Do on Education Reform

Most Americans know real education does not come from Washington, it starts in the classroom.  The United States Senate last month took an important step forward in addressing education reform and the many problems surrounding No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The law was well intentioned but placed an unfair burden on rural states like Wyoming by placing a one-size-fits-all mandate on every student.  The bill recently approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will give schools more flexibility to address their unique education needs, including rural school districts.  More importantly, the bill will shift the emphasis from failing schools to helping parents and teachers know how the students are doing.

As ranking member of the committee that does education legislation, Senator Enzi will continue to emphasize the need for fewer federal restrictions and costly new programs.  Senator Enzi will also continue to support a lessened federal role in schools, and greater transparency to parents on their child’s performance.  The Committee’s approval of the education reform bill was the first step of an important process, and it is expected that there will be many more changes to the bill.  

It moves the conversation around education in this country toward greater transparency and invites parents to take a more active role in their child’s education.  The measure shines a light on the children, rather than just the schools, and makes sure that information is broadly available.  This allows parents, teachers, principals and taxpayers to have access to the information they need to make decisions about each child, not just about their schools.  This was a profound development and one I am committed to retaining and building upon as we move forward. 

It is time to place more emphasis on seeing that each child is getting the education that we promised, and ensuring that each and every student is ready for college or a career after they graduate from high school.

Wyoming state office hours

Thursday, December 15:

Sheridan 2:30-3:30 pm - YMCA

Senator Enzi's five state offices in Cheyenne, Gillette, Casper, Cody and Jackson offer office hours where Wyoming residents have the opportunity to meet with Senator Enzi’s state representatives in his absence. State offices are open Monday-Friday. For contact information, click here.


On the Horizon

As Congress returns to session in December, there are many important legislative proposals on the horizon.

In the coming months Congress could consider:

  • DOD Authorization
  • Balanced Budget amendment
  • Nominations
  • Jobs legislation
  • All annual appropriation bills.
  • Final recommendations of the Supercommittee

You can find out more about these issues and other pending legislative proposals by visiting:

News Nuggets

Honest Budget Act

Senator Enzi cosponsored a bill which aims to eliminate budget gimmicks that are frequently used to offset spending cuts.  The Honest Budget Act restores the urgency for spending reforms by stopping the allocation of tax dollars when the Senate fails to pass a budget, which has been the case for the last two years.  Congress would also be limited to using emergency spending legislation in times of actual emergencies. 

Taxpayers Right to Know Act

On November 9, 2011, Senator Enzi cosponsored legislation that would require every federal agency to provide taxpayers an annual report card for all of its programs.  Each government program would be identified and the total costs associated with the program including how much it spends on services, an estimate of the number of staff who administer the program, and who actually benefits from the program.

This information would be updated annually and posted online with recommendations from the agency to consolidate duplicative programs, eliminate waste and inefficiency, and terminate outdated and unnecessary programs. 

These measures will allow Congress to make government programs more effective and efficient, and will benefit taxpayers by increasing accountability and transparency of how the federal government is spending money.

Beet Sugar

Senator Enzi recently led a bipartisan letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. The letter expressed opposition to the corn refiner’s petition that is requesting permission to label high-fructose corn as “corn sugar.”  Senator Enzi was joined by eight other Senators representing both beet and cane sugar producers.

2nd Amendment Issues

Senator Enzi recently sent a letter with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in support of 10 pro-gun provisions in the Criminal Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bills. These provisions have been part of the appropriation bill for over 10 years and are endorsed by the NRA.  Senator Enzi is also a cosponsor of a bill that would make the provisions permanent.

Department of Labor Seeks to Limit/Control Children working on Ranches, Farms and All Ag Enterprises

As Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Enzi has been following the Department of Labor’s rule revising child labor standards on farms and ranches.

This rule, if implemented, could keep your children as old as 16 or in some cases 18 from being able to climb a haystack or ride in a harvester. Sen. Enzi wants all children to be safe no matter where they are but believes the government should not be telling parents what chores around the farm or ranch are safe for them to perform.

The Department of Labor recently extended the comment period from their original date of Nov. 1, 2011 to Nov. 30, 2011.  People are encouraged take advantage of this so they can provide their own opinions. 

After the Department of Labor reviews all submitted comments, it will issue a final rule.

If you would like to read more on the proposed changes, they can be found on the AHC website.

The complete rule can be viewed and comments submitted here .

Letter to Postmaster General

On November 10, Senator Enzi signed a delegation letter to Postmaster General Donahoe requesting more information on how community input, and rural issues such as distance and severe weather are being considered within postal closure studies. 

Senator Enzi has strong concerns regarding the overall community impact and the way the post office is handling it.

Of the 3,700 post offices nationwide being studied for closure in an attempt to reduce costs, 44 of these posts are in our home state of Wyoming.

Connect with Senator Enzi on Facebook

If you haven't already become a "fan" of Senator Enzi's Facebook page, check it out. It is a great way to see more of what is going on in Congress.  Click here to view his page.