State lawmaker: Wire-transfer levy isn’t aimed at Hispanics, and it’s not a tax. It’s a fee

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In 2015, Mexico took in nearly $25 billion in remittance from citizens in foreign countries. Most of it came from the United States. AP file

State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, called late Wednesday to offer some details of his bill – not yet filed – that would put a new levy on wire transfers out-of-state.

His two main points: The legislation is not aimed at the Hispanic community. And though he slipped in his own remarks, he prefers the term “fee” over “tax.”

The bill won’t be dropped until next week, so it lacks a number, and we don’t have its exact language – though Jones said it runs just slightly over two pages.

The Brunswick lawmaker, who owns a pair of lube-and-car wash facilities, said his measure would apply to any out-of-state transaction, not just cash sent home to Mexico or any other foreign country.

The bill would mandate a $10 levy on cash-o-grams of $499 and under, and a 2 percent tax on those $500 and over. Those who pay the tax could seek reimbursement each year when they file their state income tax.

Businesses and corporations would be exempted.

Oklahoma has had similar legislation for six years, Jones said. “Very few people file for reimbursements,” he said. “That says to me that most of these transactions are from people doing something illegal.”

To Jones, that means gambling, drug-dealing and workers who are paid in cash – an underground economy that is avoiding banks and other state-regulated entities.

“We’re not targeting the Hispanic community at all,” he said. “We’re targeting those who are trying to hide the cash transactions.”

Although, presumably, many of those workers paid in cash could be illegal immigrants. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump suggested that he might threaten to stop remittances in order to force Mexico to pay for a wall along its border with the United States. From the Washington Post:

The Bank of Mexico tracks how much the country receives in remittances on a monthly basis. In 2015, Mexico took in nearly $25 billion in total, including from countries besides the United States. But most of it was from the United States. (According to Pew Research, 98 percent of the remittances received in 2012 were from the U.S.)

Jones said he’s met with Western Union, Wal-Mart, and other businesses involved in wire transfers. “They don’t want to be singled out as the only people that we are subjecting to the tax,” Jones said.

Generally speaking, the state allows retailers a 3 percent cut of taxes they collect, to cover their expenses. To encourage buy-in, Jones’ legislation would allow wire-transfer operations a 5 percent cut.

In an earlier post, we noted that Jones pending legislation could be called one of the first Georgia measures of the new Trump era. After our conversation, Jones sent a text that included this:

“It is wrong, in my humble opinion, to call it a tax. It is a fee. And this was started way pre-Trump.”

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We’ve told you about state Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, and his proposed legislation aimed at female Muslim garb that covers the face. Spencer was on WGAU (1340AM) this morning with morning host Tim Bryant. Here’s the sound:

 

And below is a compacted transcript. Bryant begins by noting that, while Spencer’s legislation would bar applicants from shielding their faces while posing for drivers license photos, that is already a regulation imposed by the state Department of Driver Services :

Bryant: What problem are you trying to solve?

 

Spencer: What you’re citing is a regulation by the department. Regulations do have the force of law, but they are not law, and they can be changed easily….

 

Bryant: Are you aware of any drivers licenses in Georgia issued with a face concealed?

 

Spencer: I’m not aware of that in particular, but I think with the security threats to our country, to our national security, I think states need to start looking at things like this…

 

Bryant: If I understand your statute or your legislation literally…it means while I’m walking down a sidewalk, for crying out loud – if my religion dictates that I wear a burqa, your law would run counter to that.

 

Spencer: The anti-masking statute has been interpreted – only when that will become a criminal act is when there is intent to incite violence. That’s how the court interprets these anti-masking statutes.

 

Bryant: What are you hearing in terms of any potential push-back? Is anybody supporting you on this?

 

Spencer: One of the reasons for …a pre-file is to test the waters. So that’s one of the reasons you pre-file. …One of the reasons is to test that water before you get in that session, to see how people react.

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It taken four years, but Donald Trump’s Twitter claim that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese has finally drawn a response from the People’s Republic. From the Washington Post:

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin repudiated Trump’s accusation on Wednesday, telling reporters at United Nations talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, that U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush started the global warming conversation by supporting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the late 1980s, according to Bloomberg News.

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Donald Trump’s office has confirmed what was made obvious on Wednesday when U.S. Rep. Tom Price visited Trump Tower: The Roswell Republican met the president-elect to discuss a potential Cabinet job, potentially as head of the Health and Human Services department. It was hard to deny this AP shot:

 

Rep. Tom Price at Trump Tower. AP Photo.

And so we have this:

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis on Wednesday won the National Book Award for the third installment of his graphic novel about his role in the civil rights movement, “March.”. Here’s the AP’s dispatch from the awards dinner in Manhattan: 

No speaker moved the crowd more than Lewis, who collaborated with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell on a trilogy of illustrated works titled “March.” Cited Wednesday for the finale, “March: Book Three,” the 76-year-old Lewis became tearful as he remembered a librarian in his native Alabama who refused to let him borrow books because of his skin color. He then remembered an elementary school teacher who told him “Read, my child, read!”

“And I tried to read everything,” he said.

Lewis’ win marked two rarities for the National Book Awards, now in their 67th year: a prize for a graphic novel and for a member of Congress. In 2004, the government-drafted “9-11 Commission Report” was a nonfiction finalist.

***

The feud between Georgia GOP political director Brad Hughes and House Speaker David Ralston’s top aide has worsened. We told you last week about the tirade Spiro Amburn unleashed at Hughes at the Georgia GOP victory party over what Hughes called a misunderstanding.

Now comes this post from state Rep. John Pezold, R-Columbus:

Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen referenced a part of the parking policy that restricts House lawmakers from letting an “unauthorized” person use a parking space or permit.

“The Speaker’s Office has many responsibilities including ensuring the safety and security of House members and staff with the assistance of the Department of Public Safety,” McMichen said. “On Monday, a suspicious vehicle was reported to our office and we, in turn, notified DPS personnel.  While no member has contacted our office on this matter, we are happy to review parking policies or answer questions for members.”

State Rep. Kevin Cooke, the lawmaker with Hughes, sent over this statement:

I, an elected member of the General Assembly from the 18th House District of Georgia, instructed Brad Hughes to display my permit and park in my place since I was driving both of us to a legislative event. His vehicle was neither unauthorized nor suspicious since a valid parking tag was clearly displayed in the windshield. For all intents and purposes, the vehicle parked there was mine for the purpose of legislative business. It is no different than any other member who, at some point, has driven a rental car or the automobile of a spouse, child or friend to the Capitol and parked in the deck. Further, there are 236 members of the General Assembly. It is highly doubtful that anyone has committed every member and his or her most frequently driven automobile to memory. Considering there was a valid parking permit in the vehicle, one could be puzzled how it could be labeled and reported suspicious, particularly considering my campaign bumper sticker (with my name clearly displayed) is on the back window.

 

Let’s call this what it is- another example of an unelected staff member from the Speaker’s office embarrassing the caucus by causing issues for elected officials and unelected Georgians alike. Obviously it’s become a common occurrence for these people to lash out at members of the State House, members of the State Senate and Party leadership. It’s time for a change!”


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