At a hearing conducted Tuesday by the House Judiciary Administrative Law Subcommittee, there was some disagreement among panel Democrats over the necessity of proposed legislation, introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and ranking subcommittee member Trent Franks (R-AZ), which would prohibit state and local governments from imposing new “discriminatory” taxes on wireless providers and services for five years. Titled the Cell Tax Fairness Act of 2009, the measure boasts 120 co-sponsors and parallels pending Senate legislation that was referred for consideration by the Senate Finance Committee last week. While acknowledging the opposition of state and local governments, Lofgren said the necessity of lifting tax regulations that impact the expansion of wireless broadband outweighs the need of the states to impose industry taxes that Lofgren termed as “regressive.” As Representative Mara Reardon (D-IN) observed that the bill offers a “measured approach,” co-panelist Joseph Gibbons (D-FL) declared that the current level of state and local wireless taxes (calculated by wireless advocacy group MyWireless.Org to comprise more than 15% of wireless consumers’ total monthly bills) “is misguided and directly counter to economic prosperity and continued deployment of advanced mobile services.” However, other Democrats, including Representatives Melvin Watt of North Carolina and William Delahunt of Massachusetts, cautioned against the bill’s adoption. While emphasizing, “I am not an advocate of discriminatory taxes,” Watt nevertheless questioned how the word “discriminatory” is defined within the bill. Delahunt, in union with representatives testifying for state and local government organizations, stressed the difficulties states would face in making up the resulting revenue shortfall, particularly in the midst of current economic conditions. Arguing that the bill would “unreasonably circumscribe the authority of the states to enforce their tax laws,” the Federation of Tax Administrators warned that the bill’s passage would prompt “significant” litigation and would also force the states to raise other taxes on individuals. Noting that an evaluation of taxes and other state and local fees will be included in the national broadband plan that the FCC is required to submit to Congress, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors advised lawmakers to wait for the FCC’s conclusions “before proceeding with this legislation.”
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Subcommittee Democrats clash on bill to ban state cell phone taxes
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