Pubdate: Sat, 04 May 2013
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2013 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Author: Gary Shapiro


Sometimes the government just doesn't get it and the people do. When
everyone is violating the law, it's time to change the law. Consider
three areas where the government has it wrong and needs to change:
Internet sales taxation, marijuana use and outdated laws regarding
consensual sex between adults. Internet sales tax Sales taxes on
online purchases have been a contentious issue for years, but mostly
at the federal level. States like Virginia and 10 others have passed
measures that treat online retailers, like Amazon, the same as brick
and-mortar stores: everyone collects state and local sales taxes on
behalf of state and local governments.

Right now, Internet sales are already taxed. Consumers are supposed to
pay taxes on their annual tax returns, but most don't. In fact, a
recent National Public Radio story noted most consumers didn't even
know about this, and only about 1.6 percent of taxpayers actually do
pay these taxes. This means states could come down arbitrarily on
non-compliant citizens who fail to pay the tax.

States like Virginia have passed laws on Internet sales in order to
apply the tax law equally, with the intention of simplifying
consumers' taxes.

We are now seeing Congress swinging in the same direction, with the
Senate embracing this simple solution. Recently, in a 75-24 vote, a
majority of senators demonstrated support for the Marketplace Fairness
Act, a measure that would remove the burden from consumers and make
sure taxes are collected at the point of sale.

This is a step in the right direction, and it is time for the federal
government to catch up with the times and come up with a nationwide
solution that works for the digital age. Decriminalizing marijuana For
the first time ever, a majority of Americans - 52 percent - support
marijuana legalization, according to a national Pew Research Center

The argument for legalizing marijuana has gained traction at the
federal and state level. Recently, we heard evolving marijuana
statements from congressional lawmakers. Sens. Mitch McConnell, Ron
Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Ron Paul all support legalizing hemp production.

In Virginia, even conservative gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli
has come around. He recently implied during a University of Virginia
political science talk that he might be open to marijuana reform.
Hopefully, he and others will accept that pouring billions of dollars
into the "war on drugs" has been a failure by all accounts, sapping
law enforcement, imprisoning millions of Americans and hurting our
Hispanic neighbors to the south.

The next governor of Virginia should decriminalize marijuana, giving
Americans the same options they have with other substances and
allowing the state to tax it. This would allow government to increase
revenue and focus limited law enforcement resources more effectively
on violent crimes.

Keep government out of the bedroom

Finally, consider the recent debate on whether the government has the
right to pass laws about sexual acts between consenting adults.
Cuccinelli has made headlines for his defense of Virginia's
anti-sodomy law as constitutional. Though the 4th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals overturned the law in March and denied Cuccinelli's request
to reconsider its ruling, his stance could have devastating
consequences for Virginia's ability to attract and keep top employees,
if the state - long considered a top business state - is viewed as
inhospitable to gay people. Once again, it is time for popular opinion
to influence policy to change our outdated laws.

When large numbers of Americans are engaged in traditionally "illegal"
behavior, it is time to change the laws. Just laws lose their force
when silly or outdated laws cause citizens to question the legitimacy
of any legislation. Democracy has no legitimacy if we become a nation
of habitual lawbreakers.
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