By Max Behlke

During the Fall Forum in Washington, D.C. last year, hundreds of state legislators from across the country walked the halls of the U.S. Senate to urge passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act. In early 2013, the Senate proved it was listening. In a year when partisan divide and dysfunction has defined Congress, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Marketplace Fairness Act in a 69-27 bipartisan vote.

Nevada Senator Debbie Smith is greeted by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada during last year's Lobby Day.

The act would close the loophole that allows certain sales to go untaxed, threatening local businesses and exporting jobs out of the states. It would restore fiscal sovereignty to states and competitive fairness to retailers in communities across America—businesses that provide local jobs, support local charities and are the backbone of Main Street USA. The next step? The U.S. House of Representatives.

On Dec. 4, the first day of NCSL’s 2013 Fall Forum, state legislators will again take their message to Capitol Hill and urge their congressional delegations to pass this legislation. It is vital to their constituents back home. The inability to collect the billions of dollars in sales taxes already owed to states threatens one of their largest revenue streams. If the trend continues, which is almost certain given the explosion of Internet commerce, states will be forced to either find alternative means of revenue or cut important state programs. Last year, U.S. senators responded to this powerful message from state legislators. This year we are confident that members of the House will too and send this pro-states and pro-business legislation to the president’s desk. It’s a message and a solution both parties agree on.                

Lobby Day falls just nine days before the Joint Budget Committee is set to release its recommendations on how to merge the House and Senate budget plans passed earlier this year. Unlike Congress, nearly every state is required to pass a balanced budget that relies, in varying degrees, on congressional appropriations. Regardless of political ideology, state appropriators have found it difficult to develop their budgets with so much uncertainty on what to expect from the federal government, making budget impasses routine. State legislators will also have the opportunity to urge Congress not to pass the cost of its dysfunction on to the backs of the states and to pass a budget so states can have the certainty needed to plan effectively for the year ahead.

To register for the Fall Forum. December 4 – 6 in Washington, D.C., visit

Max Behlke is manager of state-federal relations for NCSL in Washington, D.C.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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