Cumberland Times-News

June 25, 2011

Internet sales tax coming?

Jan Alderton
Cumberland Times-News

— Look for Maryland legislators to zero-in on how to tax Internet sales when the General Assembly convenes next year.

State officials are studying the issue this summer and believe levying a tax on Internet sales would bring millions of dollars to state coffers. In April, Gov. Martin O’Malley asked Comptroller Peter Franchot to look into how much revenue the state is bypassing by not having a tax on Internet purchases.

Internet retailers must collect a sales tax only when they sell to customers living in a state where they have a store or office. One estimate has Maryland losing $160 million a year because it lacks an Internet sales tax. At present, 24 states have adopted what is known as a Streamline Sales and Use Tax Agreement to standardize sales tax laws and filing requirements for Internet retailers....

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration began a new service last week. It allows anyone with a state driver’s license or identification card to provide contract information for up to three people to be notified in case of an emergency.

Known as an emergency contact registry, the service enables drivers to submit contact information on line or at kiosks at MVA offices. The information will be stored electronically on a person’s driving record and will be available only to law enforcement authorities....

This year’s Heritage Days festival seemed to get generally good reviews from those in attendance. One common complaint, though, was that the festival action seemed to be top-heavy on Washington Street and not spread enough to cover some of the downtown area.

The event also points out again how a downtown restroom would be a nice accommodation for visitors. Downtown event organizers are doing a great job of bringing people to Cumberland, but the use of portable potties is hardly the best restroom solution....

The Sheetz convenience store chain continues to grow and is planning five new stores in the Charleston, W.Va., area over the next two years. Headquartered in Altoona, Pa., the firm operates 391 stores in the eastern United states. It is a $4 billion corporation that is entirely family-owned and operated....

Dozens of manufactured homes from Cumberland and Selma, Ala., staging sites have arrived in Little Rock, Ark., to be used as temporary housing units for disaster survivors, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA officials said the rent-free housing units are part of a larger state/FEMA housing program that uses several resources to house eligible residents displaced by storms, tornadoes and flooding that occurred April 14 to June 3....

The latest in local government cutbacks comes from the city of Hagerstown, which last week voted to freeze the pay for its union employees for the next two years.

The city negotiated contracts with all four of its unions. The new pacts freeze current pay levels through June 30, 2013 and also drop cost-of-living adjustments and reduce sick leave payout at retirement to an eventual maximum of $12,000.

“We don’t expect the city to raise taxes so we can have pay increases,” Wayne House, president of the Hagerstown Police union, told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail....

About 150,000 Maryland adults — or one in 30 — have a gambling problem, according to a study by the University of Maryland Baltimore County. With the increase of slot machine gambling in the state, analysts predict the number of problem gamblers will only increase.

Most Maryland gamblers play casino game or the lottery, the study found. A smaller percentage gamble on the Internet. On a monthly basis, casino gamblers spend about $214 while Internet gamblers average $553. The study, commissioned by the state, sampled just under 6,000 households from Sept. 7 through Oct. 31 of last year....

While most of the potholes from winter have been repaired, there is a huge one at the upper end of Greene Street just beyond the traffic light at the U.S. Route 220 ramp. Another is in the 600-block of Washington Street....

Social media experts are cautioning to watch your tweets about vacation plans if you use Twitter. Twitter allows anyone to follow you online and see your messages — called tweets. Tweeting about your vacation plan may tip off criminals that you are out-of-town and not in your home....

Seen on the Internet — resume comments by job seekers:

• “Finished eighth in my class of ten.”

• “Failed bar exam with relatively high grades.”

• “It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”

• “You will want me to be Head Honcho in no time.”

• “I am loyal to my employer at all costs. Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice mail.”

Jan Alderton is managing editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His email address is jpalderton@times-news.com.