Newell returns from D.C. conference

PARKERSBURG – Federal changes requiring Internet companies to charge tax on sales was a major speaking point of last week’s League of Cities conference in Washington, D.C.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell attended the league’s annual Board of Directors Conference, which acts as a planning session for the organization that represents 19,000 cities and 49 state municipal leagues.

“It went very well. It was pretty busy,” he said.

Newell said the first day of the conference covered topics that would be focus points for the league in the coming year.

“The two big things were immigration, which is not as big a deal here (in Parkersburg) as it is in other places, and the other thing was the Marketplace Fairness Act.”

The act would require an Internet sales tax designed to capture revenue for states and municipalities.

“They estimate about $23 billion is not going into the economy, because in many places there is no sales tax for online purchases,” Newell said. “In our area it would affect the state, not cities, but it represents a lot of money the state is not collecting.”

Those dollars could have a trickle-down effect for West Virginia municipalities, he said, and more importantly would help local businesses compete with online retailers.

“These businesses, they have to pay that tax, and they have bricks and mortar they have to pay for,” Newell said. “It is just an act we feel would be fair to local businesses and at the same time would bring additional revenue into the economy.”

Another area of focus for the league will be in highways and bridges, aging infrastructure and how to fund repairs and improvements.

Newell said last week’s conference is different than the league’s fall conference, which will focus more on information and seminars designed for municipalities to use to better their areas.

“The one in the fall is really the one where we bring the information back to our cities to use,” he said.

In February Newell was tapped to become part of the league’s 2013 Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Advocacy Committee. The committee helps the league develop federal policy positions on issues involving air quality, water quality, energy policy, national wetlands policy, noise control and solid and hazardous waste management.

The appointment came, in part, due to West Virginia’s expanding natural gas drilling businesses.

More information on the National League of Cities can be found at www.nlc.org.