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Thursday, April 26, 2012

What I Want to Say to My Congressman

Last Saturday I was attending the Linn County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner and met our U.S. Representative from Iowa's 1st Congressional District.  Dave Loebsack was our former congressman until he was redistricted out of Linn County.  I knew him by first name... and regularly donated to his campaign.  He called several times a year - yes it was to  ask for a contribution to his campaign but you know what it was HIM not a staffer -- so I got a chance to tell him what was on my mind.  But since Representative Braley (notice no first name basis) has not called and this dinner photo op did not lend itself to a "conversation" about the priorities that concern me I am posting my priorities here.  Maybe Representative Braley will pass by and have time to read ...

1)  Medical Insurance -- high priority is keeping young people covered, and in maintaining coverage for others.  At all costs keep the "Obama Care" -- the ones that are outspoken about not keeping it are those who have never not have medical care.

2) There used to be a federal program (Title IV I believe) that supported school and public libraries.  When districts / municipalities funded their libraries at a set per patron level the federal dollars kicked in and matched funds.  Only got the funds if they were maintained.  Could come from the educational division of the budget and get  rid of some of the testing mandates.  READING scores rise when children have access to books.  It is time that those making decisions review reading scores and the results of the librarian and media center secretary cuts that have taken place over the last few years. There is evidence that these cuts are counterproductive. Certified librarians (and a well-stocked library) are the most cost-effective element in raising reading scores. Numerous research documents prove this, but for starters, please read the School Library Journal article (Sept. 1, 2011) at Behind all of those accomplishments by students and classroom teachers are the quiet librarian professionals who make it all happen. Rethink past actions and rehire a certified librarian for every school.

3) States are losing a lot of revenue by not collecting state sales taxes on online sales but their only solution is to "whine" and threaten to make everyone pay &  collect the tax.  I agree EXCEPT it would be a complete nightmare for a small business person such as myself (see who would not only have to collect the tax BUT THEN WOULD HAVE TO DISTRIBUTE IT BACK TO 50 states.  Collecting is not a huge problem if the tax rate is the same throughout the state (Iowa for example, has several "local" rates, so one must just collect at the highest rate in the state or risk undercollecting) but the distribution is the real problem.  I wouldn't even know the addresses for the entities that would be collecting sales tax in each state.  So here is my proposal -- it is patterned after the copyright fees paid by university professors for including copyrighted articles/chapters in their college hand outs.  When they request a printing shop to  print a copyrighted article there is a code used that tells the shop where to remit the fee.  The fee is included in the printing costs (much like sales tax) and then periodically the printing company submits the TOTAL copyright fees collected to a clearing house, along with the breakdown of codes with fees, and then the clearing house distributes the fees from a  multitude of printing companies.  So -- Excel file of fees/codes and the one check.  Why not establish a clearing house for sales tax.  I collect it.  Report breakdown of how much (sometimes as little as 25¢) and write one check - and send it off to the sales tax clearing house.  The clearing house then distributes a combined check to the appropriate states.

Okay that is it for this round.  Perhaps Representative Braley is listening.  We will see.
Sharron McElmeel 


  1. Dear Sharron,

    Your blog post and your son's tweet definitely got my attention! And I want to let you know that I'm listening. It was a pleasure meeting you at the Linn County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner - I wish we had had more time to talk.

    Let me get right to your priorities:

    1) Medical insurance -- I support the Affordable Care Act since it will decrease health insurance costs, expand access to quality, affordable healthcare, and maintain Americans' choice of health insurance, while reducing the federal deficit. As you're probably aware, one of the provisions that has already gone into effect is the ability of young people to stay on their parent's insurance plans up to age 26. This will help young people, including recent college graduates, stay on affordable health insurance while they look for work in a tough economy.

    2) School libraries -- I wholeheartedly agree with you that libraries are essential to a good education. Two of the most important people in my life - my mother and my wife - are both school teachers. In fact, my mother has been teaching in public schools for eight consecutive decades (yes, that's eight!), and is currently a long-term sub for a 3rd grade class in Brooklyn, Iowa. In Congress, I support full funding of the Library Services and Technology Act and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program. The LSTA provides librarians with resources to help patrons access materials on many different subjects. And the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries improves literacy skills by providing schools and teachers with current library materials and up to date technology for library media centers.

    3) Your ideas about an online sales tax are very interesting, and I have instructed my staff to look further into them. Thanks for bringing these innovative ideas to my attention.

    Feel free to reach out to me, my office, my staff at any time at I'll be back in Linn County very soon, so it would be great to chat again.

    Thanks, Sharron.


  2. Well, actually I did send a note and a link to this blog, to you via your website - however it seems that Michael's tweet is what actually brought you to the blog entry. Never mind though you have responded and I am pleased that you do seem to be listening. It seems we are on the same page regarding health care and libraries -- now for some leadership and active support of these issues.
    And I would like to talk further to you (or your staff) about how the sales tax clearing house would work -- I really think this would be an innovative move and help states collect $ that are due.
    Thanks - let me know when you are in Linn County. Sharron