January 24, 2019
Former Alhambra City Councilman Was Consulting Without a Business License
Source: Colorado Boulevard; www.coloradoboulevard.net
Former Alhambra City Councilman and current San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Board Director, Mark R. Paulson, began consulting on large development projects and municipal contracts sometime after he left city office in 2006. However, he failed to notify the City of Alhambra that he was making money doing so out of the real estate offices of Anthony Venti Realtors, Inc. in Alhambra.
By Sean McMorris
When brought to the City’s attention, the response was swift: nothing to see here, everything is fine. In fact, everything was not fine. Paulson was indeed consulting without a business license from the City. A summary of a city commissioned investigation also shows city officials inappropriately—maybe illegally—tampered with Paulson’s business license application, which he submitted after a complaint was filed with Code Enforcement. Why that tampering occurred is still unclear.
When it was all said and done, City Hall did not fine Paulson or seek back fees on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting income, nor did the City audit Paulson’s books of account or investigate how long he had been consulting illegally in the City despite evidence that he had been consulting since at least tax year 2010.
Staying under the radar
For years, former Alhambra City Councilman, Mark Paulson, was a constant presence in city council chambers during planning commission and city council meetings in which developers sought approval for projects in Alhambra. Paulson never publicly spoke at the meetings but always sat and conversed with the developer and his team of lawyers, architects, and engineers.
When numerous emails surfaced of Paulson communicating with city hall regarding development projects, some community members and press outlets questioned Paulson’s connection to the projects. Paulson would not publicly confirm if he was a paid consultant or lobbyist. Instead, press resorted to calling him a “liaison” or “advisor.” Paulson portrayed himself as someone who was just “trying to be helpful” for the good of the city.
Pulling the thread
I began investigating Mark Paulson’s relationship to developers and city contractors in Alhambra in 2017. His name kept popping up in emails to city officials I had obtained through California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests. Most of Paulson’s emails to city management centered around large development projects and ended with the email signature “Gateway Consultants.”
An Alhambra Source article from 2010 noted that Mark Paulson was a principal officer of “Gateway Consultants” with former and fellow three term Alhambra Councilmember, Paul Talbot. Paulson and Talbot apparently formed the business sometime after they both termed out of their city council seats in 2006. Talbot had to divest himself from the business in 2010 when he became Monterey Park City Manager. By then, Gateway Consultants had worked on large development projects in Alhambra, Monterey Park, and a proposed NFL stadium in the City of Industry.
In 2007, Mark Paulson was elected to the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Board of Directors and remains there to this day. Law requires elected officials to publically file income statements each year, called Form 700s, to ensure they are not voting on anything that poses a conflict of interest. In 2010, for the first time, Paulson listed consulting on his Form 700, but then never again. Even so, public record searches for Gateway Consultants through the California Secretary of State, L.A. County Registrar, and the Alhambra Finance Dept. came up empty. Monrovia City Hall also had no record of Gateway Consultants having been registered as a business in the city, even though online data bases showed that Gateway Consultants operated at one time at the same address as Talbot’s insurance business in Monrovia.
I then received a tip that I should make a public records search through the L.A. County Registrar’s office for “Gateway Consultant” without the “s” on the end of “Consultant.” The result was the discovery of a Fictitious Business Name Statement, also known as a DBA (Doing Business As), that Paulson had filed for “Gateway Consultant” in 2016. However, Paulson reported on his DBA that Gateway Consultant had been transacting since 2010, the same year Paul Talbot divested himself from Gateway Consultant”s.”
A person must file a DBA if they are going to do business through another company that uses a different legal name. The address Paulson listed on his DBA paperwork was the same Alhambra address as the commercial real estate company he works for, Anthony Venti Realtors, Inc.
Once a person begins operating a sole proprietorship either out of their home or another business, they must notify the city and obtain a certificate of occupancy and business license. It is hard to believe that someone with as much city hall experience as Mark Paulson did not know this, yet when I had the Alhambra Finance Department pull records in 2017 for 1129 E. Main St., the only business registered at that address was Anthony Venti Realtors, Inc.
I took the records to Development Services to inquire further and was told that I would need to fill out a complaint form before Code Enforcement could investigate. I filled out the form around 4:00 PM on Sept. 28, 2017, and by the end of the same business day, Code Enforcement Supervisor, Rafael Perez, made a determination that Gateway Consultant was without business license but that no transactions had occurred. In less than 24 hours, The Finance Dept. issued Paulson a Certificate of Occupancy and new business license for Gateway Consultant. Perez called me eleven days later to inform me that the case was closed. That same day (10/09/2017), Mark Paulson amended his Form 700s to report consulting work in 2015 and 2016 worth at least tens of thousands of dollars but potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.
CPRA requests surrounding the closure of the case raised further questions. Had the City followed proper protocol? Did the City adhere to the municipal code? Was there favoritism involved?
For instance, how was code enforcement able to determine within a matter of hours that Gateway Consultant had made no transactions since 2010—the year Paulson stated on his DBA that Gateway Consultant had begun transactions? Correspondingly, how could city management concur with this finding knowing how heavily involved Paulson had been over the years in the development process at city hall (as emails reveal) for so many major projects in Alhambra? Moreover, if Code Enforcement had determined that no transactions had occurred since 2010 then why was Gateway Consultant’s setup date listed as Jan 1, 2016 on the Finance Department’s online business search tool and not Oct, 2017, when Gateway Consultant actually received its business license? Why was an inspection of the premises not conducted, as mandated in the municipal code, before issuing Paulson a certificate of occupancy? Why was the owner of Anthony Venti Realtors, Inc. not contacted to determine if Paulson had authorization to engage in consulting work on his property? Why was no case number assigned to my initial complaint and why was the date of the complaint listed as received a day earlier than it was?
Finally, why was Paulson’s application for a certificate of occupancy for a “Business Name Change” and not a “New Business”? The check box for a “New Business” had been scribbled out on the application and an X was placed in the “Business Name Change” box. In addition to not requiring a building and fire inspection, an application for Business Name Change also implies that the business had been licensed and operational under a different name for some time, thus precluding additional fees, fines, back taxes, or potential investigations.
Case not closed…
I questioned Code Enforcement and the Finance Dept. about these matters but felt that I was not getting anywhere with my inquires, and, in one instance, was told that the things I had concerns about were not of significant consequence in the broader scheme of things. So I filed a second complaint with Code Enforcement pointing out discrepancies and wrote a formal letter to the City Manager and City Attorney outlining my questions and concerns. In the letter, I asked that the matter be thoroughly investigated and that I be informed of the results.
I filed the second Code Enforcement complaint on Oct. 19, 2017. I filed my formal letter to city management on Oct. 23, 2017.
I received a letter from Development Services Director, Marc Castagnola, on Nov. 10, 2018, that the matter was being investigated but the City had yet to come to any conclusions. However, Castagnola confirmed that a prerequisite to issuance of a Business License is the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, which requires an onsite inspection—something that did not occur when Mark Paulson was issued a business license for Gateway Consultant. Castignola also stated that it is not city practice to “request past fees for businesses operating prior to obtaining a valid license.” This statement is counter to multiple sections in Title V of the Alhambra Municipal Code (AMC) as well as Revenue Supervisor Mable Yu’s statement that the City charges up to 3 years penalty on a business license. More generally, such a practice conveys to would-be business owners that there are no negative consequences if you are operating a business in Alhambra without a license.
A new CPRA request revealed that the City had re-opened the Gateway Consultant case, voided Paulson’s previous Certificate of Occupancy for Gateway Consultant, made changes to the application to reflect a “New Business” with “Shared Occupancy,” did a building and fire inspection, and obtained authorization from Daniel Venti for Paulson to operate his consulting business out of the Anthony Venti Relators, Inc. office building. The City then authorized a new Certificate of Occupancy for Gateway Consultant and re-closed the case. The receipt of record does not show that the City issued any fines or citations to Paulson or that they sought an audit to determine the amount of money he had made since he began consulting out of Alhambra.
City Hall also did not change the 2016 date of establishment for Gateway Consultant despite the additional evidence of Paulson’s Form 700s showing consulting work in tax years 2010 and 2016. Paulson reported on his Business License Application to the City, which he signed under penalty of perjury, that Gateway Consult was established on 01/01/2016. The Finance Dept. requested gross receipts for tax years 2017 and 2018 (when Paulson renewed his business license), but not tax year 2016 or later. It is unknown if Paulson reported the same amount of consulting income to the City that he reported to the FPPC on his Form 700s, which he also signed under penalty of perjury, since gross receipts reported to the City are confidential (Gateway Consultants redacted gross receipts).
Investigation concluded; public barred from viewing report
On January 17, 2018, Alhambra City Manager, Jessica Binnquist, informed me that the city had concluded its investigation into the matter, and that outside counsel, Allison V. Saunders of Ford & Harrison, LLP, determined no wrong-doing or bias occurred with the handling of the Gateway Consultant case. However, the City was not going to release the report to the public, citing Government Code Section 6254(c): an exclusionary clause in the California Public Records Act (CPRA) pertaining to “personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Binnquist also noted that because the investigation concluded that no wrong-doing occurred, there was no need to release the report. Instead, the City released a page and a half summary of the findings, and, in so doing, outed me as the person who filed the complaint that triggered the investigation. (Note: We redacted the personal information in the above-linked summary even though the City did not)
The summary memo does not provide any information on how Saunders came to her conclusions, but she nonetheless resolves, amongst other things, that the “City treated Paulson and Gateway Consultant similar to other business owners and businesses.” The memo acknowledges that Project Manager, Janet Alvarez, at the direction of Development Services Director, Marc Castagnola, altered Paulson’s application to indicate that it was for a “Business Name Change” and not a “New Business.” Saunders was unable to determine why Castagnola requested the alteration, but nonetheless chalks it up to either ignorance or a “mistake.”
“It is not unusual, under certain circumstances (emphasis added), for a Certificate of Occupancy and a Business License to be issued to a business owner on the same day a business owner applies for each.
This is a curious statement given that it took nearly a month for Paulson to receive both once the City re-opened the Gateway Consultant case and more closely adhered to the AMC than they did the first time around.
The memo concedes that the “City does not typically go after a business for past due fees or require a business to provide documentation reflecting its rental arrangement with a property owner.” This statement is reflective of what Development Services Director Castagnola wrote to me earlier, but, again, is counter to multiple sections of Title V of the AMC, which state that the City “shall” assess penalties and interest for failure to pay a license tax when due. The AMC also has a clear commercial property rental clause for the purpose of collecting taxes.
Despite the report’s conclusions, Saunders statements are problematic in that they reveal an inconsistent policy process, which suggests bias. “Typically” is not always. Why are some businesses required to pay past due fees while others are not? Similarly, “other” is not “all.” That the City may have treated Paulson “similar to other business owners and businesses,” suggests that some businesses are treated different than others if they violate the AMC. “Under certain circumstances” extraordinary things can happen, like getting a new business license and certificate of occupancy in less than 2 business hours from the time a complaint is filed with Code Enforcement (my complaint was filed around 4:00 PM, the receipt of record shows that Paulson received his business license and certificate of occupancy at 9:12 AM the next day). What those “circumstances” are is unclear, as is whether or not Paulson’s application fell within those “circumstances.”
What is conclusive?
Mark Paulson was consulting on development projects and city contracts since at least 2009. He was doing so without a certificate of occupancy and business license in Alhambra. Mr. Paulson’s application for a new business license was altered resulting in deviations from AMC protocol. Mr. Paulson received a business license and certificate of occupancy without mandated AMC inspections. After Mr. Paulson registered his consulting business with the City of Alhambra, he amended his Form 700s to show that he had consulted on numerous projects from 2015-2016 worth at least tens of thousands of dollars in annual income.
The City did not issue a citation or fine to Mr. Paulson even though public records show that doing so is common practice for Code Enforcement. The City also appears to have not sought interest and late fees from Mr. Paulson, even though public records suggest that the City has collected such fees on numerous businesses over the last ten years that were operating without a business license—a revelation that is counter to Development Services Director, Marc Castagnola’s statement that “Past practice indicates that the Finance Department’s Business License Division does not request past fees for businesses operating prior to obtaining a valid license.”
Even though the investigative summary comes to multiple conclusions that absolve the City of impropriety, it does not relay how those conclusions were reached via corroborating evidence.
How was Paulson able to get his new business license and certificate of occupancy within 1 hour after he submitted his application (he filled out the application at 8:04 AM on 09/29/2017 and received his license and certificate at 9:12 AM the same day)?
Why does the original receipt of record show that the Development Services Dept. charged Paulson for a Fire Inspection that never occurred, and, according to Paulson’s original application, was not required? Regardless, it defies credulity that such an inspection could take place from the time Paulson filled out his application to when he received all corresponding documents an hour later. The City would also have had to verify that such an inspection took place, per the AMC, before issuing Paulson his documentation. Obviously, that did not happen. The question is, why? Consequently, Gateway Consultant did not pass its initial fire inspection after the case was re-opened.
In addition, the investigative summary does not address numerous relevant questions posed in the complaint to the city manager and city attorney.
Finally, a CPRA request for all Alhambra business license violations since 2015 lists 34 Code Enforcement cases with addresses. 1129 E. Main St., the address of Gateway Consultant, is absent from the list. Why? Another oversight?
The City is asking the public to overlook too much. Trust without verification is counter to CPRA philosophy and intent.
The public’s right to know
City Manager Binnquist alleges in her letter to me that no wrong doing occurred in the handling of Mr. Paulson’s application for a Certificate of Occupancy and New Business License—even though the City’s investigation concluded that Mr. Paulson’s application had been tampered with, resulting in significant deviations from AMC protocol. Public records also indicate that City Hall has treated other business owners and businesses different than they treated Mr. Paulson and Gateway Consultant.
Nonetheless, on the premise that the allegations in my complaint were not sustained, Ms. Binnquist and the City Attorney concluded that public disclosure of the full investigative report is not warranted. Again, trust without verification.
The City also invoked Government Code Section 6254(c) as further reason not to release the full report. I challenged the City’s use of Gov. Code Section 6254(c) in this instance but was informed by Ms. Binnquest that the City had made its decision and would not comment further on the matter (or release the full report).
The public’s right to know how its government conducts business, especially when an elected official or public employee of high rank and policing power are involved, take precedence over most else. There are some exceptions, but in those instances protected information (which is clearly outlined in the CPRA) can be redacted in order to prevent nondisclosure of otherwise public material. The section of the law Alhambra City Hall is relying upon for not disclosing the report pertains to “personnel, medical, and similar files,” things that were unlikely part of the report, but could nonetheless be redacted.
Despite City Manager Binnquist’s invocation of privacy rights as reason not to disclose the full investigative report into the handling of Mr. Paulson’s business license, the City of Alhambra appears to have violated my privacy rights when they released my personal information through CPRA requests and in its summary investigative report to the public.
Alhambra Code Enforcement states on its website that “All reports are handled confidentially.” In addition, Alhambra City Clerk, Lauren Myles, has confirmed that it is standard practice for the City not to release the names, addresses, and contact information of complainants, stating that the practice “is consistent with the City of San Jose v. San Jose Mercury News (1999) 71 Cal. App.4th 1008, case as well as the League of California Cities Guide to the California Public Records Act.”
However, the California Attorney General’s Office wrote in a 2004 CPRA compendious that “Exempt material must not be disclosed to any member of the public if the material is to remain exempt from disclosure. Once material has been disclosed to a member of the public, it generally is available upon request to any and all members of the public.” Hence, my disclosure in this article that I filed the complaints that triggered the Gateway Consultant investigation, something I would have preferred not to have done in order to protect sources and methods as well as myself from potential retaliation.
Why it matters
Public trust is paramount to the efficacy of democracy. That trust is contingent upon transparency and accountability. If a democratic government grants exceptions to constitutional/chartered checks and balances then privilege snowballs and corruption becomes institutionalized.
If certain people of power are being afforded undue privileges at Alhambra City Hall then the public has a right to know why, to what extent, and to what end. City Hall simply telling the public, “trust us,” we found no wrong in how we operate or engage with current and former elected officials who are profiting from planning commission and city council votes when the record suggests otherwise is no more adequate than big banks telling the public after a financial crisis, “trust us,” we investigated ourselves and found no wrong doing.
Mark R. Paulson sat for 12 years on the Alhambra City Council, sat on the Alhambra Planning Commission before that, was the Chairman for the recently dissolved Successor Agency Oversight Board to the Alhambra Redevelopment Agency, and is an 11 year Board Director for the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District. His son, Chris Paulson, until recently, was the Alhambra Community Services Director, and the Director of Administrative Services before that.
In October, ColoradoBoulevard.net reported on e-mails between Mark Paulson and city management in which Paulson attempts to orchestrate city council meetings surrounding a development project he is consulting on. Another email, in reference to community members who opposed a development project that Paulson was working on, revealed him stating to Deputy Director of Community Development, Vanessa Reynoso, “We don’t want the malcontents to think they got another win.” And yet another email revealed that Paulson had ghost written a letter of praise for the mayor to send to the developer of a major project in Alhambra that Paulson was consulting on.
All of this suggests that Mark Paulson, even though he left the city council in 2006, maintains a great deal of access and influence at Alhambra City Hall, more so than most people. That he is profiting because of that access and influence—while he is an elected County official—raises the prospect of potential nepotism and malfeasance via the “revolving door:” those who now profit from the industries they once regulated as elected leaders or government officials.
Mark R. Paulson is now, and has been for years, a paid consultant for people and entities that seek approval and gains from Alhambra City hall. This is not illegal in and of itself, but hiding it from city hall (some might say in broad daylight) and from the FPPC is illegal. Being evasive about it to the public and the press when asked is devious. This, in addition to Paulson’s decades in elected office, make it hard to believe that all of this was a simple oversight on Paulson’s part. City management’s want to sweep the mater under the rug while being non-transparent and misrepresenting facts (i.e. “allegations were not sustained” when in fact they were: Paulson’s application was mishandled and AMC protocol was not followed) suggests duplicity and/or willful ignorance on the City’s part.
These are precisely the matters of public interest for which the CPRA was instituted. The City should release the full investigative report regarding Gateway Consultant, be wholly transparent in their interactions with Mr. Paulson, take responsibility for any impropriety, and take action to ensure that process is clear and consistent with city code and that people of power and privilege will not be granted undue influence, access, or favoritism at city hall.
January 9, 2019
Property managers may now be required to get a business license
Source: KIMA TV; www.kimatv.com
By Delmy Moran
YAKIMA, Wa. -- If you’re renting or leasing out homes or apartments you now may need to get a business license or be breaking the law.
As of Tuesday, the Washington State Legislature is requiring cities to adopt new language on business licenses.
Yakima City Spokesperson Randy Beehler says anyone who rents or leases property and makes more than $12,000 a year from rent or lease income needs to get a business license.
“It helps us tract that for a number of different reasons not the least of which is economic activity in town. It just gives us an inside into what’s going on and then we can provide services that meet the needs of that community," said Beehler.
Beehler says this means businesses who did not need a license before may need to get it now.
The state mandated cities expand the definition or engaging in business which now includes renting or leasing office buildings, apartments, duplexes, houses and much more.
Business Owner of EZ Fix Smart Phone Repair Johnny Rosales says it is a good idea to have this new change so that everyone can be accountable for their business no matter what type it is.
“In a way its good because they’ll be able to keep track of any business or all business that’s going on in Yakima, pretty much if you’re making money the city wants to be a part of it," Rosales.
In the fall of last year, the Yakima City Council followed the new state law and approved revisions to the city’s business license regulations.
Beehler says businesses doing business within the city but are located elsewhere are exempt from needing to pay the fee but still need a city issued license.
For more information on the new business license language click here: https://www.codepublishing.com/WA/Yakima/.
December 27, 2018
Summerville's Kelly's BBQ owner arrested, charged with operating without business license
Source: ABC News 4; www.abcnews4.com
By Drew Tripp
State revenuers have arrested the owner of a recently closed Summerville barbecue restaurant, charging him with operating without a business license.
The S.C. Dept. of Revenue (DOR) announced Thursday it arrested William Percy Kelly, Jr., owner of Kelly's BBQ in Summerville.
Kelly, 56, is charged with one count of operating a business without a valid license, DOR officials say . If convicted, Kelly faces up to $200 in fines and the possibility of 30 days in jail.
The DOR says it revoked Kelly's retail business license for his restaurant after he allegedly failed to file sales and corporate tax returns, and also reportedly failed to remit sales and withholding taxes.
Revenuers twice cited Kelly for operating without a license after warning him of the penalties he would face, the DOR says.
Kelly's BBQ announced it was closing the restaurant portion of its business in early November, but said it would continue catering.
In a statement posted at the time on social media and the restaurant's website, ownership said "After 41 years, we think its time to cut back a little and enjoy life."
Kelly was being held Thursday in in jail at the Dorchester County Detention Center pending a bond hearing.
December 18, 2018
Keyser to target out-of-town businesses with no city license
Source: Mineral Daily News-Tribune; www.newstribune.info
By Liz Beavers | [email protected] | Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Out-of-town vendors who do business within the Keyser city limits will soon be asked to purchase a city business license and pay B&O taxes just like those businesses located in the city.
The Keyser City Council voted this week to contract with a company called Datamax to help identify those businesses that are coming into the city to sell merchandise or services but are not licensed to do so.
According to city ordinances, any business or individual doing business within the city limits must: 1. Obtain a business license and 2. Pay a Business and Occupation tax of 25 cents per $100.
According to city administrator Buck Eagle, “there is no cash outlay on the part of the city” to contract with the company to seek out those businesses not complying with the ordinances.
“Any businesses they identify and collect B&O tax ... Datamax gets half and we get half for two years. After that, the city gets 100 percent,” he said.
Council member Eric Murphy called the proposal “a good move forward.“
Council member Terry Liller said he agreed with the proposal, but also wondered if the officials wouldn’t get some criticism for splitting the taxes with the company.
“The citizens of Keyser, who we represent, could come to us and say that (money) belongs to the city,” he said.
Council member Jennifer Junkins, however, questioned how splitting the money with the company would be any different than paying a city employee to do the investigation.
The officials said they believe there are a lot of out-of-town businesses out there who “know they should have a license ... but have been getting away with it.“
Eagle was asked to contact some of the other municipalities to see how satisfied they have been with the program, and Murphy made a motion to contract with Datamax to pursue the businesses ... pending a positive response from those other cities.
Finance commissioner Mike Ryan seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
December 11, 2018
City of Ardmore staff to propose business license ordinance
Source: The Daily Ardmoreite; www.ardmoreite.com
By Drew Butler / [email protected]
Community Development Director Jessica Scott is currently working on an ordinance to require all businesses to receive a license from the city. She hopes to present it to the city commission for approval in January.
The licensing would require a minimal fee, but Scott emphasized the fee would not be a penalty but something fair. The entire purpose of the proposed ordinance would be to help the citizens of Ardmore.
There is no business license in the city at all, and that’s difficult,” Scott said. “There’s no inspection to even ensure that the building is safe — there’s nothing. So we’re going to change that.“
Scott also added that the ordinance can help act as protection to prevent scammers, using an example of an unscrupulous “roofer” who takes a deposit and never returns.
“Right now, there is nothing I can do to track them. I have no way to know,” Scott said. “At least if they had a license from the city, you can ask to see their license. If they have one, we would have all their contact information.“
Scott said she has been reaching out to businesses currently operating within the city, and that so far she has had no objections.
“I’ve started throwing it out there to some of the businesses that we deal with, and they all think it’s a great idea,” Scott said. “I’ve talked to different types of businesses and they all agree.“
She went on to say that the ordinance would not interfere with the way the vast majority of businesses operate.
“An attorney once told me that any ordinance is written for three percent of the population because 97 percent of the people aren’t violating anything and wouldn’t,” Scott said. “But there’s always that three percent that just need a little bit of help.“
Scott said that while the fate of the proposed ordinance rests with the city commission, she will recommend that the ordinance be passed.
“I think we’ve needed it for awhile,” Scott said. “We’re getting larger, the population is increasing and there are more businesses every day.”
November 27, 2018
Regulators recommend for California winery to lose licenses
Source: The News Tribune; www.thenewstribune.com
By The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has recommended for a California winery to lose its licenses to distribute wine or do retail business within the state.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports commission executive director Steven Marks sent a letter to the owner of Rutherford, California,-based Copper Cane LLC, saying multiple violations of Oregon labeling regulations were found.
The winery was accused of putting misleading labels on wines to make it appear they were produced in Oregon.
Regulations require labels to list Oregon as only the appellation of origin when the grapes cross into California.
Owner Joe Wagner says new Copper Cane labels will clearly state that the grapes are grown in Oregon and the wines are made in California.
The winery has until Dec. 20 to request a hearing on the commission charges.
November 19, 2018
Area professionals challenge business license proposal
Source: The Enterprise Ledger | Dotham Eagle; www.dothaneagle.com/enterprise_ledger/news
By Josh Richards
Two individual public hearings were held on Tuesday, Nov. 13, regarding the possibility of increasing business license fees to support the cost of running the city.
At the second hearing, held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Enterprise Civic Center, many area professionals discussed the proposed increase with council members and representatives from PREMA Corp, a firm hired by the city to analyze and collect business license fees.
Attorney Paul Young asked if the city currently had a budget shortfall.
Councilman Turner Townsend said the recently-passed budget was balanced but did not include any money for capital projects, which include repaving projects and purchasing new equipment for city departments. Projected currently planned include a proposed recreation center and a repaving project.
Attorney Carmen Howell said the city should consider alternatives such as Sunday alcohol sales to fund capital projects, rather than putting the burden “on the backs of businesses” in the community.
Both Howell and Young agreed another stipulation of the proposal, a gross receipt requirement, was not welcomed, considering the nature of attorney-client privilege or doctor-patient confidentiality.
“I don’t think that’s anybody’s business,” Young said. “I think the doctors and the lawyers feel the same way.”
Per Townsend’s proposal and PREMA Corp’s recommendation, fees would be based on rate schedules and gross receipt percentages.
“If you establish whatever your top bracket is on a professional license and somebody walks in and writes a check for that -- $500 or whatever it is -- then I don’t see why in the world they should have to turn over their gross receipts,” Young said. “… I resent the fact that anybody wants that.”
Howell said the Alabama State Bar doesn’t require that information from attorneys, and it should also be considered that area professionals do not charge sales tax on their services.
“First of all, I apologize if ya’ll resent that,” Townsend said. “(With) my business … we’ve been reporting gross receipts for 42 years … I did not understand that would be an offensive suggestion.”
Townsend said, under the proposal, every professional operating in a firm or medical practice would be under one business license, rather than being required to obtain individual licenses, effectively saving money.
Howell said while her business license fee might be a minor increase -- Townsend said it could be as low as $12 in her case -- she was not convinced that the council had not considered alternatives that would not affect the business community.
Dr. Beverly Jordan, a physician in Enterprise and president of the city’s medical society, said she was concerned an increase would affect physicians in a community already experiencing a shortage.
“…When we see additional fees … and (making us) subjects to audits of gross receipts, these things are all impediments to recruiting new physicians,” she said. “I have to remind (physicians) of the businesses we have … The big box stores, the great hometown stores. We don’t want to do anything to lose those types of businesses, because that’s a big part of what keeps physicians in and recruits physicians to our community.”
She said data shows every physician placed in a community brings two million worth of revenue because of nurses, medications, pharmacy and business support.
Per the proposal, no business would see more than a 15 percent increase next year, except for restaurants generating more than $1.75 million and retail and auto dealers earning more than $5 million.
Vickers said fees have not been adjusted in over 40 years, and Councilman Eugene Goolsby reminded everyone that capital expenditures included replacing worn out equipment throughout the city.
Many residents, at both hearings, asked for greater clarification of proposed changes and a precise definition of gross receipts.
The council has made no official proposal, as Townsend’s proposal was intended as reference. No action has been taken.
If a new business license ordinance is approved, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
November 12, 2018
California begins issuing full annual marijuana business licenses
Source: Marijuana Business Daily; www.mjbizdaily.com
By John Schroyer
California has issued its first full annual cannabis business permits, doling out two recreational cultivation licenses to Forbidden Fruit Farms in Humboldt County as well as one recreational and medicinal manufacturing permit to Om Edibles in the Bay Area.
The cultivation licenses were issued over the weekend by the state Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the manufacturing permit on Monday by the Department of Public Health (CDPH).
This marks the first wave of annual permits for the vast majority of California’s marijuana companies – although a handful of annual MJ event permits had already been issued.
Until now, cannabis businesses have been operating with temporary licenses as the state prepared to implement a full annual licensing system. Many of those temporary permits are set to expire in the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman for the CDFA said the two new permits are the first of many to be issued on a rolling basis. CDFA is reviewing a total of 2,547 annual permit applications it had received as of Oct. 29, while CDPH has received 373 annual applications for manufacturers, spokespeople for the agencies said.
The California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) – which oversees permitting for retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses – may begin issuing full annual licenses as soon as Nov. 1, a spokesman said.
The issuance of annual permits also triggers new inventory tracking and reporting requirements, which could lead to more industry headaches because companies will need to familiarize themselves with that process.
November 8, 2018
South Fulton, GA
Still-burning landfill has been operating illegally, state says
Source: Channel 2 Action News - Atlanta; www.wsbtv.com
By Nefertiti Jaquez
SOUTH FULTON, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned that a landfill that has been burning for more than a month, has been running illegally.
We first told you last week how the landfill that has been making city of South Fulton neighbors sick since it started burning in September. The landfill continues to smolder.
Since her first report last week, Channel 2’s Nefertiti Jaquez has learned that The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is investigating the site for running an unpermitted solid waste handling operation.
“We have to get the owner to uncover whatever’s down there, so we can, again, go in and pour copious amounts of water,” the city’s fire chief said Tuesday night.
While Gina Yielding is happy that we told her the city, county and state are investigating, she’s worried about her family's health because the air quality has deteriorated since NewsChopper 2 captured the fiery scene above Bishop Road last month.
When Jaquez spoke to the city’s fire chief Tuesday, he, too, wasn’t clear if the fire contained hazardous material.
So before he sends his people in, the owner is being forced to sort that out.
"We have to get the owner to go in an uncover whatever is down there so we can go in there (and) pour copious amounts of water, said Fire Chief Larry Few with the city of South Fulton Fire Department.
When we showed the site last week, it appeared crews using heavy equipment were doing just that.
The problem was that this was after Jaquez confirmed the owner does not have a state permit to operate a landfill.
Jaquez contacted the Georgia Environmental Protection Division who released this statement, which said:
“It was a recycling facility, but evolved into an unpermitted solid waste handling operation. The owner has been uncooperative and we are now working on formal enforcement action to bring the facility into compliance with state rules and law.”
When Channel 2 Action News repeatedly asked the city and county to provide us with the owner’s actual business license, the city told us to reach out the county -- and vice versa.
State records show the owner filed for registration in 2004 and that his status was dissolved in 2017 after he stopped paying his annual registration fee.
In 2018, he filed for a new registration for a different company at the same address.
But when we searched the county’s website it showed the current property tax information for the address is “Residential 1 family.”
November 4, 2018
Medical marijuana businesses without a state license will be shut down on Thursday
Source: Michigan Radio; www.michiganradio.org
By Laura Michels
People in Michigan who use medical marijuana may have a difficult time getting their medicine after Thursday.
Monday was the last day for medical marijuana businesses to potentially receive a state license. That’s because the state board in charge of granting licenses held its final meeting before an October 31st deadline. Businesses that didn’t receive the state’s blessing will be shut down on Thursday.
Linda Smith’s Haslett business helps people get medical marijuana cards. She’s says the threat of shutdowns has her patients worried about getting their medicine.
“There is a tremendous amount of anxiety on the part of the patients because they rely on the provisioning centers,” she says.
State officials say there are close to 300,000 medical marijuana patients in Michigan.
So far, the state has granted 37 provisioning center licenses from close to 200 applications.
Andrew Brisbo is the director of the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation. He says he’s confident patients will get what they need.
“I feel comfortable with the licenses we’ve approved at this point that there is a fully functioning market in the state,” he says.
People who didn’t receive a state license on Monday have an opportunity to be approved at the next medical marijuana licensing board meeting on November 8.
October 31, 2018
Maywood Grocery Faces Possible Suspension Of Business License
Source: the village free press; www.thevillagefreepress.org
By Michael Romain
During a regular meeting on Oct. 16, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to direct staff and the village attorney to conduct a hearing regarding the suspension of the business license of Maywood Grocery, 1113 Madison St. in Maywood. Trustee Ron Rivers was absent.
Michael Jurusik, the village’s attorney, said in a memo that the business “has never applied for or been issued tobacco license from the village, but continues to sell tobacco products.”
Jurusik said that the village previously “recommended not taking action on” the business’ license, but “rather recommended further code enforcement efforts to determine if the business was continuing to sell tobacco products.”
Jurusik said that Maywood Grocery incurred two violations this year for selling unstamped tobacco products with no license and has failed to appear at the code enforcement hearing for either violation. Both fines total around $2,000.
The hearing will be conducted in front of Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Jurusik said. VFP
July 17, 2018
Airbnb rental home shut down for lack of business license
Source: The Troy Messenger; www.troymessenger.com
By Jacob Holmes
Matt West says he “was caught off guard” by the need to secure a business license before renting his home on Airbnb.
West, who owns a three-bedroom home on Spradley Drive in the Country Club neighborhood, said he was unaware of any zoning issues or the need to get a business license when he began renting his home on the Airbnb website about a year ago.
City Clerk Alton Starling said West has been sent a cease and desist letter to stop the rental of the home.
“I had no clue that I would need a business license,” West said. “This kind of caught me off guard. I’m working right now on trying to straighten it out.”
Confusion over city regulations regarding home rentals surfaced in recent weeks, with the opening of The Station, a property specifically designed for short-term rentals located in downtown Troy. That property falls within allowed zoning ordinances, but city officials have discovered other rental listings which do not have business licenses or proper zoning exemptions.
For example, West’s home is located in R1 (low residential) zoning, which Troy planning and zoning administrator Melissa Sanders said has no allowance for short-term rental situations, called a tourist home.
A tourist home is defined in the zoning ordinance as a “single-family dwelling rented or leased for short-term accommodations for terms of no less than two nights nor more than six months. Such properties are typically single-family homes that vacationers can rent and occupy as if it were their own home for the duration of their stay. Such homes must still conform to occupancy requirements and regulations for the district in which they are located. For the purpose of these provisions, holiday cottages, holiday homes or vacation properties shall be considered a tourist home.”
“RR (reserved residential) zoning and R3 (high-residential) zoning both have provisions for allowing a tourist home on exception,” Sanders said. Examples of RR neighborhoods include Oak Park, Prospect Ridge and Palos Verdes, while R3 zoning includes Hubbard Street, Aster Avenue, Dunbar Drive, South Knox Street and Folmar Street.
“R1 and R2 (medium residential) zoning do not have those provisions,” Sanders said. Examples of R1 neighborhoods include Second Avenue, University Avenue, Magnolia Street, Country Club, Forest Circle and Murphree Street. R2 neighborhoods include Montgomery Street, Segars Street and Orion Street
In R3 zoning, rooming, tourist, and boarding houses can be permitted on appeal only if the floor area for such proposed use shall not exceed 75 percent of the total floor area of the residence.
Although R1 and R2 zoning have no provisions allowing tourist homes, Sanders said any resident can come before the board of adjustments to make a request for the designation. The approval process would include a public hearing, and that adjustment exemption would be required before a business license is issued.
In addition to the zoning requirements, city officials have said Airbnb owners need a business license to operate, which is required for any business conducted within the city limits. Starling said lodging tax must also be collected by those in the business of renting out a home.
West said his home, a three-bedroom residence, had typically been rented out for several weeks at a time.
“I’ve mainly rented it out over 30 to 45 days,” West said. “(Airbnb) is filling a need for people travelling with a large family, giving them a space to all be together and cook meals, not having to go out for everything or staying in multiple rooms in a hotel. It’s a different niche.”
West’s home was one of four Troy homes recently listed on Airbnb, a popular website that offers peer-to-peer short-term rental homes.
Two of the other residences are downtown, which allows for rental homes. Another home on Trojan Way, listed as the Trojan Lodge, received special approval as a short-term vacation home and event venue in 2014, before the city created the tourist home definition in 2015.
Sanders said city officials are still researching how other cities have approached the regulation of Airbnb homes and other similar rental properties.
“We are still looking into Airbnbs (and similar rentals),” Sanders said. “It’s relatively new and other cities have looked into this … I know that Tuscaloosa amended their zoning ordinance in July of 2017 to regulate them … With anything new and outside the box, we have to research it to make sure we’re doing what’s best for our city as a whole.”
The Airbnb company was founded in 2008 in San Francisco and has grown into a worldwide network of short-term rental homes. The company has more than 5 million lodging listings on its website – and it doesn’t own any of them. Instead, individual homeowners contact Airbnb to become a host home – the company collects a 3 percent host service fee and a guest services fee of up to 20 percent for the stay.
May 8, 2018
Los Angeles, CA
Escape from Los Angeles: Marijuana businesses leave as city struggles to roll out legal market
Source: Marijuana Business Daily; www.mjbizdaily.com
By John Schroyer
Marijuana companies are fleeing Los Angeles, a setback for what is arguably the biggest cannabis market in the world.
Industry executives blame city officials and their inability to approve business licenses in a timely manner.
Just ask Kenny Morrison. A decade after founding his cannabis edibles business and finding success in the iconic Venice Beach area of Los Angeles, Morrison recently moved his VCC Brands to Northern California.
He quit the City of Angels at the start of 2018, he told Marijuana Business Daily, for the same reason “dozens” of other edibles makers, growers and other cannabis businesses have fled: They haven’t been able to get municipal licenses to operate in the fully legal California market.
“To stay alive. To stay in the game,” Morrison responded via email when asked why he left Los Angeles
He said he now holds manufacturing and distribution licenses in Oakland.
Morrison, who started his business as the Venice Cookie Company in 2008, is a prime example of the many problems facing the marijuana industry in California’s largest municipality.
The city has been struggling for over a year to establish industry regulations and to bring thousands of existing operators into the legal – and taxed – business world.
‘New gray area'
As of the last week of April, only 139 companies had received business licenses from Los Angeles. Any cannabis companies without permits that are still doing business are technically illegal and risking the wrath of both city and state regulators.
“There’s not a lot of operators in L.A. that are flush and doing well right now, whether licensed or unlicensed,” said Adam Spiker, the executive director of the Los Angeles-based Southern California Coalition, which has been working with city officials for months to craft regulations.
“You could call it the new gray area. The gray area before was operating under (the state’s previous medical marijuana law) but against local policy. But now, the new gray area is operating in the transition to regulation. I mean, that’s what this really is.”
The businesses that have been licensed are all longstanding dispensaries that qualified for priority licensing under a complicated set of rules approved last year, first by voters and then the city council.
Many of those are vertically integrated businesses that also have cultivation or manufacturing licenses – as well as retail permits – from the state.
According to the California Department of Public Health, for instance, 31 companies have obtained cannabis manufacturing permits within Los Angeles.
And even those that are licensed “aren’t doing well” in terms of sales, Spiker said, based on what he’s hearing through the industry grapevine.
“I hear a lot of different spectrums, some down 15%, some down 40%, since the switch flipped Jan. 1,” Spiker added.
He predicted that if the licensing process doesn’t accelerate soon, many companies could go out of business or sell to out-of-state interests.
“If they’re bled dry now, you’re just going to see a bunch of outside money come in and they’re going to buy these (businesses) for 20 cents on the dollar,” Spiker said.
“And then you have a bunch of outside money controlling big chunks of L.A. And I don’t think that’s good for anyone.”
Suppliers – including freestanding growers and edibles makers that don’t have retail divisions – have not yet even been able to apply for business permits in Los Angeles during the second phase of licensing.
That process was supposed to begin earlier this year and end April 1 – after the first round of licensing for priority dispensaries was completed – but it hasn’t happened yet.
Questions abound about how the rest of the licensing process will play out, and there hasn’t been any word from the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) on when the next phase of permitting will start.
Following suppliers in the licensing process are social equity applicants – minorities and those in L.A.’s cannabis sector who were affected by the war on drugs – and, finally, other companies that want to get a piece of the city’s marijuana industry.
But that could be months away, based on how long it’s taken the city to issue priority licenses.
The DCR and mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
But the lag could stem from the cannabis agency having only four employees, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported. The DCR’s staff is slated to be beefed up to 28, the Times reported, but that’s still in the works.
Such uncertainty is the impetus for operators like Morrison to relocate, said Ariel Clark, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force, another industry group.
“It’s all for naught if you can’t get locally licensed,” she said, “and in a lot of these jurisdictions, the entire process is incredibly complex and expensive.
“I look at next year as crunch time. So, if seven or eight months from now we’re in the same place, this is a massive problem.”
Clark emphasized that the city’s marijuana regulations aren’t completely finished.
She also acknowledged that, because the social equity program hasn’t been finalized, a lot of uncertainty remains as to how many companies may ultimately receive business permits in Los Angeles.
“These are big questions that we still don’t know about,” Clark said.
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]
April 24, 2018
St. Joseph, GA
Local liquor license laws change
Source: Neighbor News Online; www.mdjonline.com/neighbor_newspapers
By Brendan Welch, News-Press Now
At its first meeting on Monday, the new City Council of St. Joseph approved changes to the city’s Code of Ordinances regarding when a certain liquor license is required.
The changes mean a Consumption of Liquor License (COL) is required when food, beverages or entertainment are sold or provided for compensation, including a charge at the door, and “drinking or consumption of intoxicating liquor occurs in the premises.”
Council Member Madison Davis said the changes don’t really mean new rules, as they mirror the already existing state laws.
“If you have a business in which you allow people to drink on premise and you charge people to enter at the door, the way the alcohol inspector from the State of Missouri has indicated is that currently is a requirement,” Davis said. “You have a consumption of liquor license allowing you to charge people to enter the door and consume alcohol on the premises.”
The council approved the change unanimously at Monday night’s meeting, but it already had been postponed once and amended twice in the last two months.
Davis said he voted for the change because it will get the city in line with state statutes.
“The intent behind the ordinance that was passed was to implement a state law that’s already on the books and has been on the books for some time into a city ordinance as well,” Davis said.
When the ordinance was first introduced, Rodney Green, the operator of Planet Hip Hop rental hall on St. Joseph Avenue, was opposed because he felt that the law was aimed directly at his business.
“Is the purpose just to stop me from doing after hours for whatever reason?” Green said in an interview at the beginning of the month. “These are grown people coming in here having a good time doing what they want to do, and all of a sudden now, that’s a problem.”
He also said the original ordinance did not mirror state laws and caused confusion.
Davis, who represents the district that Planet Hip Hop is located in, said that Green was present at a work session last week where the law was discussed and a new amendment was decided on.
“We substituted to take out the language that he didn’t agree with, that wasn’t matching (state law),” Davis said. “The ordinance that was passed matches the state law as it is written.”
Some changes were made with the language of the state law in order to fit city needs.
Clauses that did not pertain to St. Joseph enforcement were removed, and authority given to the state supervisor of alcohol and tobacco control in the statute was given to the city manager in the city’s code.
These authorities allow the city manager or a designee to prescribe and receive applications for COL licenses.
The council passed all of the items on their first agenda except for four that relate to zoning code changes and definitions for tiny homes, small homes, shipping container homes and lot splitting.
Those ordinances were postponed until July 2 so that a work session could be held.
Brendan Welch can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.
April 12, 2018
Good Hope, AL
Good Hope creating business license for door-to-door sales
Source: The Cullman Times; www.cullmantimes.com
By Tyler Hanes
GOOD HOPE — The City of Good Hope is considering a change to its business license ordinance that would create a separate license for door-to-door sales.
City Clerk Christie Chamblee brought the suggestion to the City Council during its meeting Monday night after receiving a business license application from Vector Marketing Corporation, a door-to-door knife sales company.
The license for Vector will be approved as the ordinance is currently written, but there could be a separate license that peddlers or door-to-door sales companies would have to apply for, she said.
"We can definitely make our ordinance more stringent," she said.
Chamblee said many other cities have a separate license for door-to-door sales that are more strict and cost more money, including the City of Cullman, which has a door-to-door business license that costs $500 per day.
The City Council agreed that there should be a change made that was more in line with other cities.
"I think it needs to be a daily thing," Councilman John Harris said.
City Attorney Rita Nicholas said she would prepare an amended ordinance that would make the requested changes.
March 13, 2018
Sault Ste. Marie
Special Liquor Licenses Incentivize New Business, New Development in Sault Ste. Marie
Source: 9&10 News; www.9and10news.com
By Aaron Parseghian, Matthew Myers
For new businesses obtaining a liquor license can be a struggle, but the city commission in Sault Ste. Marie is making sure two new businesses will be able to get a special license.
It’s part of a state program that allows businesses with plans to rehab historic buildings to apply for what’s called a “redevelopment liquor license.”
Historic downtown Sault Ste. Marie, at the moment, is historically slow, many of the buildings remain empty.
The city is hoping these special issue liquor licenses can help make the downtown a place to be.
“You do have four, five key spaces that are downtown that are not utilized because of the cost to fix them up and the fact that you’re limited in what you can do,” Craig Cooper, said.
Alcohol can’t solve your problems, but in the Sault, it could help solve the problem of empty storefronts and wasted space.
“I believe there is potential but right now it needs some help,” LSSU Student Mikaela Matheny, said.
Craig Cooper is hoping to help turn things around, he’s applying for one of the licenses.
“I was always one of those people, like, why can’t we have this, why can’t we have that, why can’t we fix up our downtown? I finally said you know what? I’m not going to talk about it anymore I’m going to do it,” Cooper, explained.
He’s turning this old furniture store on Ashmun Street into an upscale cigar lounge and bar.
“When you travel, when you enjoy cigars and whiskey like I do, one of the first things you look for is a cigar lounge you go and sit down and relax,” Cooper, added.
The other license is going to Abby Baker.
The city commissioner wants to start a farm to table bakery, breakfast and brunch spot, inside an old mechanic’s shop.
‘It had sat empty for 7 years before I purchased it,” Abby, said.
Abby says the redevelopment license is the only reason her business plans are possible.
It’s going to cost a whole lot to revamp a 100 year old building, but spirit or spirts, will certainly help.
“To put as much money as I’m going to be put into this business, being able to offer liquor and spirits and beer to my customers will help generate some revenue. I’m excited to be offering a bloody mary and mimosa and all the fun drinks that we are coming up with,” Abby, added.
Both businesses we spoke to are still in the application process so it will be another three to six months before their licenses are approved by the state.
February 28, 2018
San Francisco, CA
SF sues state over Uber business license law
Source: San Francisco Examiner; www.sfexaminer.com
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) issued a statement responding to San Francisco’s lawsuit against the state.
“SB 182 is a straightforward measure that I authored to protect all Californians, who work as [ride-hail] drivers, from dubious taxes and fees,” Bradford said. “Many of these drivers are part-time and working multiple jobs to survive. This is a frivolous lawsuit and terrible waste of taxpayer money. This law simply treats [ride-hail] drivers as most businesses which require a single business license to operate, and assures that the personal information of drivers remain private.”
Original story follows
San Francisco is challenging a new state law allowing Uber and Lyft drivers to avoid obtaining business licenses in every city in which they operate, calling it a “special exemption” and a “carve out.”
City Attorney Dennis Herrera on Thursday filed suit against the state of California to invalidate aspects of Senate Bill 182, which allows Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain only one business license in a California city, as opposed to a business license in every city they pick up passengers in.
The suit was filed in conjunction with the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which itself has filed more than 25 legal missives challenging regulations of Uber and Lyft with the companies’ state regulators. The San Francisco agencies are seeking to restore local fees and local control.
Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 182, introduced by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), into law last year. Before the law went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, about 21,000 drivers had registered with San Francisco, generating around $1.9 million in fees annually, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
In a statement, Herrera said Uber and Lyft carved out a “special exemption” for their drivers from a law that everyone in the state must follow, from “dog walkers” to Google.
“Uber and Lyft need to play by the same rules as every other business in San Francisco,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said. “Out-of-town drivers are choking our streets as their corporate overseers design ways to stiff City taxpayers when it comes to congestion, road repair and traffic safety costs. We are going to ensure everyone pays their fair share.”
San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros blasted Uber and Lyft, and said their effort to pass a state law to circumvent local business licenses “undermines” San Francisco’s authority “and shows that well financed, politically connected industries can write their own rules at the state level.”
Lyft responded to the suit, and in a statement, the company highlighted the need to protect driver privacy.
“Lyft drivers and the overwhelming majority of legislators from both parties supported these improvements to modernize the law and preserve the benefits and economic opportunities ridesharing provides,” wrote a Lyft spokesperson, in a statement. “Many local business licenses, including those from the City of San Francisco, require the public posting of drivers’ personal information online, creating serious safety and privacy concerns for Californians who use Lyft to earn extra income.”
Uber also recently fired back at Cisneros, saying the Treasurer’s Office posted private information of its ride-hail drivers including their home addresses. Those addresses were submitted by Uber and Lyft drivers for their business registration, which is listed publicly by the Treasurer’s Office.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Cisneros, Uber Northern California General Manager Eric Schroeder urged Cisneros to remove driver data from the Treasurer’s Office website.
“We are aware that the city website managed by your office continues to publicly display the private information of [ride-hail] drivers in violation of the recently enacted California state law,” Schroeder wrote.
The City Attorney’s Office contends that private identifiable information is not required for a business license. Instead, ride-hail drivers can use a P.O. Box to register, for example. Cisneros’ office has said there are “serious concerns about the validity of the law.”
February 22, 2018
Smith Valley, NV
Heller ran revenue-rich Smith Valley farm without a business license, until asked about it
Source: Reno Gazette Journal; amp.rgj.com
By James Dehaven | [email protected]
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has made and sold plenty of hay out of his 180-acre farm in Smith Valley over the past several years.
He didn’t have a business license to do so until last week. Nor was he granted an exemption to operate the multimillion-dollar alfalfa spread without that paperwork, a Reno Gazette Journal review of public records reveals.
Under state law, failure to obtain and renew a Nevada business license is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines, collectable by a district attorney or the state attorney general.
But Heller — who spent more than a decade overseeing business filings as Nevada’s secretary of state between 1995 and 2007 — said he doesn't need a license because his farm is a household business that has never turned a profit.
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske’s office did not confirm or deny that explanation, offering only that the office “does not make a determination of when an entity is conducting business in Nevada.” That determination is made by the person conducting the business, said spokeswoman Jennifer Russell.
Heller, in any case, filed for a sole proprietor business license on Feb. 5, the same day the RGJ first contacted the secretary of state with questions about his farm’s business license.
Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor said that in obtaining the license, Heller and his wife Lynne “went the extra mile — even though they were not legally required to do so.”
Taylor said the decision to seek the license was made “when it became clear that national Democrats were pitching stories attacking their family farm.”
The farm, purchased from a Heller campaign donor in 2010, generated at least $169,000 in total income between 2011 and 2016, according to U.S. Senate financial disclosures.
Yet the senior senator — who reported assets worth up to $9.8 million in 2016 — never turned a profit while farming the 120 acres he has in production, said Heller accountant Brian Colodny.
Colodny, writing in a statement relayed by Heller’s office, said the lack of profits meant the farm did not meet the state’s definition of a business required to carry a license.
In a phone interview, he said he wasn’t at liberty to elaborate further on the farm’s profitability or expenses.
State Sen. James Settelmeyer, another GOP politician and hay farmer, said he, like Heller, runs his farm from his home, albeit with a business license.
Fellow Republican state Sen. Pete Goicoechea also holds a license for his much larger farming and ranching operation, if only out of an abundance of caution.
Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he talked the matter over with the secretary of state before deciding the license was worth a roughly $200 annual renewal fee.
"I don't really think I needed one, I just didn't want the scrutiny," Goicoechea explained. "These things are a public record."
Heller’s office did not answer questions about why he didn’t seek out an annual, state-mandated exemption from state business license requirements.
Nevada law requires applications from business owners who, like Heller, claim to be exempt from state registration requirements.
But Heller likely didn’t need to file that paperwork, said Bill Bilyeu, the former state lawmaker and attorney who first advised Heller against getting a license.
In fact, Bilyeu isn’t sure such documents exist, despite a variety of exemption forms produced by the Secretary of State.
“I’d like to see the form before I gave any opinion,” Bilyeu added.
The Secretary of State’s office makes three types of business license exemption forms available on its website, including applications for sole proprietorships, general partnerships and other entities that don’t fall into either of the first two categories.
The office did not directly answer questions about whether Heller should have filled out one of those forms.
The Nevada Department of Agriculture confirmed Heller, as a hay farmer, is not required to get a state agriculture producer’s certificate. Smith Valley hay farmers don’t need county business credentials either, according to the Lyon County clerk and treasurer’s office. Officials in that office report Heller is current on his property tax payments.
Heller — a former stockbroker now running for his second term as U.S. senator — has used the farm, and Lyon County in general, as a frequent backdrop for campaign ads. One such spot, released in August, sees a Gulf War veteran tell the camera that Heller “fits in Smith Valley like these trees do, far as I’m concerned.”
“It’s a great place, because the days are a little longer,” Heller says in another ad released this month. “The air is fresher. At night, the stars are a little brighter.
“I live out here in Lyon County because I said to myself 30 years ago that this is where I’m going to live, and here I am.”
Still other ads have been sharply critical of Republican primary election opponent Danny Tarkanian’s “shady business deals.” This month, Heller’s campaign released a spot highlighting some $700,000 Tarkanian paid himself out of a children’s basketball charity he manages.
Some of that money was borrowed to bolster a campaign account when he was running for Congress in 2012, according to a January report from 8 News Now, Las Vegas’ CBS television affiliate. The move prompted accusations from Heller’s camp that Tarkanian was using the nonprofit as a “personal slush fund” and a “piggy bank.”
Tarkanian has denied there was anything improper with the transactions, telling the RGJ that the payments helped to make up for several years when he did not take a salary from the nonprofit.
If he emerges from June’s Republican primary, Heller is expected to face U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., in a general election scheduled for Nov. 8.
February 21, 2018
Short term rentals difficult to track
Source: Aspen Daily News; www.aspendailynews.com
By Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
“Trying to wrap your arms around smoke” is how some hospitality professionals have described trying to understand and quantify the growth of the short-term vacation rental market brought on by easier online access.
A review of data provided by Airbnb, the online rental platform, in comparison with records held by the city of Aspen, confirms this difficulty.
As the Jan. 25-28 Winter X Games were set to kick off in Aspen last month, Airbnb alerted the media that hosts using the platform would welcome 550 guests on the Thursday leading into the weekend, making for the highest number of Aspen arrivals in one day in Airbnb’s history. In total, there would be 700 guests coming to town and staying in an Airbnb-marketed unit, with the average host earning over $400 per night, company representatives said.
Fifteen percent of the hosts over X Games weekend were using Airbnb for the first time. Airbnb further reported that there are a total of 400 hosts in Aspen that have used the platform.
Airbnb and other online platforms make it possible for any property owner to easily market their property as a vacation rental. Accommodations range from multimillion-dollar homes and condos that have long been a part of the tourist bed base to units occupied by locals who decide to earn some extra cash with sporadic weekend rentals. In between are an unknown number of units that used to be part of the long-term rental market that are now exclusively offered to tourists.
The city of Aspen in 2012 updated its short-term rental policies, allowing unlimited rentals, so long as the host registered with the city, paid sales and lodging taxes and designed an on-call property management representative.
Tracking the growth of the market since then is challenging.
As of last week, there were 193 business license account holders categorized as tourist accommodations, according to the city’s finance department. (A business license is required to pay sals and lodging taxes.) This encompasses everything from traditional lodging properties to occasional Airbnbs.
“One account could be you renting out your couch on a short-term basis through an ad you run,” Don Taylor, the finance director, wrote in an email. “Another account could be the St. Regis.”
Another account could be a local real estate company that manages dozens of units available on Airbnb and other platforms.
Further, there is not always a clear distinction between traditional hotels and accommodations in what might otherwise be seen as residential property.
“Traditional property management companies have many individual condos and homes,” Taylor wrote. “Some lodging properties are condo hotels.”
The city’s business license software is limited in its ability to track trends over time. Finance department officials could not say how many new tourist accommodation accounts have come into the system over a given time period, or how long any particular amount has been active.
Trying to get a handle on the growth of the market “is a question we are trying to figure out as well,” said Anthony Lewin, a tax auditor in the finance department.
The city is planning to hire an additional tax auditor to deal with short-term rentals. Officials may propose an ordinance for council consideration that would require all short-term rental ads to list a business license number, which would make it easier to determine who is complying with regulations. The city could also contract with an outside firm that scours short-term rental websites to enforce compliance.
The other prong of the city’s register-and-tax approach to short-term rentals requires property owners to get a permit from the planning and zoning office. The vacation rental permit application form, available on the city’s website (https://www.cityofaspen.com/816/Vacation-Rentals), requires the applicant to affirm that they have a business license. It also requires the applicant to confirm with their homeowners association that applicable covenants allow vacation rentals.
Like the business license registry, compliance with the zoning permits is difficult to track.
The number of active vacation rental permits, which are valid for one year, stands at 61, according to the city’s planning office. That figure is not representative of the total number of units in the city available for short-term rental, since one permit may encompass many properties under common management. However, it seems to be a far cry from the 400 hosts reported by Airbnb.
City of Aspen senior planner Justin Barker wrote in an email that in 2017, the city issued more vacation rental permits — 61 — than in any year since 2012, the 68 were issued. 2013 saw 21 permits, with 44 in 2014, 28 in 2015 and 40 in 2016.
“We have issued permits for more properties than 60 in the past, but one of the problems is that many people either don’t understand that they have to renew it every year or forget to renew it,” Barker wrote. “We do not keep a running count of individual units, just permits issued.”
Barker further noted that city of Aspen zoning regulations do not allow the short-term rental of individual rooms within a larger home or apartment. The entire unit must be rented. However, numerous rooms within shared homes are available in Aspen via Airbnb.
“At this time, community development only enforces what we receive formal complaints on,” Barker wrote. “This is the same protocol with any other potential zoning violation.”
Since 2012, the city has received only one formal complaint related to vacation rentals, Barker added.
Another tricky area of short-term rental regulations relates to affordable housing. Aspen-Pitkin Housing Authority guidelines do not allow short-term rentals, but enforcement is typically conducted on a complaint basis. Even when someone is caught red handed, there is little APCHA can do in many cases if the offender promises to cease renting their unit in the future. Housing office director Mike Kosdrosky said he hopes to amend the guidelines to allow fines and other punishments if it can be documented that someone has violated short-term rental rules in the past.
Snapshot in time
Trying to understand shifts in the short-term rental marketplace has been of particular interest to the Aspen Skiing Co.
Many many of the town’s older ski lodges have been redeveloped in the last two decades, leading to a decrease in the number of available traditional hotel beds. SkiCo and others involved in the tourism sector would like to know to what extent an expanded short-term-rental marketplace has made up for this loss. And if short-term rentals are taking the place of traditional hotels, what are the broader community implications for the community, from long-term residents seeking housing to traffic patterns?
The SkiCo got some academic help with that question last year. Faculty involved with the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment graduate program reached out to company officials to see if there were any relevant case studies they could assign to students.
Michael Miracle, the SkiCo director of community engagement, worked with two graduate students over much of the last year on an evaluation of the short-term rental market from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.
The students, Whitney Dodd and Joseph Stein, presented their findings in December.
Dodd and Stein conducted an evaluation of all short-term rentals available on three of the industry’s biggest online platforms — Home Away, Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) and Airbnb — using data from June of 2017.
This was but a snapshot in time, the students cautioned, since the marketplace is ever changing.
The CU students were able to quantify the total number of “sleeping spaces” available on each platform, as well as the average price.
They found that, in June of 2017, Home Away, which is the oldest of the online rental platforms, listed 5,624 sleeping spaces in Aspen, 3,051 in Snowmass Village, 227 in Basalt, 669 in Carbondale and 604 in Glenwood Springs. VRBO listed 2,165 in Aspen, 2,402 in Snowmass, 215 in Bsalt, 1,058 in Carbondale and 691 in Glenwood.
According to the graduate students’ research, Airbnb had 1,530 sleeping spaces available in Aspen, 1,388 in Snowmass, 433 in Basalt, 273 in Carbondale and 545 in Glenwood Springs.
Many of those listings are redundant and appear on all platforms, while some listings may be on one platform but not another.
The average price per person per night for all available units on these platforms in June was $206 in Aspen, $91 in Snowmass, $50 in Basalt, $43 in Carbondale and $37 in Glenwood.
Compare that to the average hotel rate in Aspen for June 2017 of $400, according to industry research group DestiMetrics.
Airbnb officials tout those comparatively lower prices as a benefit of increasing prominence of their service.
“We help cities like Aspen attract visitors by providing a variety of accommodation options at more affordable prices … ,” an Airbnb spokesperson wrote in an email. “ … For many Airbnb hosts, renting out their home on our platform allows them to earn extra money and keep their home, whether they live there full-time or use it part-time as a vacation home.”
But determining to what extent increased online access to the short-term rental marketplace constricts the supply of housing for longterm locals is difficult using available data.
February 8, 2018
Midlands man ran a cell phone business without a license. Now, he’s in jail for it.
By Cynthia Roldán, [email protected] Richland County businessman was arrested Thursday on allegations that he operated a business without a valid retail license.Osharmar Williams, 37, owner and operator of Cellular City in Irmo, is accused of continuing to run his business, after the S.C. Department of Revenue revoked his license for failing to pay more than $24,000 in business taxes, according to an agency news release.As of Thursday afternoon, Williams was being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center without bond. If convicted, he faces a fine of up to $200 and-or up to 30 days in jail.Cynthia Roldán: @CynthiaRoldanSOURCE: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article199081574.html
January 24, 2018
Inspectors shut down vendors at old flea market
Source: Pacific Daily News; www.guampdn.com
By Dana M Williams and Jojo Santo Tomas, Pacific Daily News
A group of government inspectors shut down vendors who didn't have appropriate permits and licenses at the old Dededo Flea Market Saturday morning.
Adults over the age of 21 can now use, carry, and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for non-medical use, and grow as many as six plants at home, without a doctor's letter.
Vendor Emilia Abando had already packed up and was heading out when the inspectors showed up.
"They went around and asked, 'Do you have a license to sell? If you don't have a license to sell, you have to shut down,'" she said.
The Department of Revenue and Taxation "is trying to make sure everyone who does business on Guam has the appropriate license," Governor's Communications Director Oyaol Ngirairikl said Saturday. "This morning's effort was part of that."
Initially there was an anonymous tip that tobacco products were being sold at the private flea market in Dededo, according to Rev and Tax Deputy Director Marie Benito. Eight inspectors and business license compliance officers went out to the flea market to investigate.
"While they were sweeping for the alleged tobacco products being sold, they found some businesses operating without businesses licenses," Benito said. "Those businesses were asked to either obtain a business license, or provide a copy by Monday if they said they just didn’t have a copy of the business license on them at the time. None were fined. All were warned."
Benito said a peddler's license is required, and if food items are sold, a sanitary permit is needed. No license is required if only used goods are being sold, Benito said. No tobacco products were found.
Abando, who was upset by the situation, said the people at the flea market were just trying to make extra money. "It's a new year. A lot of people want to clear out their house and make money," Abando said.
Among the vendors also asked to shut down was a woman who sold handmade wood carvings, a family who sold lumpia and barbecue sticks, and a man selling electronic gadgets and cleaning supplies. The latter said he did have a business license, and showed the government worker a picture of it on his phone, but was told it wasn't good enough.
Benito said the owners were very cooperative.
"We appreciate that while our task force conducts their inspection," she said.
Bob Cruz, owner of Brand Inc. which has operated the Dededo Flea Market for the last 12 years, says he was at home when his son Ken Lape called him and said that "Rev and Tax is here talking to people."
When he arrived, he learned that many vendors were told to close up shop.
"The regular ones I think should be required to get a business license; I have no problem with that," he said. "But the ones that are not regular, they show up every two or three months ... they are needy. Maybe (Rev and Tax) could be a little easier on them."
Cruz said that while he doesn't know what the business license rules are, he hopes that those infrequent vendors could be exempt from government regulations.
Cruz says that his 2-1/2 acre operation offers a service to residents of Guam. When people unload household goods, or clean out their homes, customers can purchase items they wouldn't otherwise afford.
Cruz says he's got about 30 regular vendors who sell new items, and those vendors should pay taxes like any other business owner. Food vendors, he said, should have to get sanitary permits also, he said.
"But it's not my job to go get the license for them, or see if they have one," he said. "My job is to keep the place safe.
Cruz said that he plans on posting a flyer on Sunday morning, advising vendors that government officials may visit, and they should have proper documents if required.
January 3, 2018
Recreational marijuana is now for sale in California — here's what you need to know
Source: Business Insider; www.businessinsider.com
By Melia Robinson
The Golden State is about to get a lot greener.
Sales of recreational marijuana began on Monday, January 1, after Californians voted to legalize the drug in the 2016 election. The market's debut brings an end to prohibition in the most populous state, which is now also the biggest legal marijuana market in America.
Adults over the age of 21 can now use, carry, and buy up to an ounce of marijuana for non-medical use, and grow as many as six plants at home, without a doctor's letter.
How can you buy it?
Though it is legal, Golden State tokers won't find marijuana in corner drug stores.
California began issuing temporary licenses to dispensaries — or pot shops — in December that will allow those stores to sell non-medical marijuana. The licenses became valid on January 1.
So far, the state Bureau of Cannabis Control has awarded retail licenses to over 100 dispensaries from Eureka to Oakland to San Diego. (There are more than 1,300 dispensaries statewide.) Customers can view a full list of the pot shops that received licenses on the bureau's website.
State rules dictate that marijuana will not be sold between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Not everyone in California is on board with the so-called green rush. A review by the Los Angeles Times found that more than 70% of California's counties and cities, including Fresno, Bakersfield, and Anahaim, have moved to ban the sale or cultivation of marijuana.
How much will it cost?
The nation's going rate for legal, non-medical marijuana is about $11 per gram or $34 for an eighth of an ounce, according to price index site MJCharts.
State law imposes a 15% tax on sales of the drug, which will generate up to $1 billion in new tax revenue annually, according to the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office. Additional state and local taxes means some Californians could expect to pay an effective tax rate of 45% each time they buy.
Marijuana could get more expensive after a series of massive wildfires in Northern California last fall wiped out as much as a year's supply for some industry growers. BDS Analytics, a marijuana data insights company, told Business Insider that a shortage could causes prices to rise as much as 10 to 20% — roughly $2 more per gram or $7 more per eighth of an ounce.
Where can you smoke it?
It's still illegal to consume marijuana in public, on sidewalks, and in places where smoking tobacco is prohibited, like restaurants and theaters. Lighting up while driving is also off-limits. People busted for smoking weed in public can expect to pay a fine between $100 and $250.
A private home is the safest bet for legal toking, though landlords may prohibit the possession of marijuana on their premises.
December 28, 2017
Belgrade cheers changes to liquor license laws
Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle; www.bozemandailychronicle.com
By Freddy Monares | Chronicle Staff Writer
A bill that passed during the special legislative session is expected to create 11 new liquor licenses in the next four years that will stay in Belgrade.
In fiscal year 2018 the bill is expected to bring in roughly $2.5 million to the state’s general fund, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.
The legislation stems from the floating of liquor licenses from smaller municipalities to bigger cities like Bozeman, Helena and Kalispell. That was because cities like Bozeman and Belgrade were grouped in the same jurisdiction, allowing licenses to float freely between the two.
The new law draws a line between the two cities, and makes Belgrade its own jurisdiction for licenses. New liquor permits would now have to remain in the area they were distributed in.
The legislation also allows licenses that have already been doled out by the state to float freely between the two cities, grandfathering them into the old law for 12 years.
Belgrade Mayor Russell Nelson said he wanted to see that 12-year float period extended.
“I don’t want to force people in Belgrade to make a decision (to keep their business in the city),” he said, and added, “It’s certainly worth more in Bozeman than in Belgrade.”
Nelson said he worked with the Legislature to try and get a similar version of the bill passed during the regular session. He said the passage of the legislation was like an early Christmas gift for the city.
Nelson said the new law isn’t going to bring new business to the area overnight, but he is happy that legislators moved forward on the topic.
“I don’t believe it is a cure all, but it does give us an opportunity to have licenses to open ventures up in Belgrade that entrepreneurs wish to do,” he said.
The bill does sunset the competitive bidding process at the end of 2023. Nelson said he thinks that was done so the Legislature would revisit the new system of auctioning licenses.
Debra Youngberg, executive director of the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, said the new legislation would keep liquor licenses in the city.
“It’s going to be good for Belgrade because it’s going to allow us to have more liquor licenses,” she said.
Youngberg said the licenses aren’t attached to any sort of gaming permits, easing any concerns that this would attract more casinos to the area. She said she didn’t have anything against bars, but the city needed help attracting restaurants to serve the needs of the community.
“We are really lacking in nice restaurants that can have alcohol,” Youngberg said.
Montana has one of the “weirdest systems” when it comes to doling out the liquor licenses, she said. The laws are like no other state and they’re confusing.
“I think that the Legislature realized that the system is kind of broke, and this is kind of a nice Band-Aid,” she said.
Both Nelson and Youngberg said they would like to see some slight changes to the code, but were overall happy with the outcome.
Government Affairs Director for the Montana Tavern Association John Iverson said if new licenses weren’t bought up by the market they would sit on a shelf, so to speak. That means entrepreneurs looking to open up restaurants in the area can pay a flat fee to the state for a license.
But Iverson said he doesn’t see that happening in Belgrade because the city is experiencing a boom in population.
“I believe that the community is growing, there’s anticipation of more growth and this would be more conducive to more restaurants,” he said.
Bozeman Republican Rep. Bruce Grubbs introduced a similar bill during the regular session to deal with the floating license issue. That bill didn’t make it out of committee. Legislators cited the fix seemed like a local fix for Belgrade, rather than a statewide issue.
During the special legislative session, and in light of budget shortfalls, Gov. Steve Bullock requested the bill as a way to fill a state deficit.
Great Falls Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick sponsored SB 5 during the special session. Grubbs sponsored the bill when it was sent to the House.
Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at [email protected]
December 26, 2017
Canton board OKs ordinance requiring business licenses starting in 2018
Source: The Herald-Whig; www.whig.com
By Edward Husar
CANTON, Mo. -- The Canton Board of Aldermen this week passed a revised ordinance requiring most business owners to buy a $35 business license each year starting in 2018.
The ordinance also requires business owners to show proof that their buildings are insured for at least $50,000.
However, the board agreed to exempt 19 occupations from the need to obtain a license or provide proof of insurance because they are exempt under state law.
The exempt occupations are: minister, teacher, priest, attorney, certified public accountant, dentist, chiropractor, optometrist, physician, Christian Science practitioner, insurance agent, chiropodist, college professor, veterinarian, architect, professional engineer, land surveyor, auctioneer and real estate broker/salesman.
Two months ago, the board removed all exemptions from the proposal so the ordinance would apply equally to everyone. However, Mayor Jarrod Phillips said city officials subsequently learned that certain occupations must be exempt in accordance with state law. So exemptions had to be restored.
"We just made it mirror the state statute because a city can't pass anything more stringent than the state regulations," he said.
Under the ordinance, the business license must be renewed each year for $35. It will be good from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
Because of the delay in passing the amended rules, Phillips said business owners will be given until the end of January to file paperwork and pay the fee for 2018 business licenses.
"We didn't want to make it a burden on them" with the holidays approaching, he said.
Phillips said one purpose of the new ordinance is to assure the city knows who is responsible in the event of a fire, windstorm or other incident that damages a business.
In the past, he said, some uninsured structures were destroyed by fire, and the city ended up paying cleanup costs.
"So this is to try and alleviate the taxpayer from having to pick up the tab for somebody who didn't maintain insurance on their building," he said.
The new licensing system also will give the city information that can be used to contact business owners when boil orders, power interruptions and other problems occur.
In other action, the board passed an ordinance making it a city violation for anyone who misuses the 911 emergency telephone service by making repeated non-emergency calls.
In the past, Phillips said, anyone misusing the 911 system was issued a ticket for a state offense and had to go to Circuit Court. "Now we'll be able to keep it in Municipal Court instead," he said.
The board also continued discussions on a proposal to offer tuition reimbursements for employees who set out to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma, a college degree or an advanced degrees.
"We want to be able to invest in our employees and better their lives while they're working for us," Phillips said.
December 20, 2017
Michigan begins accepting medical marijuana business license applications
Source: Crain's Detroit Business; www.crainsdetroit.com
Michigan begins accepting medical marijuana business license applications Friday under a new regulatory system.
It will cost $6,000 to apply for a license. The 48-page application is available online.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board is expected to begin awarding licenses in the first quarter of 2018.
The five-tiered licensing system for growers, processors, testers, secure transporters and dispensaries is being developed under a 2016 law that more tightly regulated medical marijuana and aimed to address confusion surrounding a 2008 voter-approved law that legalized marijuana for medical use. The new law imposes a 3 percent tax on provisioning centers.
According to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, applicants have two options:
Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder issued rules policing the medical marijuana businesses. The emergency rules will remain in effect for at least six months until permanent ones are finalized. They regulate varied topics including advertising, security requirements and how much capital businesses must have to get into growing, processing, selling, transporting or testing marijuana.
The state had previously given guidance on major issues such as the status of existing dispensary shops that have been operating under a legal cloud, ultimately deciding they can stay open while seeking a state license if they have had the approval of their local community.
"We needed to add a little meat to the bone on some of those things but tried to stay consistent with what was there," Andrew Brisbo, director of the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation, said of the advisory bulletins issued in recent months.
Under the 51 rules, licensees will need to demonstrate capitalization ranging from $150,000 to $500,000, depending on the type of business. At least 25 percent of the capital must be in liquid assets, such as cash, marijuana inventory or investments. No more than 15 ounces of usable marijuana or 72 plants may be used to meet capital requirements.
Licensees and applicants must notify the LARA, the state police and local law enforcement within 24 hours of any theft or less of product.
People who violate the rules can be fined $5,000. Businesses can face a $10,000 fine or an amount equaling daily gross receipts, whichever is greater.
Growers, processors and provisioning centers can operate out of the same location if it is OK with the municipality and if they have "distinct and identifiable areas" and separate entrances and exits. Visitor logs must be kept, and video surveillance is required inside the businesses.
The advertising of marijuana products is prohibited if it is visible to the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place.
About 265,000 patients have registered with the state to grow their own marijuana or obtain it from 42,000 registered caregivers who can supply a limited number of people.
October 30, 2017
Company caught in Merritt without a business license again
Source: Merritt Herald; www.merrittherald.com
By Michael Potestio
Salespeople from a furnace company were caught soliciting in Merritt without a business license for the second time this year.
Both Merritt RCMP and the City of Merritt’s bylaw office received complaints from residents yesterday regarding pushy door-to-door salespeople.
“Some folks weren’t appreciating their style of business or how they were communicating with people,” said bylaw officer Elizabeth Biggs.
While the company is a legitimate one, the salespeople were told to cease operations until they obtained a business license to operate in Merritt.
“Whether they will [obtain a business license] or not, I don’t know,” said Biggs.
Salespeople from the company were told to cease operations back in March for the same reason.
“Unfortunately, with Merritt being where it’s located, we’re going to always have businesses that sneak in for a day like they [were] doing,” Biggs said.
All salespeople working in the Merritt area are required to have a business license from the City of Merritt and must produce it on request. Those who are operating without one can be issued a ticket from the bylaw office.
When dealing with door-to-door salespeople, do not allow them to rush you into a sale and ensure you take the time to do your due diligence on the company and product they’re selling, RCMP advise.
“Sometimes they can get a little bit pushy and not take no for an answer, and some people find that quite intimidating,” said RCMP Const. Tracy Dunsmore. said, noting that residents do not have to allow them in their home.
October 26, 2017
Los Angeles County, CA
Los Angeles County Issues Its First Cannabis License
Source: Forbes; www.forbes.com
By Debra Borchardt, Contributor
Yvonne DeLaRosa Green was awarded the first cannabis business license for Los Angeles County for her dispensary 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu. The city and county of Los Angeles are expected to become the capital of cannabis once the state of California’s regulated adult-use market is up and running. While Denver, Colorado, may have grabbed all of the early attention, California’s market numbers will be hard to top.
There is a great deal of confusion over the cannabis licenses in the city versus the county. Los Angeles, the city, hasn’t issued any licenses, and it is rumored that existing dispensaries will have to close until they receive the new 2018 license under the new regulations. This could greatly affect existing businesses that would be forced to close with no idea of when or if they could open again.
Green said she was able to get her license from the county because in a small historical footnote, when Malibu became a city, it chose not to take over business licensing and left that up to the county. “Once I got my permit in Malibu, I had to explain to the county that they had to provide my business license,” she said. “They had to create the first license. I am the only person to have an LA County business license for cannabis.”
Keith Knox, chief deputy treasurer and tax collector for the county, confirmed that Los Angeles County administers some functions like business permits for three cities and Malibu is one of those three. However, Los Angeles County is banning marijuana for now, which makes the licensing in Malibu even more unique. Joseph Nicchitta, county coordinator for the Office of Marijuana Management, acknowledged the confusion. He said that under state law marijuana businesses need two licenses, one from the state and one for the local jurisdiction.
“It can be a little confusing and there are lots of other cities that are already moving forward. LA County though is prohibiting all businesses in the unincorporated areas,” he said. “You can be driving through the city of Los Angeles and drive through an unincorporated area. The color of the trash cans will tip you off.” Nicchitta confirmed that Green's license was the first that the county had issued under the new program.
The mayor's office in Malibu said in a statement: “The City of Malibu's Municipal Code allows for two medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within City limits. Two medical marijuana dispensaries have been in operation in the City for several years. Los Angeles County issues business licenses on behalf of the City of Malibu, and approved a business license for one of the two existing medical marijuana dispensaries today.”
Green’s license is sure to cause a great deal of commotion as many businesses are angry that the city of Los Angeles hasn’t created a smooth transition plan for existing businesses. Another person familiar with the situation said it wasn’t a cannabis license per se but instead characterized it as the first business license that recognizes a dispensary to pay taxes to L.A. County. However, it seems everyone else in the county offices agree Green's license allows her to operate in 2018 under the new regulations.
Green is a longtime activist that got involved with the industry after meeting the late Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes. The book established Herer as an early marijuana legalization advocate due to his exhaustive investigation into marijuana history and legislation. Green then became very involved with medical marijuana when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she was disappointed with the dispensaries that were available at the time. This led her to create 99 High Art Collective in Venice Beach California, where she combined a dispensary with an art gallery, essentially creating the concept of an upscale dispensary. She closed that location in 2012.
99 High Tide Collective is Green’s Malibu location, which she opened in 2015 and it has been recognized as one of the best dispensaries by Rolling Stone. She has also established 99 as a great brand for women and a place for sophisticated cannabis patients. It took Green two and half years to get through the process. “We’re very fortunate that Malibu is its own city and not under the LA regulations.”
In addition to being an ganjapreneur, Green is an actress that has appeared in television shows like How I Met Your Mother, NCIS, The King of Queens and yes, Weeds. She has several film credits and was called the “face of the new wave of Latino talent” by actor Jimmy Smits. As to the health of her mother? She's alive and well and Green believes it was the medical marijuana that has helped her to be able to live today.
September 14, 2017
Investigation opened after UC-Berkeley police officer seized money from food vendor during citation
Source: ABC News; www.abcnews.go.com
By Kelly McCarthy
A University of California at Berkeley bicycle police officer was seen taking money from a hot dog vendor's wallet while writing up a citation for selling without a license on Saturday.
In a cellphone video, the man at the hot dog cart appears to be confused by the interaction as the university police officer tells him he does not have the proper permit to sell food at that location.
The incident occurred at Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way, near Memorial Stadium at 5:32 p.m. just after a game between Cal and Weber State.
The vendor, Beto Matias, told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco, "I was in a state of shock when I saw he was taking my money."
Officer Sean Aranas told KGO that the cash was taken as evidence and that he was acting on orders from a supervisor to issue a citation.
According to the university, $60 in cash was seized and booked as evidence of the suspected proceeds and violation.
The university confirmed that officers are asked to focus on nonpermitted vending at campus events.
Three other sellers were detained for vending without a license near the game that day, according to the university. Those vendors were released with a warning.
A UC-Berkeley vice chancellor instructed the school system's police department to open a complaint investigation to assess any procedural and management issues related to the incident.
The university issued a statement on Monday in response to the incident, saying the well-being of community members, including "marginalized communities of color," is most important and that it remains "deeply committed to building a climate of tolerance, inclusion and diversity, even as we enforce laws and policies."
"This action has been motivated at least in part by issues of public health, the interests of local small businesses and even human trafficking," Vice Chancellor Scott Biddy said in the statement. "In addition, while I cannot comment on the specifics of this particular case, our practice is to issue warnings before giving a citation. In a case such as this, it is typical to collect any suspected illegal funds and enter them into evidence."
September 10, 2017
Wheeling poised to end background checks for business owners
Source: Daily Herald; www.dailyherald.com
By Chacour Koop
Wheeling officials are expected to scrap an unusual ordinance that requires all new business owners be fingerprinted for criminal-background checks.
Village board members will vote tonight on removing the requirement, which has been in place for nearly a decade, amid questions of whether the ordinance is effective and legal.
The policy got extra attention when a longtime business owner complained the requirement infringed upon his constitutional rights.
"It, to me, was like a rights violation," said Bruce Van Meter, owner of Van Meter Mailing. "It's wrong, and it's not productive."
When Van Meter moved his business several blocks to Seton Court from Wheeling Road a couple of years ago, the village required him to refile for a new business license -- and submit fingerprints for a background check to be conducted with the Illinois State Police.
Village trustees are now siding with Van Meter and have reached a unanimous consensus to abolish the requirement.
Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said he does not believe the requirement infringes upon constitutional rights but said the ordinance is onerous for businesses.
Among nearly 20 communities surveyed in the Northwest suburbs, Wheeling is alone in requiring background checks for all new business licenses, Sfondilis said.
The village board implemented the ordinance in 2008, after a resident complained about being cheated by a business owner with a criminal record. The rule requires new business owners to pay for background checks, including fingerprinting, and allows the village to deny licenses if the owner has been convicted of a felony or "crime of moral turpitude" within the past five years.
The village processes about 60 new business licenses annually and has never denied a business owner on the basis of the background check, Sfondilis said.
"I think the intent is also important," he said, referring to what led to initial adoption of the requirement. "If it happened once, it could happen again, and we don't want our residents to be harmed."
But the village agrees the ordinance is ineffective. For example, the exact definition of a "crime of moral turpitude" is unclear, and business owners with criminal histories could ask someone else to undergo the background check.
"This is just a bad policy," Van Meter said. "If you think about it, somebody could move into town, send a Boy Scout over to get a background check, and then have a bunch of undesirables working in a backroom."
Under the proposed change, owners of businesses such as liquor stores, pawnshops, massage parlors and day care centers would still be subject to background checks. The ordinance would no longer require businesses moving within the village to acquire a new business license.
During a village board meeting two weeks ago, trustees indicated broad support for the proposal.
"I think it's about time we did this," Trustee Ken Brady said. "We always talk about being business-friendly. I think this is a big step in the right direction."
September 7, 2017
Cleaning Hats in Detroit Still Requires a License
Source: Michigan Capitol Confidential; www.michigancapitolconfidential.com
By Evan Carter
The high-end hat business isn’t what it once was in Detroit. At his second inauguration in 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower wore a hat from Henry the Hatter, which left Detroit earlier this month after its landlord kicked the business out of its downtown Detroit location of 65 years.
Even though hat-wearing is no longer a popular fashion, the city still has an ordinance mandating businesses that wash hats get a license. The ordinance was written for a time when people would drop their expensive hats off at businesses that only cleaned hats, according to Kevin Jones, the manager of the city’s Business License Division. Those businesses no longer exist in Detroit.
The city is considering repealing its occupational licensing requirements for hat washing, and Jones said the city hasn’t enforced the licensing mandate in at least 19 years.
“Relaxing enforcement may be an alternative to taking [an ordinance] off the books,” Jones said. “It’s quicker to leave something unregulated, than to repass an ordinance.”
Jarrett Skorup, who wrote a recent study on occupational licensure for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that leaving unenforced rules on the books is bad governance.
“It's good that the city isn’t enforcing this ridiculous regulation, but the government shouldn’t make a mockery of the rule of law by arbitrarily ignoring its own rules,” Skorup said.
He noted that before the city entered bankruptcy, Detroit shut down 900 businesses for regulatory violations, which were often minor. “A better option would be Detroit thoroughly reviewing the licenses and regulations it has on the books and repealing those not related to health or safety,” Skorup said.
When contacted by Michigan Capitol Confidential, many dry cleaning businesses in the city, including those which wash hats, had no idea Detroit mandated a license.
Parakeash Shah, who owns and operates City Laundry in northwest Detroit, is tired of dealing with occupational licensure mandates after 30 years in the dry cleaning business. Shah said he tries to follow all applicable city rules but has at times felt harassed, saying he has been subjected to inconsistent enforcement throughout the years.
Shah wants to be left alone to run his business.
“The less they come into my place, the happier I get,” Shah said. “I don’t want to get any more licensing; I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Jones said the city notifies businesses about its mandates by sending out investigators to survey businesses and then sending memos to those affected. Sometimes investigators visit businesses for face-to-face visits.
A hat washing license is just one of the approximately 60 occupational licenses the city government requires of people operating a business in Detroit. The city’s mandates are imposed in addition to those created by state law.
Examples of other city-specific occupational licenses include those needed by awning erectors, window washers, movers, auctioneers, sign erectors, landscape gardeners and snow plow operators
“Detroit requires a special license for all kinds of occupations that no other city does,” Skorup said. “These do nothing to contribute positively to the health and safety of citizens; it simply prevents people from working in a city desperate for jobs.”
Some states have recently passed reforms that prevent cities from instituting their own unique occupational regulations.
Earlier this year, Tennessee banned local governments from passing their own occupational licensing laws. Wisconsin passed similar legislation in 2016.
Some Michigan legislators are interested in this type of legislation. According to Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, a package of bills addressing licensure issues could be introduced in the Michigan House as soon as this fall. Iden chairs the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.
“We want to make it as easy as possible to get into careers as quickly as possible, he said. “What I would certainly oppose is a local municipality [unnecessarily] making it more difficult to get into an industry.”
September 6, 2017
New law requires contractors provide licensing information to home owners
Source: Daily Advertiser; www.theadvertiser.com
By Sharane Gott, Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana
Acadiana homeowners are now much better protected when they find themselves in need of a home improvement or residential contractor.
Better Business Bureau Serving Acadiana has often heard horror stories from consumers concerning shoddy work or unfinished jobs, especially after major storm events such as hurricanes and the August 2016 floods.
In a move applauded by BBB, the Louisiana legislature recently passed a new law effective this month requiring residential and home improvement contractors to present licensing and insurance information to clients before doing any work.
According to the new law, licensed Louisiana contractors have to provide their name, contractor license or registration number, classification, current insurance certificates evidencing the amount of liability insurance maintained and proof of workers' compensation coverage. Furthermore, this information must be given in writing to the home owner even if the homeowner does not request the information.
Bryan Tabor of BBB Accredited Ace Plumbing in Lafayette said the new law, designed to protect consumers from unlicensed and uninsured contractors, will be a great benefit.
“Often, many homeowners assume everyone is following the rules, but some don’t,” Tabor said. “If a contractor has no insurance and an accident happens, the liability could fall on the home owner’s insurance, causing their rates to increase. This is good for home owners because now, by law, all contractors have to provide this information to them.”
He added the new law also levels the playing field for all contractors bidding on a job because everyone needs to be licensed and insured. In Louisiana, all home improvement contractors must have a registration to perform any job over $7,500. This information must also be provided to local city or parish authorities before a permit could be issued.
BBB offers the following tips for hiring a great contractor:
- Check out a contractor at bbb.org to see how long they have been in business, if they are accredited, and if there are any complaints against their business.
- When hiring a contractor to do any type of work, get at least three estimates. Make sure the contractors provide written proof of their contractor license and insurance. Try to arrange a low down-payment and only pay the contractor according to how much work has been completed. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Always pay with either a credit card or check, never cash.
- Check References. Ask the previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and if it was completed on schedule. Ask why they would recommend that particular contractor and if they would use their business again. It is also important to find out if the original estimate was close to what they paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.
- Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should consist of contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties, and any specific promises. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.
- Avoid contractors who sell door to door or claim to have extra material from their last job, ask for payments in cash or want the full payment upfront or pressure homeowners to sign a contract.
BBB of Acadiana serves the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.
Sharane Gott is the President/CEO of the BBB of Acadiana.
September 4, 2017
Texarkana, Arkansas business owners voice concerns over proposed ordinance
A proposed ordinance requiring Texarkana, Arkansas businesses to pay a yearly license fee was the focus of a public hearing Thursday afternoon at city hall.
The new license would make local businesses responsible for policing their property.
The meeting started out the city manager laying out the proposed policy, but it turned into a some tense moments when business owners started questioning a need for the license fee.
A large crowd of business owners gathered in the city board room to voice their concerns about paying a yearly-fee for a new city-issued business license.
Under the proposed policy all business owners would be responsible to prevent nuisances on their property such as loitering and promoting prostitution.
If approved and a business doesn't comply with the ordinance, they could end up in district court.
While City Manager Kenny Haskins say the ordinance would make the city safer, many business owners say don't believe there is even a need for the policy.
"We know what it's all about. It's all about sales tax. The city has lost so much sales tax because number one they didn't fight for the liquor stores when we basically got almost put out of business by Texas," said Ben Brewer, Southtown Liquor owner.
This is the first public hearing to discuss the proposed ordinance.
The next step it to take the issue before the board of directors.
If approved, the license will cost business owners between $100 and $500, depending on the square footage of the business.
The fees will help pay for enforcing the ordinance.
August 31, 2017
Carson City, NV
Nevada judge clears way for more state pot licenses
Source: USA Today; www.usatoday.com
By Scott Sonner, The Associated Press
CARSON CITY, Nev. — A judge cleared the way Thursday for Nevada to allow more businesses to move marijuana from growers to stores in an effort to keep up with overwhelming demand since recreational pot sales began last month.
Carson City District Judge James Russell lifted an order blocking regulators from issuing pot distribution licenses to anyone other than alcohol wholesalers. Nevada’s voter-approved law is unique among pot states in providing liquor wholesalers exclusive rights to distribute marijuana unless they could not keep up with demand.
Russell said after an hourlong hearing that there is overwhelming evidence alcohol wholesalers don’t have the capability to meet the needs of dozens of recreational pot dispensaries from Las Vegas to Reno.
To launch sales July 1, the state adopted emergency rules to make it clear that some pot shops could serve as their own middlemen in some circumstances. The judge told a lawyer for alcohol distributors that sued over the matter that they’re free to appeal to regulators.
But “it’s not up to this court to supersede the authority of a state agency,” Russell said.
The turf battle between the alcohol industry and the new retail marijuana business has been in and out of court for the last six weeks as state regulators complained that a delivery bottleneck was undermining an otherwise robust industry and the state revenue that comes with it.
A related case is still pending before the Nevada Supreme Court, which has scheduled a hearing Sept. 6.
Legal sales started with a bang July 1. Since then, state Tax Director Deonne Contine has insisted the tiny distribution network’s inability to keep pace with demand is forcing up prices and sending buyers back to the black market.
As a result, Contine said sales had dropped as much as 30 percent at some marijuana storefronts in recent weeks. She also warned that the situation was jeopardizing worker safety at dispensaries forced to stockpile supplies and huge amounts of cash to accommodate erratic deliveries.
Russell lifted the temporary restraining order he granted to the Independent Alcohol Distributors of Nevada on Friday, a day after the Nevada Tax Commission concluded there were an insufficient number of alcohol wholesalers to meet the growing demand.
The judge said Thursday that he was convinced the state had proven what was necessary to trigger the exception to alcohol businesses’ exclusive distribution rights.
“There is a substantial amount of evidence that there is a need for additional distributors over and above the liquor distributors,” Russell said. “The testimony was overwhelming.”
August 30, 2017
DelFino targets non-compliant businesses
Source: Johnston Sunrise; www.johnstonsunrise.net
By Tim Forsberg
After noticing several ordinance violations and other commercial concerns in the area he represents, District 1 Councilman Richard DelFino III is taking steps to ensure that Johnston businesses are compliant and legal.
“We focused on an area in town, Buck Hill Road, I’ve been up there quite a few times. What I found was, when I was going through the annual renewal of business licenses, I found businesses that owe taxes, and businesses that were not compliant with ordinances and things like that,” said DelFino.
At May’s Town Council meeting, the body approved 2017-CP-85, the renewal of all town business license for 2017-2018, with the exception several business in the district for outstanding taxes and other concerns. Those businesses were requested to appear before the council to take corrective measures for outstanding violations.
“Very often I travel through the district, checking out different areas and different things that are taking place. I happened travel to the Buck Hill Road area and was alarmed by what I had seen as far as property maintenance, ordinance violations, and unregistered vehicles all over the road,” said DelFino.
DelFino stated that Johnston is a “very, very business friendly community” and that there are many good businesses in town. He said that the town is proud of those businesses and of the relationship between community and businesses. But he believes it’s not fair to the business owners, taxpayers, and people that follow the rules for these others enterprises to slip through.
“When I was made aware of the businesses I asked for tax information from the clerk’s office who facilitated through the tax office, I wanted to ensure compliance, there are rules and rules are meant to be followed,” said the councilman. “To purposely not follow the rules, not pay your taxes, not be compliant is bothersome to me.”
In a recent interview, DelFino had a stack of reports from the police of ordinance and other violations. According to the councilman, ordinance enforcement through the police department visited the area did some investigative work.
“When I got the report and saw that some of them owed taxes I didn’t give an annual renewal. I wanted those people to come in and get things resolved. It’s people following the procedures and the protocols and ensuring that quality of life issues are addressed,” said DelFino.
Half a dozen businesses were found non-compliant, with violations that included no business license found on file, unregistered vehicles on the property- in some cases more than a dozen - no business name or ownership information not available with the town.
“Out of the found violations, now we’ve recouped some tax money, we’ve recouped some license fees that we didn’t have,” said DelFino. “Ordinance violations have been rectified. Police issues, such as unregistered vehicles, have been corrected.”
DelFino’s efforts have taken several months and additional legwork, but he believes that the changes will provide for a better business community.
“It’s a quality of life issue, and I take those complaints seriously and look to work out a resolution and you’re forced to do something like this. For the hard working small business owner who struggles, or maybe doesn’t struggle, but they have to pay their taxes and whatever fees and follow the rules and enjoy success in town.”
The district is now beginning to see more compliance to the town’s codes, and DelFino said that the last time the inspector visited the area, there was good progress being made. No businesses were closed as a result of the initiative. Neighbors who continue to notice violations may call DelFino, or the police if there is an urgent matter.
“I’m willing to work with businesses. They should follow proper protocols and if they don’t know what they are, call me, I’m happy to have a conversation,” said DelFino. “Or call the clerk’s office and find out what paperwork is needed to be a registered business in town.”
August 29, 2017
Kenai River, AK
Man charged with illegally guiding on Kenai River
Source: Peninsula Clarion; www.peninsulaclarion.com
By Elizabeth Earl
A Soldotna-area man is facing charges relating to operating as a commercial sportfishing guide on the Kenai River without the proper permitting and licenses.
Alaska State Parks filed 12 charges against William “Buck” Hollandsworth, 50, on Wednesday relating to illegally sportfish guiding on the Kenai. He is charged witih two counts of sportfish guiding in the Kenai River Special Management Area, a state park, without a parks permit; two counts of operating a guide vessel without an Alaska Department of Fish and Game permit; two counts of unlicensed sportfish guiding; two counts of failing to complete the Kenai River Guide Academy; two counts of operating an unpermitted guide vessel in the park and two counts of operating as a guide without a permit.
The charges stem from an investigation on July 27, when Park Ranger Tom Anthony received a report from an off-duty park ranger that Hollandworth was operating illegally in the Honeymoon Cove area of the river and allowing clients to continue to fish for king salmon after retaining fish, which is against regulations, according to Anthony’s affidavit.
Anthony and an Alaska Wildlife Trooper found Hollandsworth at the Pillars boat launch with four anglers, he wrote in his affidavit. When Anthony interviewed Hollandsworth, he maintained that he was not a guide, the people he took fishing were his friends and he was not paid to take them fishing.
However, the anglers said they paid through a third party for the trip, and the third person deposited $225 per person into a PayPal account labeled “Buck’s Alpine Adventures,” according to Anthony’s affidavit.
After further investigation, Parks filed the charges against Hollandsworth on Wednedsay in Kenai District Court. A warrant was issued and the boat impounded to the Soldotna Alaska State Troopers post, according to a Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation press release issued Thursday.
To legally become a sportfishing guide on the Kenai River, guides have to pass the five-day Kenai River Guide Academy class each year and obtain a valid business license, a Fish and Game business owner/guide license, and a U.S. Coast Guard Commercial six-passenger vessel license for boats with motors. Both motor and non-motor vessel operators have to pass drug tests to receive a permit, among other requirements. The permit fee for a resident guide is $700 and a nonresident is $1,600 in 2017, not counting the $100 application fee ad the cost of liability insurance, boat and trailer registration, basic first aid certification and other costs.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at [email protected]
August 28, 2017
Eddy County, NM
Eddy County explores business licensing ordinance
Source: Current-Argus; www.currentargus.com
By Adrian C Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus
Amid a local controversy about man camps and RV parks in Eddy County, officials are looking to give teeth to a proposed requirement that the camps housing transient oil workers register for a business license.
All businesses in Eddy County would be required to register with the county if a drafted ordinance is passed after a public hearing and vote by county commissioners.
Work on the ordinance began in May amid efforts to regulate the RV parks and man camps after public outcry among La Huerta residents.
Eddy County currently has no mechanism in place to license and track businesses.
Director of Community Services Wesley Hooper said the ordinance will allow Eddy County to keep a record of new businesses in the area, and to inform them of various administrative requirements and tax dues.
"The biggest reason for it is just to know what kinds of businesses are coming to town, and where they're located," Hooper said. "It's trying to help the public and direct them where they need to go for the right forms."
The ordinance will apply to all businesses in the county, Hooper said, and will help identify gross receipts tax responsibilities.
"Any businesses in the county have got to pay GRTs," he said. "You really can't track it."
Hooper said many businesses that open in Eddy County are from out of state, and are unaware of New Mexico's requirements.
He said the ordinance will help ensure out-of-town businesses make a smooth transition.
Another advantage to the ordinance, Hooper said, is planning.
He said the county needs to be aware of what businesses are planning to set up in Eddy County, in order to fully plan public projects.
"The biggest benefit is it will help future planning," he said.
The business license ordinance will go to public hearing alongside the county's ordinance to regulate man camps and RV parks, Hooper said.
He said the business license requirement will work with the RV ordinance in creating a method of licensing the parks as will be required.
"We'd like to get two done at the same time, just to be efficient," he said. "We're trying to pass them at the same time."
County Planner Steve McCroskey said there are up to 50 man camps in the Eddy County unlicensed through county.
He said being able to track man camps, RV parks and all other businesses will help Eddy County's bottom line.
"Business licensing is something we need in the county," McCroskey said. "It will help track GRTs and other things that come into the county. Right now, we have no way to track it. There are a lot of GRTs that we miss.
Many businesses who pay GRT taxes file directly to the state, McCroskey said, when a portion is owed to Eddy County.
He said the ordinance will ensure the county receives the taxes it is owed.
"The ordinance is going to target all businesses in Eddy County," McCroskey said. "We won't be imposing new taxes, but we'll be able to see some taxing benefits at the county level instead of everything going to the state."
"It will help locate (businesses) and keep tabs on things. We'll know what's going on."
Anyone out of compliance with the ordinance, as proposed, could be subject to a $300 fine or 90 days in jail.
A public meeting on the ordinance is planned for 6 p.m. August 3, at the Eddy County Public Works Building, 2611 S. 13th St., in Artesia.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
August 22, 2017
Catherdral City, CA
Expired business license shutters 'The Block'
By Jesus Reyes
CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - Code enforcement closed the Block Sports Bar & Grill Thursday afternoon due to a business license, which expired in April.
The owner now has to reapply as a new business.
New businesses have to go through an entire process of starting over, which includes fire, health, city inspections along with proof of liquor license from the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.
The Block will remain shut down until its business license is placed back in active status.
The bar has been plagued by recent crimes. In June 2016, three men attacked a man outside the bar, leaving him in a coma. He later died. The three men plead not guilty to murder charges this past June. In March 2017, two men were shot in the bar's parking lot.
The most recent incident happened just a couple of weeks ago where a man was shot two times inside the bar. Four suspects were arrested in connection with the shooting on July 28 at a Beaumont gas station.
KESQ / CBS Local 2 spoke with the owner of the Block who does not have a comment on the matter at this time.
August 17, 2017
Jackson Hole, WY
Fines may be coming for lapsed licensees
Source: Jackson Hole News & Guide; www.jhnewsandguide.com
By John Spina
In July Elevation by Salvador Dali, a high-end, anti-aging skin care store in Crabtree Corner, was found to have been operating without a business license for three weeks.
Sparking a wider compliance check, the lack of business licenses was found to be a much larger problem than initially thought. Lt. Roger Schultz of the Jackson Police Department estimated that around 100 businesses in Jackson are operating illegally.
“There are quite a number of businesses in the town of Jackson doing business without a business license,” he said. “From my understanding the town is losing in the hundreds of thousands [in application fees.]
“The new code enforcement officer is going to be addressing issues in regards to people operating without a business license,” he said. “If you have been getting away with it, that is going to be coming to an end very soon.”
Brian Morris, the town’s recently hired code enforcement officer, said he has begun digging into the town’s detailed records for businesses licenses, but his top priority is focused on reining in illegal short-term rentals.
“I’m just now delving into it,” he said, “but as summer slows down I plan on spending more time on business licensees.”
From his initial inquires Morris said it appears the bulk of noncompliant businesses is a symptom of oversight and ignorance. Business owners forget to renew their licenses or simply don’t know they need to apply for one.
“There are always those that don’t want to run their business properly, but I think that’s a small portion of the people,” he said. “There are a lot of rules and regulations. Coming into it I’m more focused on educating people and helping people get to where they need to be rather than punishing them.”
In the case of Elevation by Salvador Dali, store owner Joivanni Belinni said he thought he got his business license when he applied for a tax permit.
Because it never had a business license Elevation by Salvador Dali was fined $500 and forced to close until it obtained one. Those that allowed their licenses to lapse will be shown slightly more leniency and simply be required to reapply immediately.
It took only five days for Elevation by Salvador Dali to get its license. Most business licenses are processed within 14 workdays or less.
The application for a business license requires a federal employer’s ID number or employer’s Social Security number, unless the owner can prove an exemption, and stats about square footage, parking and intended use.
Once a fee is paid — based on the number of employees and type of business — the Planning and Building Department, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS and the police department must approve the application before the Finance Department puts it in the mail. A business license is valid for one year.
Contact John Spina at 732-5911, [email protected] or @JHNGtown.
August 15, 2017
Monterey’s new business license tax structure kicks in
Source: Monterey Herald; www.montereyherald.com
By Carly Mayberry, Monterey Herald
Monterey >> Monterey recently changed the way it determines charges for business licenses and the revision has created some notable differences in the amount some Monterey business owners pay.
Monterey Finance Director Julie Porter noted that while some business owners will end up paying more, others will see amounts similar to previous years, while still others will pay less.
In November voters approved the ballot measure amending the business license tax fee structure. The updated revised tax eliminates the classification of businesses and charges all businesses the same rates based on gross receipts. That’s a change from the previous fee structure that prior to April 1, charged one of 14 different tax rates based on the type of business, as defined by city code.
Now, businesses with gross receipts of $25,000 or less per calendar year, pay $26 and businesses with gross receipts in excess of $25,000 per year pay $26 plus 0.15 percent of their gross receipts. Previously, several individual businesses each earning $500,000 in gross receipts annually, paid between the tax rates of $642 and $1,197 (based upon their classification). Now, they will all pay $738.
“The previous city code was very complex and very outdated as far as business license structure goes,” said Porter, noting the previous 14 different tax rates and 170 different types of business classifications. “Now, the current structure is fixed and the same for every business.”
The overall intent, according to Porter, was not only for the total city tax that’s collected to stay close to the same but to make the system easier and in line with what many other cities base their business license taxes on.
While Porter cited Marina as one Peninsula city where the business license tax just increased, she also noted Pacific Grove, Carmel and Salinas as cities with similar business license tax structures to Monterey’s new structure.
Porter said a mailer went out in May to all city businesses notifying them of the change in business license tax fees that are effective from July to June each year. The final deadline for renewal is Aug. 15.
“Our ultimate goal was to simplify and make it easier to understand and implement,” said Porter, noting that she didn’t foresee much of an overall change in revenue for the city itself.
“We really anticipate the tax collected to be the same. The whole goal was to just simplify the whole structure.”
This last year, the city earned $3.4 million from the business license tax, which Porter said was a 2 percent increase from the last fiscal year. Revenue earned goes into the city’s General Fund to support public safety and for the maintenance of streets and roads.
“It’s an extra burden – nobody likes to pay more taxes but it sort of is what it is,” said Mike Zimmerman, chief operating officer for the Cannery Row Company.
In Zimmerman’s estimation, the rate for Cannery Row Company looks to have gone up 20 to 25 percent.
Conversely, for those like Monterey architect George Ash, fees seem less this time around.
“I don’t remember the numbers – I just paid it a couple weeks ago – but it was about half the previous amount,” said Ash.
That fit with Porter’s explanation that accountants, auditors, architects and doctors were those likely to see a lower rate while hoteliers, pest control and furniture business owners would most likely have to pay more in business license tax fees.
Chris Shake, owner of the Old Fisherman’s Grotto said his local businesses really have not been affected.
“A lot of times the city ... they’re not thinking about the state fees we have to pay,” said Shake. “Fortunately for the wharf businesses and the hospitality industry there’s not an effect from the business license tax fee changes, which is great news for us because we’re over regulated anyway. Fortunately, the businesses at the wharf have not been affected.”
Carly Mayberry can be reached at 831-726-4363.
August 9, 2017
City of Ukiah to bring business license program back in-house
Source: The Ukiah Daily Journal; www.ukiahdailyjournal.com
By Justine Frederiksen, Ukiah Daily Journal
The city of Ukiah is taking steps to return the processing of business licenses under local control.
“Bringing this back to the city is something that’s been on the public’s mind for quite some time, so I’m glad that this is being brought forward,” said Mayor Jim Brown at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ukiah City Council.
In 2013, the City Council voted unanimously to hire Muniservices to administer its business license program, and almost immediately residents expressed frustration with the change, since the process moved online and well out of county with no in-person customer service.
City staff members told the City Council July 19 that they have been researching options for “bringing it back in-house” and have identified a software program they could deploy locally that is “user-friendly,” provides better customer service and is also affordable.
They said they needed to give Muniservices 90-days notice before ending the contract, and believed they could implement and begin using the new program within three to four months.
“This is just meant to be an update tonight,” said City Manager Sage Sangiacomo, adding that he did not anticipate needing the council’s approval for the process unless difficulties arose in terminating the contract with Muniservices.
In another attempt to improve customer service at City Hall, Deputy City Manager Shannon Riley announced plans to remodel the area where residents pay their utility bills and apply for building permits.
Riley said the work would not be a major reconstruction requiring the removal of walls, but would be changing the layout of the counters and desks to provide more privacy to customers and a more ergonomic workspace for employees.
“These are sometimes very sensitive conversations people are having about the payment of bills, and this would provide more privacy,” said Riley, adding that the changes would also make the area more handicapped-accessible and provide a better area for lines to form.
Riley said the remodel would also add another payment area so residents wanting to pay for permits and other planning-related items could pay their fees after meeting with planning staff rather than having to get in the utility-bill-paying line to conclude their business.
“I’m happy that we’re moving in the direction to provide better customer service for the community, because that’s what we’re here for,” said Council member Maureen Mulheren.
There was no discussion of cost, but the City Council approved staff moving forward with the “solicitation of construction drawings and bidding” for the proposed remodel.
Justine Frederiksen is the UDJ’s senior writer. An experienced reporter, she covers the City of Ukiah including the police and fire beat, as well as education, environment, water and much more. Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Justine on Twitter: @JustFrederiksen.
August 8, 2017
Unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary shut down in Carson
Source: Carson, CA
By Sandy Mazza, Daily Breeze
Carson sheriff’s detectives have shut down a medical marijuana dispensary operating without a business license, officials said late Tuesday.
The business opened in a former doctor’s office at 22118 S. Avalon Blvd., near 220th Street, said sheriff’s Lt. Bill Evans. Deputies were tipped off about it by an anonymous complaint last week.
“We investigated, confirmed the tip, and paid them a visit,” Evans said. “The property owner was cooperative.”
The dispensary closed July 26 and the owner was cited and fined by city code-enforcement officials, he said.
The city does not allow marijuana dispensaries, and is now debating how to best regulate all related businesses once the state lays out new rules for recreational manufacturing, cultivation and distribution of marijuana.
— Sandy Mazza
Reach the author at [email protected] or follow Sandy on Twitter: @SandyMazza.
August 7, 2017
Cops: If you’re doing business, get a license
Source: Jackson Hole News & Guide; www.jhnewsandguide.com
By Emily Mieure | Jackson Hole Daily
A shop just off Town Square in Crabtree Corner was forced to close last week because it was operating without a business license, police said.
And it’s not the only one, they said.
Elevation by Salvador Dali, a store that sold high-end anti-aging skin care creams, was operating for a month without a license, according to police.
The Jackson Police Department cited the business and forced it to close until owners paid for proper licensing.
“What happened here is very hard,” store owner Joivanni Belinni told the Jackson Hole Daily in a Thursday phone interview. “We are going to reopen either [today] or Monday.”
Belinni said he thought he got the business license when he applied for a tax permit, suggesting that it was a misunderstanding.
But police aren’t so sure.
“There are quite a number of businesses in the town of Jackson doing business without a license,” Jackson Police Lt. Roger Schultz said.
Jackson police now have a full-time code enforcement officer, which means there’s someone focusing solely on town code violations.
“If you’ve been operating a business without a license and you’ve been getting away with it,” Schultz said, “that’s going to come to an end very soon.”
Schultz estimates there are around 100 businesses in Jackson operating illegally and the police plan to shut them all down and force them to get proper licenses.
“We’re going to enforce it,” Schultz said. “People need to follow the law.”
Businesses can apply for licenses through the town of Jackson.
Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066, [email protected] or @JHNGcourts.
August 6, 2017
Local Electrician Concerned About State License Bill - Schatz’ Office Offers Explanation
By Monte Miller, Missourian Staff Writer
State Sen. Dave Schatz is hoping to clear up some confusion on a bill he sponsored regarding licensing for electrical contractors throughout the state.
One Franklin County electrician feels the bill will do more to hinder smaller electrical companies and is concerned there wasn’t more local input into the bill.
Paul Gross, owner of Paul’s Electric Service, St. Clair, says the new licensing standard will essentially kill off the small electrical contractor trade, which is already suffering from a lack of young electricians.
“I was personally shocked to have heard absolutely nothing about his bill before it was signed by the governor,” Gross said. “Not a single contractor I know, or anyone from Franklin County was consulted.”
Gross added, by allowing large contractors holding a statewide license to work throughout the state, it will put the locals out of business.
“Prepare for your electrical work in your home or business to skyrocket,” Gross said. “There will be no new start-up electrical businesses to this new bill having been written so poorly.”
After several inquiries to Schatz’ office and to the Franklin County Commission, Schatz’ chief of staff, Dan Kleinsorge, prepared a summary to better explain the bill (SB240) signed by the governor a few weeks ago.
The bill creates a statewide license for electrical contractors and will mainly affect new electricians applying for first time licenses.
“In short, contractors who operate in jurisdictions that have no licensing requirements should be fine,” Kleinsorge said. “Contractors who have already passed a nationally recognized test should be grandfathered and they will be fine. Better off in fact, as they can now take their services statewide.”
Kleinsorge added, contractors working in local jurisdictions that have no licensing requirements will still not need a license and they are essentially unaffected by this law.
However, he added, each corporation, firm, institution, organization, company, or representative thereof who engages in electrical contracting must have at least one statewide licensed electrical contractor employed at a supervisory level.
“This is the area of the bill causing the most problems, but a grandfather clause should take care of most contractors’ concerns,” Kleinsorge said.
Contractors who have licenses in local jurisdictions that already use nationally accredited tests will be grandfathered in and receive a statewide license that will allow them to work anywhere in the state.
Contractors that work in jurisdictions that use no licensing can still operate without a license.
Even with the grandfather clause in place, the bill does allow some political subdivisions to establish their own local electrical contractor’s license, but must recognize a statewide license in lieu of such local license.
This essentially allows local jurisdictions to set their own standards.
“We currently have a shortage of electricians in Franklin County,” Gross said. “The vast majority are self-employed small businesses and it will cost a fortune to start up a new self-employed electrical business.”
August 2, 2017
Orangeburg County, SC
Business owners oppose, Orangeburg County defends license proposal
Source: T&D; www.thetandd.com
By John Mack | T&D Staff Writer
Angry business owners filled Orangeburg County Council Chambers on Monday to complain about plans to create a new countywide business license requirement.
They argued that the county budget has room for cuts and that the new cost would hurt businesses.
“If you don’t drop this proposal and try not to pass this bill, you’re going to have a lot of companies that’s not going to start businesses in your county,” Kenny Beason said.
County Councilman Clyde Livingston died Monday, but council went ahead with a public hearing on the proposal because a large number of people were already planning to attend. Council will not take further action the proposed ordinance until sometime following Livingston’s funeral.
Businessman Joe Rich said Monday that the business license fee will place a massive burden on taxpayers.
“The cost to administer this program is well over $250,000,” he said.
He said the burden should be spread throughout the county or cuts to the budget should be made.
The business license is expected to raise more than $1 million for the county budget. County officials say they would have to increase taxes by four mills to raise a similar amount through a property tax increase. State law doesn’t allow the county to increase taxes that much in one year.
“If we were just doing the millage, then this room would be filled with people who were saying the county shouldn’t raise the millage,” County Administrator Harold Young said.
Young said the revenue generated by the business license ordinance would go only for additional salaries for law enforcement and emergency services.
“If we did nothing, then we would still have sheriff’s deputies and EMS personnel who would say that we’re not going to be able to maintain and recruit new officers because of the fact that our funding is not adequate in those areas,” Young said.
Several citizens were concerned because the business license fee will be based on gross income, not net income.
Jose Rivera with the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs said, “The stress that this bill would have on farmers is unbelievable.”
Sheryl Jackson said this is not a pro-business message.
Young said, “The only reason we’re doing it by gross income, which we do not want to do that, is because the state law requires us to calculate by gross income.”
Young said on a gross income of $100,000, most businesses would pay $98.50 per year. Those taking in $200,000 would pay $173.50.
“If you have a business located inside a city or town and do not operate in the county, you will not need a county license,” he added. “If you pay for a business license to another city, county or town, the gross income will be reduced by the amount the other license was paid on.”
One concern raised dealt with roadside produce sellers.
“If you sell produce at a roadside stand or vendor, you do not need a license,” Young said. If you are a property owner and wish to sell your trees to a logger, you do not need a license.
An owner of multiple businesses could pay for just one business license if he chooses to pay the cap.
Charles Inglet believes the business license will “suppress economic activity.”
“It may not suppress it so much at the high end, but this is going to hurt the little guy,” Inglet said.
Tonya Branham, a finance professional, said she has spent 15-plus years in Orangeburg County and has reviewed the county’s budget.
“There is generally room to cut something,” Branham said.
She told council and Young that she would be willing to meet to find where areas of the budget can be cut.
“If you’ve got a budget that’s out of balance, do what we do: Find where you can cut and if you can’t cut and you can’t get that four mills you need, well then you’re just either going to have to live with it or spread it over everybody in this county, not just the businesses,” Glenn Hutto said.
Hutto added that this “is not any kind of a strategy to attract any businesses.”
Young said he is certainly open to discuss the budget or what may need to be cut, but the county has already gone through the process.
“When you talk about cuts, the citizens would have to be willing to do without some services because in some areas of the general fund, most of the areas of that fund are dealing with services and if you make cuts, that would impact the services in a lot of ways,” Young said. “If citizens would say they’re willing to do without certain services, then by all means.”
He said cuts had been made to expenditures just to balance the budget.
“Before we even started the process, if we only gave the departments exactly what they had the year before, then we were already in a hole because the state required us to go 2 percent above last year’s calculation on the retirement fund,” Young said.
Rich said council is mismanaging the budget.
Young said, “If you look at the trends in the county, fiscal budget as well as the county’s audits that are out there, you will definitely see a trend of the county being in a better financial situation than they were.”
He added that in the past four years, the state has continued to make cuts to the local government fund.
“Every year, they gave us less money through the local government fund,” Young said. “That equates to 13 mills that we had to do without … but we did not cut a service or let go of a person.”
The council has been in this position before.
“Years ago, we put in the subdivision ordinance and people said, ‘Putting in a subdivision ordinance is going to kill this town. Nobody else is going to every build another house,’” Young said.
He said they went back and created the zoning ordinances which also drew a large crowd believing it would “kill Orangeburg County.”
“A lot of these decisions may not be popular, but sometimes they’re necessary and you’re not going to always respect it or understand it,” he said. “Our goal is for us to do a better job of helping the citizens understand why and listening.”
“The public is not going to agree with every decision that’s made but at the end of the day, County Council has done the best of what they thought they could and so have I in trying to make decisions for this community,” Young added.
Contact the writer: [email protected] or 803-533-5516.
July 27, 2017
Discovery Bay, CA
Lemonade Stand Business License Demanded by Sour Man
By Clyde Hughes
A California girl's lemonade stand was reportedly threatened by a man who demanded to see a business license, but the stand turned out to be a success after it was moved.
The incident that happened as Richard LaRouche's daughter was setting up a lemonade stand on public property after getting approval from her parents to open it for one hour, LaRouche of Discovery Bay, California, told Frank Somerville, of KTVU."I think that's ridiculous," Sandi Green, the girls' mother, said at the time, noted KLTV.
LaRouche told Somerville that as his daughter set up the stand, she was confronted by a man "bent out of shape" about it, the news anchor posted on Facebook last Friday.
"The man just pulled up next to her and asked for her business license and then told her, 'I'm calling the police' and then got on the phone and began speaking as if he was talking to police," LaRouche said, per Somerville's Facebook post, which was reprinted Tuesday on SFGate.com. "She was so scared that she came home crying and sobbing and said she didn’t want to go to jail."
LaRouche said after some convincing, his daughter set up a new lemonade stand in front of the family's home Friday and did robust business.
"(She) ran out of cookies and had just enough lemonade for the last two police officers," LaRouche told Somerville.
Somerville used Facebook to try to find the person who complained to the girl.
"I keep wondering why he would do that," Somerville wrote. "Why it was so important to him.
And whether he regrets doing it now. Regardless I’m glad that Richard's daughter got to see how the community came together and rallied around her.
Overton, Texas, police made headlines in 2015 when authorities there shut down a lemonade stand by two girls who were trying to raise money to take their father to a water park for Father's Day, according to KLTV.
In that instance, police cited city law that required a $150 peddler's permit and Texas' Baker's Bill that prohibits the sale of food which requires time or temperature control to prevent spoilage.
"I think that's ridiculous," Sandi Green, the girls' mother, said at the time, noted KLTV. "I think they're 7 and 8 and they're just trying to make money for their own cause."
July 25, 2017
New York, NY
NYC law that makes dog-sitting illegal without kennel license triggers rage from pet lovers
Source: New York Daily News; www.nydailynews.com
By Erin Durkin
Pet lovers are barking mad over a little-known city rule that makes dog-sitting illegal in New York.
Health Department rules ban anyone from taking money to care for an animal outside a licensed kennel — and the department has warned a popular pet-sitting app that its users are breaking the law.
“The laws are antiquated,” said Chad Bacon, 29, a dog sitter in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the app Rover. “If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized.”
Bacon, a former zookeeper and wildlife researcher, signed up for the app to help make ends meet while he was between jobs, but did enough business that he now makes his living from it full-time.
“I was looking at it as a way to pay bills in the meantime,” he said. “It’s become a full-time job.”
The health code bans boarding, feeding and grooming animals for a fee without a kennel license — and says those licenses can’t be issued for private homes.
Rover hopes to get the law overturned, potentially setting up another tech battle like the city’s clashes with Uber and Airbnb.
Health Department general counsel Thomas Merrill sent a letter last October to DogVacay.com, which has since been bought by Rover, warning that its users were breaking the law and asking the company to require sitters to confirm they have a license before joining up. The app has not done so.
No full-scale crackdown followed, but at least two apartment residents were slapped with violations in November and December for caring for pets without a permit. Fines start at $1,000.
“If you’ve got a 14-year-old getting paid to feed your cats, that’s against the law right now,” said Rover’s general counsel John Lapham. “Most places right now continue to make it easier to watch children than animals, and that doesn’t make any sense.”
The company has 95,000 pet owners registered in the city, and 9,000 sitters, who brought in $4.1 million over the last year.
Pooch owners often find it cheaper and easier than sending their dog to a kennel, while others prefer to have their pet in someone’s home rather than kept in a cage for much of the day, Lapham said. “You [are telling] the middle class you can’t own dogs unless you can pop in your Range Rover and drive to Connecticut for a boarding facility,” he said.
Health Department spokesman Julien Martinez said the ban is justified by public health concerns.
“To ensure the health and safety of pets and reduce risks to public health, the NYC Health Code requires certain businesses to obtain a Health Department permit and comply with necessary regulations – this includes animal boarding facilities and kennels,” he said. “We also conduct inspections of these facilities to make sure animals would be secure and safe.”
But City Council health committee chair Corey Johnson said he was shocked to find out pet-sitting was illegal, and plans to draft legislation to allow it.
“It’s so crazy,” said Johnson (D-Manhattan). “There are millions of cats and dogs in New York City, and people I think believe they can pet sit or have someone pet sit for them. To have a law on the books that says that’s illegal is antiquated and not practical.”
Cheryl Smart, 30, of Williamsburg, said she was nervous at first about using the app to find someone to care for her lab mix while she travels, so she checked out the sitter’s home in advance and her canine companion ended up loving the stays.
“It’s up to the owner to go and make sure that it’s safe,” she said. “The moment you hand the leash over to someone else, that’s a responsibility, that’s your choice as a pet owner.”
July 24, 2017
Hot Springs, AR
City of Hot Springs rolls back ban on medical marijuana business applications
By Meredith Mitchell, KTHV
Hot Springs, Ark. (KTHV) - The city of Hot Springs lifted its moratorium on cultivating and dispensing medical marijuana.
The decision came after the state began accepting applications from potential growers and dispensaries.
"I just think it has such wonderful uses. Why would Hot Springs not benefit from it," said Brian Albright, the city attorney.
Recently, the city of Hot Springs rolled back its ban on medical marijuana businesses. The Hot Springs Board of Directors adopted an ordinance repealing the 90-day moratorium on issuing business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities.
"There had been a moratorium on applications for a request for zoning locations for medical marijuana whether it be a dispensary or cultivation center until we had firm guidelines from the state," said Albright.
The board imposed the moratorium out of concern that the city's application process for medical marijuana business licenses would conflict with state rules.
"We feel comfortable that we can go forward with receiving applications from individuals or companies who are interested in engaging in this type of business," he added.
And the city is even adopting a resolution to show it's not opposed to medical marijuana enterprise operating in the corporate limits.
Albright said, "Up to this point we haven't been able to receive written applications, we can do that now."
The city will consider a resolution supporting the establishment of medical marijuana businesses in Hot Springs at Tuesday night’s city board meeting.
Any applicant looking to sell or grow marijuana in Hot Springs must be approved by the state first. The deadline for those applications is Sept. 18 for anyone in Arkansas.
© 2017 KTHV-TV
July 19, 2017
Marion adopts short-term rental ordinance, requiring Airbnb operators to get a license
Source: The Southern Illinoisan; www.thesouthern.com
By Barb Eidlin
MARION — After considerable discussion, the Marion City Council voted Monday night to adopt an ordinance requiring any operator of a short-term rental to apply for a license with the city.
According to Marion City Attorney Steve Green, a short-term rental includes any property rented to somebody outside of the operator's family for more than 24 hours, but less than 30 days, including an entire home or a portion of land for tent camping or parking for RVs or campers.
City Administrator Gail West said that part of why this ordinance came before the council at this time was in response to the number of new short-term rental properties which have shown up on websites like Airbnb and VRBO in preparation for the eclipse.
“If you visit Airbnb, you will see two new properties added this week, and four that were established last week,” she said. “We are trying to have an impact on the community. If we don’t regulate this now, we will have to deal with complaints later.”
West also said that because current operators in the city do not have any registration with the city, they may not be complying with the safety code. That sentiment was echoed by Commissioner Anthony Rinella.
“With this ordinance, we can go to the operators and say if you are making money from this, you need to adhere to the safety codes," Rinella said. "Does the apartment have fire-rated sheet rock walls and ceilings or working smoke detectors?
"This ordinance will let us determine that."
West also said operators of short-term rentals are running a business, and are not just renting to local people.
“One property we looked at had 102 reviews since 2014, and some of those people came from as far away as California,” she said.
After some back-and-forth discussion over the definition of family, and whether or not the government should regulate what happens in a private home, a motion to adopt the ordinance was brought to the table by Commissioner Angelo Hightower.
“I have read this, and I have digested it," he said. "It’s pretty thorough. To me, it’s a no-brainer. How about I just make a motion and see which way the vote goes?”
Rinella added, “Renting short-term over the internet is a new thing, but people are already doing it, and we are putting ourselves more at risk by not regulating it.”
The measure was adopted 3-2 with Rinella, Hightower and Webb for it, and Butler and Goss against.
According to the discussion at Monday’s council meeting, as well as the council meeting that occurred June 26, operators will be required to apply for an annual license for a $50 fee.
In addition to upholding safety standards, the ordinance will also allow the city to determine if the addition of a vacation rental will have an adverse impact on the neighborhood or property values.
618-351-5074 | [email protected] | On Twitter: @barbeidlin
July 18, 2017
Electrical Contractors Can Now Get Statewide License — Bill Signed Last Week
By Monte Miller, Missourian Staff Writer
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has signed a bill that will allow electrical contractors to obtain a statewide license issued by the Division of Professional Registration (DPR).
Missouri was one of only six states with a patchwork of local regulations that prevented a free and fair market across the state.
With the new law, local jurisdictions can still set their own building code standards and still license contractors, but contractors will now have the option to receive a statewide license that will be recognized by all municipalities.
The text of the bill states any person who is operating as an electrical contractor in a political subdivision that does not require the contractor to hold a local license is not required to possess a statewide license.
However, each corporation, firm, institution, organization, company, or representative thereof who engages in electrical contracting must have at least one statewide licensed electrical contractor employed at a supervisory level.
Electrical contractors who hold a license that was issued by an authority in the state of Missouri prior to Jan. 1, 2018, and that required the passing of a nationally accredited written examination based upon the National Electrical Code, and completion of 12,000 hours of practical experience, shall be issued a statewide license.
Political subdivisions may still establish their own local electrical contractor’s license, but must recognize a statewide license in lieu of such local license.
If a political subdivision fails to recognize a statewide license, then the licensee may file a complaint with the DPR.
The DPR shall perform an investigation, and if it determines that the political subdivision failed to recognize a statewide license then the DPR shall notify and give the political subdivision 30 days to comply with the law.
Following the 30 days, if the political subdivision still refuses to recognize the statewide license then the Division shall notify the Director of the Department of Revenue who shall withhold local sales tax dollars until the political subdivision is in compliance with the law.
Any officer or agent of a corporation, partnership, or association who violates the act is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
The bill, SB 240, worked its way through the Legislature with the help of two Franklin County legislators.
It was sponsored in the Senate by State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and handled in the House by State Rep. Kirk Mathews, R-Pacific.
July 17, 2017
Little Rock, AR
City: Owner of LR Nightclub Operated on Expired Business License for Months
By Jessi Turnure
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Two days before shots rang out at Power Ultra Lounge, hitting 25 people, the owner paid the city for his business license.
However, it was nearly seven months late.
According to Little Rock's Treasury Division, Herman Lewis paid in full June 28 what he owed the city, about $450 including fines.
The division said a business has never been shut down just for having an invalid business license. Of the city's 12,000 business accounts, collectors have to work to get payments for expired licenses from about 2,000 to 3,000 every year. Not all of the accounts are storefronts. Some are rentals or home offices.
However, the division said the nightclub was notorious for dragging its feet on payments.
Arkansans walking around the River Market Monday called for a crackdown on businesses.
"As well as the owner, I see the city at fault for things like this happening," said Greg Holloman. "It was going to be a big thing [the concert] and the owner decided to follow the rules. But if they were regulated and rules were enforced beforehand, this probably would have never happened."
"If they're not paying the license fees, they shouldn't be in business," Diane Wagner. "It's easy."
"Shut 'em down," Marion Levitt said. "We have to pay for our driver's license and all that. Business owners have to pay to have their business. If it's the law, obey the law."
The Treasury Division said Lewis's city alcohol permit expired June 30, the day of the concert. If Power Ultra Lounge was still open, he would owe $1,500.
The nightclub also had a mixed drink permit with the Alcoholic Beverage Control, which the agency immediately suspended after the mass shooting.
According to ABC, Power Ultra Lounge has been issued seven citations since 2012, mostly involving underage drinking.
According to Little Rock police, of the more than 50 calls to the 200 block of 6th Street since January, only eight listed the location of the nightclub.
July 12, 2017
Massage therapy license law aims to cut down on sex trafficking
By Nick Natario
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new Indiana law could bring an end to those looking to get more than a therapeutic massage.
Massage therapists must now get a license. It’s a law therapist Marhia Ross is excited for because she hopes it cuts out an ugly side to her profession.
“There is nothing worse than having a client come in and thinking that they’re going to get more than a therapeutic massage,” Ross said.
The problem is when parlors use women to go beyond massages. This October, seven central Indiana businesses were raided after officers investigated women performing sexual acts.
The situation is gaining more awareness. The Indiana attorney general’s office said the incidence of human trafficking tips quadrupled over the past two years.
To bring more help, state leaders enacted the licensing law.
“You can’t just be doing sex trafficking,” State Rep. Ron Bacon, a Republican from Chandler, said. “Pulling a woman off the street and throwing her into it and saying she’s going to be a massage therapist without that. This is what we’re trying to fix.”
Not just anyone can get a license — you must be at least 18; go through 500 hours of training from an accredited school and pass a criminal background check, and exam.
Those already practicing who don’t have a license won’t have to stop immediately because the law gives people six months to get their license. Indiana Therapeutic Massage Schools is one of the places where those 500 hours of training can be earned.
That’s where Ross teaches. As for the law, she knows it adds more requirements. “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to go through all these extra steps, and stuff,'” Ross said.
But the law, she said, is worth it to give her the peace of mind she’s provided to so many others. “That is not what we do,” Ross said. “That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to actually help people.”
Since the state had a certification process in the past, lawmakers said the licensing agency should be able to handle the changes. It’s not free. In order to apply, you have to pay a $100 fee, and get a renewal every four years.
July 11, 2017
Off-duty Polk deputy spots scam suspects accused of performing illegal, shoddy driveway work
By Kevin BouffardWINTER HAVEN — An off-duty Polk County Sheriff’s deputy says he caught two Davenport men red-handed — or perhaps black-handed — performing illegal driveway sealing at a Winter Haven house.Larry Nicholas, 45, and and Lawrence Nicholas, 32, face felony charges of home solicitation without a permit and failure to secure workers’ compensation, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office said the men’s ages are based on the dates on their Wisconsin driver licenses, and Larry told deputies that Lawrence is his son.The Sheriff’s Office says it is continuing to investigate the men, and additional charges are possible. The statements gave the following account of their arrests:Off-duty Sgt. Chris Katsoulis was driving through Winter Haven on Wednesday when he spotted two men performing possibly illegal driveway sealing at a home on Cypress Gardens Boulevard.The Sheriff’s Office had received reports from homeowners of men offering to pour asphalt or sealant onto their driveways for cash. Once the work is done and the suspects leave, homeowners soon discover the work was shoddy, the Sheriff’s Office said.Katsoulis reported his suspicions about the Nicholases to the sheriff’s Bureau of Special Investigations, and detectives arrived shortly thereafter.The detectives observed both Nicholas men performing sealing work from their 2015 Chevrolet truck, which was pulling a homemade trailer with a 500-gallon tank of asphalt sealant.The homeowners confirmed the men approached them offering to do the work for $1,300 cash. When the homeowners had second thoughts, they asked the men if they were licensed to do the work, and they said they were not.Lawrence Nicholas also told detectives the duo had made the deal with the homeowners. He acknowledged they did not have a Florida solicitor’s license nor did they have a business license, tax certificate or workers’ compensation coverage.The younger Nicholas also told detectives the pair had solicited and performed other construction work in Polk County, but he could not provide names and addresses.Detectives arrested Lawrence Nicholas and found he was carrying $1,364 cash.When detectives interviewed Larry Nicholas, he denied forcing the homeowners into the deal. But he also acknowledged his company, Nicholas Contracting, does not have an occupational or business license, nor workers’ compensation.Detectives arrested Larry Nicholas on the two felony charges and notified the Division of Insurance Fraud at the Florida Department of Financial Services, which will conduct a further investigation.Polk Sheriff Grady Judd asked other Polk homeowners with information about the Nicholas men’s activities to call his office at 863-298-6200 to help the investigation.— Kevin Bouffard can be reached at [email protected] or at 863-401-6980.SOURCE: http://www.newschief.com/news/20170629/off-duty-polk-deputy-spots-scam-suspects-accused-of-performing-illegal-shoddy-driveway-work
July 6, 2017
Newport Beach, CA
Newport Beach shuts down 78 unpermitted vacation homes; more are under scrutiny
Source: Los Angeles Times; www.latimes.com
By Hillary Davis | Contact Reporter
Newport Beach’s new short-term rental monitor has helped the city close the door on nearly 80 unpermitted vacation rental homes in the past month, with dozens more under review, the city says.
Based on about five weeks of data from Host Compliance, a company that combs 22 online platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway to see who’s advertising their homes for vacation rental without proper local clearance, Newport has shut down 78 rentals and has about 50 more to review, Kim Brandt, Newport Beach’s community development director, told the City Council on Tuesday.
Residential properties offering short-term rentals — defined as less than 30 days — have long been part of the local culture, with zoning, lodging permits and business licenses to regulate them. But the recent popularity of online short-term rental platforms that don’t have a physical presence here has made it difficult for Newport Beach to regulate such rentals, Brandt said.
Newport currently has about 1,300 active short-term lodging permits. The city doesn’t keep track of how the properties are advertised, such as through online platforms or a traditional property management firm, but it does collect a 10% occupancy tax, also called a bed tax, as it would for a hotel room. Short-term rentals generated about $2.7 million in revenue last year, accounting for 10% of the bed tax total.
Most of the permitted short-term rentals are at the Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island and Corona del Mar. The vast majority are in neighborhoods zoned to allow multifamily housing. In 2004, the city banned vacation rentals in areas zoned only for single-family homes.
Much of the recent crackdown has been in single-family-only neighborhoods, where only 120 properties operating before the ban were “grandfathered.” This is where all of the 78 homes that have ceased offering vacation rentals are located.
Those property owners will have to pay the city back taxes and get a permit if they intend to continue offering short-term rentals. But Brandt said they may be cooperative.
“Believe it or not, people can be very forthright in giving that information to us,” she said. “We can also look at their listings and we can get a sense of the time the property’s been advertised, and perhaps we can get some cooperation with the online hosting company too.”
Brandt said HomeAway sent Newport a letter this week agreeing to share its listing information and require its hosts to put their permit numbers in their listings. She said the city would follow up with Airbnb.
The two major platforms agreed in May to share their host information with San Francisco, where vacation rentals have been a pressing topic.
Host Compliance compares addresses in Newport Beach’s database of permitted hosts with listings on vacation home websites. Newport is one of the company’s roughly 50 clients worldwide and one of 15 in California. The city has a one-year contract with the monitor.
Brandt plans to update the City Council with additional results later this year.
July 5, 2017
Here's how post-prison life will change under Louisiana's criminal justice reform
By Julia O'Donoghue | [email protected]
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Louisiana lawmakers approved a criminal justice system overhaul -- one that advocates are calling historic -- during the 2017 regular legislative session. We've broken down the package into three parts, the third of them here about what will be different when an offender is released with prison.
Safeguards for victims
When violent offenders are released from prison, their victims may request that the attackers limit contact and keep a certain distance as a condition of parole. The conditions are not automatic; they are subject to a decision by a parole committee. This change takes effect Aug. 1.
Crimes of violence include armed robbery, murder, manslaughter, home invasion, sexual assault, rape, stalking, carjacking, domestic abuse and certain drunk driving offenses that result in death.
Payment rules relaxed
A judge may waive or suspend fees, fines and victim restitution payments for people who are on parole and probation and not able to afford them. In some case, the person would be placed on a monthly repayment plan for outstanding fines or fees.
For the most part, people also would not face having their probation extended or being sent back to prison solely because they cannot pay. An exception is allowed for victim restitution, for which parole may be extended once for six months.
This new set of laws takes effect Aug. 1.
Business licenses easier to get, keep
People coming out of prison for a non-violent crime may apply immediately for business licenses or start the credential process needed to get a business license, without having to wait. That's a change from current law, which makes some ex-convicts first apply for a provisional license or wait two years to get a permanent license.
An ex-convict will be at risk of losing his or her business license only upon commission of another crime that is similar to the one that landed them in prison. A business license will not be automatically cancelled if, for example, someone's parole or probation is revoked for a new crime unrelated to the previous offense.
People convicted of several violent crimes, such as murder, are not entitled to receive a business license. And a judge may decide that a person poses a safety risk and forbid the person to obtain certain types of business licenses
These news laws go into place Aug. 1.
Relief on child support payments
For the most part, people in prison and also under court order to pay child support won't have to pay while they are locked up, and that debt will not accumulate while they are incarcerated. The goal is to limit the amount of debt that people face immediately upon release from prison.
Advocates of criminal justice reform say ex-inmates are more likely to return to crime and end up in jail again if they face thousands of dollars in delinquent child support payments upon release. Delinquency leads to their wages being garnished and discourages them from finding legitimate work.
Those who can afford to pay child support, despite being incarcerated, still must make payments. And those who are in prison because of not paying child support in the first place, and those incarcerated for for domestic abuse charges, also are not excused from payments.
Once a prisoner is released, a judge may order child support for a longer period of time. These payments could go towards supporting an adult child, something not typically allowed, and extend to as many years as they were suspended while the offender was in prison.
This law will go into effect Jan. 1.
Food stamps for drug offenders
Drug felons will get access to food stamps and other federal welfare benefits upon release from prison, instead of having to wait a year. People convicted of violent felonies already are eligible for food stamps and other welfare benefits immediately.
This law change will take place Oct. 1.
July 4, 2017
Fort Payne, AL
The city of Fort Payne is cracking down on business license checks
Source: WHNT News; www.whnt.com
By Olivia Steen
FORT PAYNE, ALA. - "You know people tend to get a little lax in their business."
The city of Fort Payne hasn't had a license inspector for two years. That all changed in May.
"Andy Park our city clerk handed me four pages of business owners that were basically delinquent," says Mike Griggs, License Inspector and Special Service.
As the new inspector, Mike Griggs will be calling and visiting businesses on that list.
"A lot of the people that were on the list may be plumbers or roofers or people along that line that may live in the county or something and will eventually come into Fort Payne and do a job."
Regardless of the type of business -- if you provide a service in Fort Payne, you must renew your license every year.
"We'll give folks.... like next year January 1 will give you til February 1 and by that time you need to hopefully be paid," says Griggs.
Because if you don't, you could face some serious consequences.
"The first thing would be the court appointment and come see the judge and at that point... we hope it doesn't come to that. It's a pretty stiff fine. It could be as much as 500 dollars a day for every day that it's late and then it could be up to so many days in jail."
Griggs will be inspecting businesses throughout the summer.
July 3, 2017
Southington police remind businesses to renew licenses for pinball, pool, games of chance
Source: My Recording Journal; www.myrecordjournal.com
By Record-Journal staff
SOUTHINGTON — Police are reminding those with licenses for pinball machines, games of chance and pool tables that their licenses will expire on June 30.
Licenses must be renewed at the police department upon payment of a fee. If licenses aren’t renewed, the owners of businesses with pinball machines, games of chance and pool tables will be in violation of a town ordinance and subject to arrest, Sgt. Jeff Dobratz said in a statement Monday. The ordinance also applies to the owners of businesses where new machines are installed.
June 27, 2017
In court filing, Seabrook justifies $7,000 fireworks license fee
Source: Daily News; www.newburyportnews.com
By Angeljean Chiaramida | Staff Writer
SEABROOK — Town attorneys recently responded to the lawsuit filed by six local fireworks stores, claiming the town’s $7,000 fireworks license fee is too high.
The suit was filed in March by attorney Keri Marshall on behalf of Atomic Fireworks, Fantasy Fireworks, Fireworks Over the Border, Phantom Fireworks Showrooms, Rockingham Fireworks Manufacturing and Display, and Rudy Fireworks Enterprises. The plaintiffs claim that since other businesses in town, such as Walmart, pay only $25 per year to renew their annual businesses licenses, the $7,000 fee for fireworks stores is arbitrary, unreasonable, excessive, punitive, discriminatory, and, as a result, unconstitutional.
According to Marshall’s suit on behalf of her clients, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that to be valid license fees “must bear a relation to and approximate the expense of issuing the licenses and in inspecting and regulating the business licenses.”
But, according to the rebuttal filed by town attorney Justin Pasay, of Donahue, Tucker and Ciandella, given the “unique and inherent danger” that fireworks provide, and Seabrook’s tragic history with fireworks establishments, the fee is justified.”
The $7,000 fee supports the expense it costs the town to issue, inspect and regulate fireworks businesses to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare, according to Pasay’s “Affirmative Defense.” The fireworks industry is heavily regulated, Pasay wrote, and the high local fee is also based on “the destructive history” of fireworks sales in town.
According to Pasay, Seabrook experienced a tragedy in August 1982, when a fireworks factory exploded, killing two people, injuring five more, destroying five of 10 buildings on the site, and flattening the factory itself.
“Due to the potential for similar incidents at retail fireworks stores, a threat not similarly imposed by Walmart, Lowe’s or virtually any other business in town, the town’s fire department spends a considerable amount of time each year inspecting facilities and ensuring fireworks retailers comply with state statutory and regulatory schemes,” Pasay wrote.
Further, according to Pasay, the fee is high because the town has to be prepared for another similar mishap.
Seabrook Town Meeting established issuing business licenses and for selectmen to set fees in 1991, Pasay wrote. In 2000, Town Meeting acted again, preventing any more fireworks businesses in any town zone. The action basically grandfathered all fireworks retailers in business at the time, forbidding any new ones.
According to Pasay, the significant cost of a fireworks license in Seabrook “safeguards against the possibility of undercapitalized, unsuitable and potentially unscrupulous entrepreneurs purchasing grandfathered (fireworks) businesses.”
Pasay wrote that the high fee translates into the protection of the general health and welfare of the public “by ensuring only serious, dedicated individuals own and operate retail (fireworks) establishments,” in Seabrook.
As a result, he wrote, there’s nothing arbitrary, punitive, discriminatory or unconstitutional about the $7,000 fee for a licenses to sell fireworks in Seabrook.
Pasay also stated that the plaintiffs took an unreasonably long time in filing their lawsuit. The license fee was raised from $5,000 to $7,000 in May 2014. The lag time extends beyond the statute of limitations, according to Pasay.
In upholding the $7,000 fee, Pasay’s rebuttal denies damages requested by the plaintiffs of refunding retroactively all their licensing fees and the payment of their attorney’s fee.
According to the case docket, a trial date was set for May 2018, but mediation of the suit by a third party could take place in February 2018.
Angeljean Chiaramida can be reached at 978-961-3147, at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @achiaramida1.
June 22, 2017
Panama City Beach, FL
State eyes PCB Councilman Solis’ rental business
Source: Panama City News Herald; www.newsherald.com
By John Henderson | News Herald Reporter
Solis self-reported to the state that he was lacking a required vacation rental license after a local real estate agent brought forth a complaint against his short-term rental business.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — An investigation into a bevy of complaints levied against Panama City Beach Councilman Hector Solis has revealed he operated his short-term rental business on the Beach for about four years without the required rental-condo permit.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is investigating allegations made by real estate agent Jessica Diliberto and at least one other person. Diliberto’s complaint alleges Solis is operating his HTS ventures short-term condo rental business without required state licenses. While the complaint didn’t specifically mention the rental-condo permit, Solis said he discovered he needed it after the complaint was filed and self-reported to the state DBPR. Solis and his wife, Traci, received the license June 2.
“As soon as allegations were made, we did further research and discovered a collective license is required under DPBR — Division of Hotel and Restaurants,” Solis wrote in an email. “It should be noted, during a phone call to DBPR, we self-reported that we did not have the license following the submittal of our application. Additionally, we also reported it to the Division of Real Estate ... It is our belief, that the majority of small property management businesses do not even know this license exists, as nowhere in the application for state registration to pay taxes does it request it, inform you of it, or give any direction about it.”
Kathleen Keenan, DBPR deputy director of communications, wrote in an email that failure to obtain the license “is a high priority violation and subject to administrative action.”
Asked whether the agency was taking action against Solis, she replied, “We cannot make a determination at this time. According to the Division of Real Estate, there are still two unlicensed activity complaints against Hector Mario Solis that are currently under investigation. When the investigation is complete, the cases will be forwarded to the Office of the General Counsel for attorney review, and they will determine how to proceed.”
Diliberto states in her complaint that there is “sufficient evidence” to show Solis is operating a property management company and “performing broker duties without a broker’s license as required by Florida law.”
“It is very serious,” Diliberto said. “If you operate without a broker’s license, that is engaging in real estate activity without being licensed.”
But Keenan wrote in an email that under the DBPR’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants rules, a person can manage short-term rentals by securing a vacation rental license and entering into a rental agreement with the unit’s owner without having to obtain a broker’s license.
“A licensed agent is someone that the property owner has authorized, through a rental agreement or contract, to hold out the property for rent on a transient basis,” according to a guide to vacation rentals and timeshare projects put out by the DBPR. “A licensed agent is not required to hold a license from the Division of Real Estate.”
In a recent interview in their beachfront condo, the Solises also presented copies of rental agreements with the owners of the rental units they are managing.
Solis noted Diliberto is making allegations, not statements of fact.
“Anyone can make allegations whether they have merit or not,” he said. “In this case, complaints were submitted to the Division of Real Estate, who don’t not even regulate short-term rentals. We have paid all transient rental taxes to the state, county and city from the first day of rental.”
Diliberto also states in her complaint that she believes Solis is not registered with the Florida Department of Revenue in order to be able to pay the required 6.5 percent state tax, 5 percent county tourist development tax and 1 percent city tax.
But the Solises also produced documents showing their rental units are registered with the Department of Revenue and documents showing they have been paying state, county and city taxes on their units. Solis said they sometimes pay the taxes early, but always on time. Mel Leonard, PCB planning director, said the couple have all of the required business licenses from the city and have been good about paying city taxes on time.
Diliberto’s complaint also alleges Solis failed to register HTS Ventures with the Department of Business regulation as required by Florida Statute 865.09 and failed to register a fictitious name with Sunbiz.org as required by Florida Statute 869.09.
“It is a Texas company, and it’s not licensed in Florida at all,” Diliberto said in an interview Thursday. “There is no company even licensed here under HTS Ventures, and he’s advertising it and he put on his candidate form, ‘HTS Ventures.’ You can’t advertise an unlicensed company like that.”
Keenan said, however, the Solises would not be required to create a new Florida company if they are operating a short-term rental company in Panama City Beach under their Texas company’s name.
“This is not a requirement of Chapter 509, Florida Statutes,” she wrote.
According to records on the state’s Sunbiz.org website, Solis’ application on June 9 to register the HTS Ventures LLC with Sunbiz.org was rejected. Late in the day Thursday, it was approved, and his Texas company became listed as one doing business as a Florida limited liability company. Solis said the state didn’t initially have all the paperwork needed to approve his application, and he and his wife registered the company with the state in the event the company needed to sue someone.
“That (filing was a) precautionary measure,” he said. “We still don’t believe we needed to do that. We did it in case we need to file a lawsuit in Florida.”
June 13, 2017
Orangeburg County, SC
Orangeburg County considers business licensing
Source: T & D; www.thetandd.com
By John Mack | T&D Staff Writer
Orangeburg County Council is considering requiring businesses to obtain a license.
County Administrator Harold Young said a business license would bring “additional revenue and that would save us from having to increase millage.”
Council members discussed implementing a business license program during a budget work session last week.
“Right now there is nothing in the county,” Planning Director Richard Hall said. “If a business is in the city and they do work in the county, the city collects all that money because we don’t have a business license.”
The county is considering a plan with a varying rate, depending on the type of business. On average, businesses would pay $1 per $1,000 in revenue for companies making less than $1 million.
“There’s a declining rate structure built in for businesses making over a million dollars, which would hit a lot of the industrial stuff,” Hall said.
He noted that there are currently 1,750 businesses with gross sales of $1.2 billion. If averaged, this would mean each business makes around $719,000.
Hall said based on that number, it could mean additional revenue for the county of almost $1.3 million in business license taxes.
“We feel like this is a low number,” he added.
Hall said city had roughly $1.1 million in revenue from business license taxes last year.
“It’s about 12 percent of the finance department’s budget,” he said.
Hall said the county gets calls weekly from businesses asking how much they owe the county for a business license.
“We just tell them we don’t have one,” Hall said.
Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith said, “We’re losing revenue right there.”
Councilman Harry Wimberly asked if businesses would need to pay for both the city’s business license and the county’s.
“If they have a business that’s inside the city limits and they do work in the county, they pay a percentage for the work they did in the county to the county,” Hall said. “That comes off of their city business license.”
Cooper-Smith asked how the license would work for peddlers.
“It’s a combination effort,” Hall said. “You write the people that are out there without a license a ticket.”
She also asked, “How hard is it to get a business license?”
Hall said a business license is “really just a formality.”
“For a peddler, it doesn’t matter,” he added. “You come in and you fill out a piece of paper and you apply for it at the county.”
Businesses must go through a process, which includes the county ensuring that the business meets the zoning requirements for its property.
Wimberly asked about agricultural businesses.
“We don’t have a profit margin,” he said. “When I carry a crop to market, I get paid what they say, not what I say.”
“I may have a gross income of a million dollars, but I might have a profit margin of 1 percent and you’re going to take 2 percent of that for business taxes,” Wimberly added.
Hall said it would be an easy fix to adjust who pays what.
“The business license, it’s not a tax on profit or anything like that, it is a fee for your ability to do business in a jurisdiction,” he said. “We would just have to determine what all businesses fit into that category that you want.”
Wimberly suggested a flat fee for agricultural businesses that grow products, not including agriculture-related businesses such as Super Sod.
Hall said the county will look at how other counties have been handling agricultural businesses.
If council approved the business licenses over the course of three readings and the public heating, the licenses could go into effect on Jan. 1.
Council members felt they should push to have it sooner for prospective businesses.
“You’ve got to look at what’s coming,” Wimberly said. “If they come, we’ve got to have it July 1.”
“Whatever we’ve got to do to have it July 1, we need to do it,” Councilman Clyde Livingston said. The county could lose revenue from contractors who do spot work after July 1.
Young said, “Even if you pass it July 1, we don’t have the infrastructure in place to back it up right now anyway.”
Hall said the county would need to find and purchase necessary software, get ready for billing and hire a business license director.
Council directed staff to research the possibility of passing the ordinance before the next fiscal year and holding first reading at the next council meeting.
Contact the writer: [email protected] or 803-533-5516.
June 7, 2017
Peachtree Corners, GA
Businesses in Peachtree Corners now required to display licenses
By Karen Huppertz
The Peachtree Corners City Council recently approved an amendment to an existing ordinance requiring all businesses operating within the city to display their occupational tax certificates in a prominent place within public view.
Occupational tax certificates are also referred to as business licenses. “The amendment brings the city current with standard practices for municipalities,” said Peachtree Corners City Manager Brian Johnson.
“As a general rule, it is always good business practice for businesses to post their licenses for public viewing,” added Johnson. “Posting your license for the public assures your clients and customers that you are legitimately licensed.”
To operate a business in Peachtree Corners, including a home-based business, you must have a current occupational tax certificate. Other permits and licenses may also be required, depending on what type of business you plan to operate.
The new ordinance also requires occupational tax certificates must be shown to any appointee of the city upon request. Information: www.peachtreecornersga.gov.
June 7, 2017
Town Says Teens Who Cut Neighborhood Grass Must Pay $110 For Business Licenses
Source: The Daily Caller; www.dailycaller.com
By Eric Owens | Education Editor
Government officials and the owners of professional lawn-mowing services in a Birmingham, Alabama suburb say teenagers must pay $110 for an official business license if they want earn some cash this summer cutting the grass in neighborhood yards.
The site of the business license brouhaha is the town of Gardendale (pop.: 13,893), reports local ABC affiliate WBMA.
Local residents say they aren’t happy about the $110 tax on teenagers who are actually trying to do something useful in society.
Elton Campbell, whose granddaughter cuts the grass in a few neighborhood yards, is one such resident.
“She charges one lady $20, and another lady $30, and another girl $40 besides what we pay her,” Campbell told WBMA.
“One of the men that cuts several yards made a remark to one of our neighbors, ‘that if he saw her cutting grass again that he was going to call Gardendale’ because she didn’t have a business license,” Campbell claimed.
Alainna Parris, Campbell’s granddaughter, told the station she plans to use the money she earns by mowing lawns “for admissions and stuff like that — trips.”
Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland explained that everyone operating a business within the city limits must fork over $110 for a business license.
“I would really love to have something on our books that gave, I guess, a more favorable response to that student out there cutting grass,” Hogeland told the local ABC affiliate. “And see if there’s maybe a temporary license during the summer months that targets teenagers.”
The Gardendale city clerk did not respond to questions from The Daily Caller.
Parris, the lawn-mowing teen, told WBMA that she believes it’s unfair to make teens pay $110 for a business license because they mow the occasional lawn for a few bucks.
“There’s kids at home on iPads and electronics and not wanting to go outside,” she observed.
Follow Eric on Twitter. Like Eric on Facebook. Send story tips to [email protected]
May 25, 2017
Spokane offers anmesty period for companies delinquent on their business registration
Source: The Spokesman-Review; www.spokesman.com
The city of Spokane will waive penalities for local companies delinquent on their city business registrations if they act by the end of August.
About 3,000 businesses operating within city limits haven’t registered with Spokane’s Tax and Licensing Department, which is required annually, officials said. Businesses that are not properly registered can be fined up to $536 per day.
The city will get the word out to businesses that haven’t complied, said Margaret Redd, taxes and licenses specialist for the city. Warning letters will be issued in the final month of the amnesty period. Previously unlicensed businesses can register without incurring the civil infraction penalty.
For more information on registration and costs, visit http://bls.dor.wa.gov/cities/spokane.aspx.
May 23, 2017
Wednesday: Atherton reconsiders business license tax
Source: The Almanac; www.almanacnews.com
By Barbara Wood
Something Atherton's City Council has considered several times in the past -- making changes to the town's business license tax -- will be on the agenda again when the council meets Wednesday, May 17.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the town's council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road.
The council has been working on changes to the business license tax as part of an ongoing discussion of ways to increase town revenues.
Any changes in the tax would have to go before the voters in an election during which council members are scheduled to be elected, which won't be until November 2018. To pass, the tax would have to be favored by at least a simple majority (just one vote over 50 percent) of voters.
The current business license tax, applying to anyone who does business in Atherton, from pool cleaning companies to real estate companies, ranges from $25 to $250 a year. It raises about $228,000 a year.
Also on the agenda are two recommendations from the town's Transportation Committee. The committee recommends the town join East Palo Alto in its lawsuit against Menlo Park, claiming the environmental report, prepared when Menlo Park approved major general plan and zoning changes for its M-2 industrial area, doesn't properly address the effects on neighboring jurisdictions.
The committee also recommended Atherton consider hosting a regional meeting to discuss transportation issues in neighboring jurisdictions that have overlapping effects.
Also on the agenda is the swearing in of Police Chief Steven McCulley, and hiring a consultant to help the town draw up agreements with the Las Lomitas School District about installing a $13.6 million runoff diversion system at the Las Lomitas School.
The consultant would also help the town draw up agreements with jurisdictions contributing runoff to the facility about paying for any future repairs to the facility, which is to be designed to prevent future flooding and keep pollutants out of the Bay.
May 22, 2017
Isle of Wight, VA
IW supervisors debate changes to business license fees
Source: The Tidewater News; www.tidewaternews.com
By Stephen Faleski
Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors is considering changing the county’s business license fee structure to require a $5 payment for businesses with gross receipts of less than $4,000 and extending the county’s $50 flat fee to cover the first $50,000 of any business earning over $50,000 annually. The discussion took place during a work session on Thursday evening.
Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice was the one who suggested the change. Currently, the county does not require businesses with gross receipts under $4,000 to obtain a business license and specifies a $50 flat fee for businesses earning $4,000 or more, but less than $50,000. Businesses earning over $50,000 currently pay a fee determined by a rate per $100 depending on the type of business.
According to numbers provided by Gerald Gwaltney, the county’s commissioner of revenue, under the proposed change, 801 businesses in the county, or roughly 68 percent of the county’s businesses, would pay the flat rate of $50, while 373 businesses earning $100,000 or more would not be affected by the change. By using a flat $50 fee instead of a rate per $100 for the first $50,000 earned by businesses making between $4,000 and $100,000, Gwaltney predicted the county would lose approximately $87,000 in revenue, but that that revenue would be retained by the affected businesses. County Administrator Randy Keaton added that because business license fees are based on the calendar year rather than the fiscal year, the earliest the new rates could take effect would be Jan. 1, 2018.
Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that before debating specific fees and rates, it would help him and county staff to know what the board’s intention is for potentially changing the county’s business license fees.
“If the intent is to help small businesses, we can develop a rate structure that can do that; if your intent is to have accountability of those businesses [earning less than $4,000] then we need to look at whether this is the best mechanism to get them to come through the door and file for a business license,” Robertson said.
Carrsville District Supervisor and Chairman Rex Alphin said he thought lowering the minimum sale amount to $0 would burden neighbors who create and sell $10-items like picture frames as a hobby. However, Grice said he was not asking to tax hobbies or one-time sales.
“But if you are opening up a door and you’re do ing it on a regular basis, for example, if I resell ammunition in my garage and I’m selling it to my neighbors and friends and maybe over the internet, and I’m doing it regularly, does the county want to know that?” Grice asked. “I think it’s important that we know things like that. An Amway distributor, they’re driving all over the county making deliveries, that’s a business and they should have a business license.”
Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said he didn’t think either a $5 fee or a $50 fee was going to break anyone’s plans to grow his or her business but said he felt $5 would be insufficient to cover the administrative costs of imposing the fee and producing the paper business license.
Newport District Supervisor William McCarty felt that the current $4,000 threshold was being exploited as a loophole.
“As it stands right now, I can create 25 businesses, each making $3,500 per year, making a total of $87,000 per year tax free,” he said. “You have the other guy who’s making $50,000 to $75,000 per year and following what he’s supposed to be doing but nothing’s preventing me from creating as many businesses under the threshold and even selling the same product. I can even change my name. Today I’m McCarty Shoes and tomorrow I’m Bill’s Shoes, and I’m pretty confident that that’s going on in the county.”
The board tabled their discussion of business license fees following Robertson’s recommendation that they not incorporate the changes in the proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget.
“It’s going to be an implementation nightmare if you try to do this [now],” he said.
Also on the agenda for the evening was a presentation by Doug Fritz, a senior water researcher for GKY Associates and the county’s director of utility services, Don Jennings, on potential new legislation by the General Assembly concerning erosion and sediment control. The way the bill is currently worded, it requires any locality that operates a regulated municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4), which the county no-longer does, or that administers an erosion and sediment control program by July 1, 2017,” which the county currently does have, to possibly need to combine the two.
“It kind of links you in the back door to being required to continue to operate the program,” Fritz said. “The DEQ (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) said that the reason that caveat is there is to keep people from opting out of the [MS4] program once they have it.”
“We are being asked to agree to a regulation that has not been promulgated yet,” Jennings said regarding the bill’s confusing and incomplete wording. “We’re not even being asked to pass something that we haven’t read; we’re being asked to pass something that hasn’t even been written yet.”
One possible option Fritz suggested, which would prevent the county from being required to once again implement capital projects mandated by an MS4 permit, is for the county to cede control of its erosion and sediment control program to the state. The disadvantage of that option is the county would relinquish local control of its stormwater systems and the resulting revenue from the collection of stormwater fees.
May 18, 2017
Market Place vendors must get business permits
Source: The Sentinel; www,hanfordsentinel.com
By Seth Nidever | Staff Reporter
HANFORD – Going forward, the dozens of for-profit vendors who come to downtown Hanford's Thursday Night Market Place will have to pay business license fees to the city, according to city officials.
That has officials at Main Street Hanford, the nonprofit downtown promotion organization that runs the Market Place, worried that vendors will be scared away.
Vendors haven't been required to pay the fees "for the last 16 years," according to Shelly Johnson, executive director of Main Street Hanford.
"I don't know if it will dissuade any of our vendors from coming out or not," she said. "It may."
Johnson said she's not sure how much vendors will have to pay.
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said Hanford's municipal code requires business licenses for anybody operating a for-profit enterprise in city limits.
Pyle said it was an oversight that the code wasn't being enforced for Market Place vendors.
He estimated that most vendors would end up paying less than $50 a year.
Pyle said vendors might be able to pay less than the annual fee if they only operate in Hanford for a few months out of the year.
He said he didn't realize vendors at the Market Place weren't all paying the fee until he received an inquiry about it from somebody in a "neighboring community."
Pyle said that when he asked Johnson, she informed him that vendors haven't been required to do so.
Pyle said there are "very few exceptions" to the license fee requirement. He said the requirement extends to mobile food trucks and roadside stands.
Pyle said he's not sure what the compliance rate is locally.
According to Hanford City Attorney Ty Mizote, there is an exemption that applies to charities that raise money solely for charitable purposes.
Mizote said the exemption would apply to the operating permit fee Main Street Hanford collects from Market Place vendors.
The fees are Main Street Hanford's single biggest source of revenue, according to Johnson.
Mizote said the exemption applies to nonprofit groups who get a space at the Market Place to raise money for their organizations.
Steve Banister, a member of Main Street Hanford's board of directors, expressed concern that requiring all vendors to have business licenses could drive some away and prevent others from coming.
Banister said there are ambiguities in the application process that could make it challenging for vendors to navigate.
"It might be a little intimidating for people who are just coming out once a week," he said.
Other Main Street organizations running farmer's markets have worked out compromise arrangements with leaders in their cities.
Julia Truilo, executive director of Ormond Beach MainStreet in Florida, told Ormond Beach leaders that the policy of requiring every vendor to have a license was "preventing me from getting vendors that were necessary for the health of the market."
Truilo said the upshot was that her organization was able to obtain an overarching business license that covered all the vendors.
Suzy Moyd, executive director of Main Street Hartsville, in North Carolina, said she goes to the Hartsville City Council every year to ask for an exception for her farmer's market vendors.
"It always passes," she said.
Pyle said that in order for such accommodations to happen in Hanford, the city's municipal code would have to be amended to reflect the new approach.
"Right now, somebody is going to have to propose something different," he said.
The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or 583-2432.
May 18, 2017
Pelham council introduces amended business license moratorium
Source: Pelham Reporter; www.pelhamreporter.com
By Briana Harris
PELHAM – With the city’s current business license moratorium set to expire on May 31, the Pelham City Council conducted the first reading of an amended zoning ordinance relating to new business licenses for certain businesses at its meeting on Monday, May 15.
In 2014, the city adopted its first business license zoning ordinance declaring a one-year moratorium on the issuance of business licenses for payday loan, car title loan, check cashing, gold and silver brokers, tattoo parlors, pawn shop, vape shop, tobacco shop and used automobile sales businesses.
Each year the city has opted to extend the moratorium and along the way it was amended the state that the “City Council may approve the issuance of a business license for an existing business which is subject to the moratorium on a case-by-case basis upon application to the City Council.”
The amended ordinance presented for a first reading at the May 15 meeting introduces new aspects into the moratorium. The ordinance now extends to massage parlors and includes a two-tiered structure that includes the Commercial Development Authority as an advisory body for certain businesses seeking a business license.
The ordinance states that the moratorium does not apply to banking or lending institutions that are insured and regulated by agencies of the United States or the state of Alabama.
Businesses asking for an exception will be reviewed by the CDA board first and the CDA board will present their findings and make a recommendation to the council, which will make the final decision on whether to issue a business license.
The proposed ordinance also includes a new 1-mile radius distance separation restriction. Automobile sales businesses are exempt from this restriction.
Existing businesses are grandfathered in at their current locations.
Councilman Ron Scott said the proposed ordinance is impressive and offers stronger protection that what the city currently has.
“I think the CDA is the appropriate venue for a first review,” he said. “This is a better vehicle to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s comprehensive and I like the two-tiered structure.”
Councilman Maurice Mercer added that the council sought input from the CDA board and the Planning Commission while making changes to the ordinance.
“I love putting more people in the process,” Mercer said. “That makes it more fair for everybody.”
But Pelham business owner Glenn Wills is still worried. He owns G’day Vape located on Pelham Parkway and his store’s lease is set to expire at the end of June. Wills said the property owner notified him in February that his lease will not be renewed and the space his store occupies is going to be used to expand an existing business in the shopping center.
Wills approached the council seeking their approval to relocate his business.
“I run an honest and ethical business and I’ve never had any legal, police or tax issues,” Wills said. “I have almost 1,400 regular customers and if I can’t relocate, it will put me out of business.”
Willis said he has found another location in Pelham to relocate to, but he needs the council’s approval to do so. He said losing his business would be financially devastating to him and his family because most of his life savings are tied up in the business.
The moratorium does not allow businesses to open second locations or move to a new location.
Scott said the moratorium is something that was driven by Pelham residents, not by any one council member’s agenda. During the 2012 City Council race, Scott said he learned while campaigning that Pelham residents are most interested in the city’s school system, the appearance of U.S. 31 and state of the city’s retail sector.
“We didn’t put anyone out of business and allowed the ebb and flow of commerce to take place,” he said. “The goal is to attract the higher end retailers that people would like to see. We have received positive feedback from the community about the moratorium.”
Despite concerns that sales tax revenues would decrease as a result of the moratorium, Scott said revenues from sales taxes have increased each year over the past two years.
May 11, 2017
San Francisco, CA
Uber fights to block SF’s demand for drivers’ names, addresses
By Carolyn Said
Uber is going to court seeking to block San Francisco from forcing it to provide the names and addresses of its drivers.
The city wants the information so it can notify drivers that they are required to get business licenses, just like all other small enterprises in the city, from nail salons to freelance writers. But Uber, which previously has provided the information for city audits, says it wants to protect its drivers’ privacy.
“The tax collector’s office is asking us to give them personal information of drivers — including their home address — without their consent and will put that information on a public website,” Wayne Ting, general manager of Uber Northern California, said in a statement. “We’ve asked the city to allow us to get the consent of drivers and to remove their personal information from the public website, but they have refused.”
Uber filed a petition in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday, and said it plans to file a motion to quash a subpoena on Tuesday.
“Uber’s suit against the City and County is nothing but an attempt to circumvent the tax laws that apply to all businesses in San Francisco,” José Cisneros, San Francisco treasurer, said in a statement. “I will continue to fairly enforce the law and collect taxes — and I look forward to our day in court.”
According to the motion, San Francisco’s tax collector served Uber with a subpoena in February demanding that it provide contact information for all drivers who used its service in the last six months of 2016. After some back-and-forth with Uber, the tax collector modified the subpoena to cover drivers who worked in San Francisco for at least seven days between July 2016 and March 2017.
The treasurer’s office set off a firestorm of controversy a year ago when it said that Uber and Lyft drivers, as independent contractors, must pay $91 a year for business licenses. Uber and Lyft subsequently revealed that they provided the office with driver information as part of city audits.
Over the past year, the treasurer has sent letters to some 57,000 Uber and Lyft drivers. About 20,000 have registered with the city. Another 12,000 or so said they are no longer driving, had already registered or considered themselves employees. That leaves about 25,000 unaccounted for.
Lyft, which was not a party to the petition, did not respond to a request for comment.
There are some steps drivers can take to keep their personal information from public view on the website of registered businesses, according to Amanda Kahn Fried, a spokeswoman for the treasurer. Drivers and other small businesses can shield their addresses by using post office boxes when they register with the city, and can shield their names by registering through a business name. However, both those steps require a level of knowledge and sophistication that many drivers may lack.
“When I went to the website (to register for a business license) I stopped dead in my tracks because they wanted me to put my home address down and disclosed it would be made publicly available on a website,” said Amber Scott, a Vallejo resident who drives about 60 hours a week for Uber, about half of it in San Francisco.
In the Bay Area, San Jose also requires a business license from drivers. Scott worries that other cities like Oakland might also impose a registration fee on drivers, seeing this as a handy new source of revenue.
“I don’t mind paying for a business license, but definitely not for every single city I end up in,” she said. “It could become cost-prohibitive. The number of cities I do pickups or drop-offs in during even one particular shift could be more than I can count on one hand.”
A bill pending before the state Legislature, SB182, would alleviate such fears by allowing ride-hail drivers to obtain a single business license to operate in all cities and counties statewide. Drivers could choose where they want to get that license.
San Francisco and other cities say the bill would undermine their authority. “These drivers add to the wear and tear on city streets as well as require additional law enforcement and other on-street enforcement staff due to the high volume of infractions,” the city wrote in a letter opposing it.
But Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates, a technology advocacy coalition that counts Uber among its members, said his group supports it.
“SB182 starts to look at simplifying and solving the problem for gig-economy entrepreneurs,” he said. “Maybe it should be expanded for plumbers and graphic designers and dog walkers.”
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @csaid
May 9, 2017
Friday Harbor, WA
Business License Renewal; Avoid a Citation
Source: San Juan Islander; www.sanjuanislander.com
The Town of Friday Harbor wants to thank all businesses that were prompt in renewing their business licenses for year 2017/2018.
We are now a month into the new business license year and the Town is auditing its records to determine who is no longer doing business in Town or may be operating without a license.
Town is currently inactivating all accounts that were not renewed for the 2017/2018 license year. This week, the Town Code Enforcement Officer will be issuing citations to those businesses who are known to be conducting business without a license. This is a Class IV civil infraction.
Unlicensed businesses are urged to avoid this unpleasant action by renewing their license or contacting the Town to make arrangements.
If you have questions or concerns regarding your business license, please contact the Town Clerk at 378-2810. For more information regarding the business licensing program, see Friday Harbor Municipal Code Chapter 5.04.
May 8, 2017
Business license pricing comes under fire
Source: Independent-Enterprise; www.argusobserver.com/independent/news
By Rob Ruth | Independent-Enterprise
Payette City Councilor Craig Jensen is unhappy with the City of Payette’s business license pricing policy.
The problem Jensen sees is that Payette’s charge of $25 is considerably higher than the price set by other small Idaho cities he has checked, and Payette also requires business owners to purchase a new license every time they move the business.
“It’s a 25-dollar pop each time,” Jensen complained during a discussion of the issue at Monday night’s work session of the Payette City Council.
Jensen had asked the item to be added to the work session agenda after he was contacted by Barbara Wilson, owner of ABM Alterations. Several months ago the business moved to 126 S. Main St., its third location within Payette, and Wilson was recently notified by City Hall that she needed to buy a new license immediately.
She said the new license would be the third she has purchased for this business.
For Jensen, whose personal focus area within the city’s long-running strategic planning project involves ferreting out all “nuisance fees” from the city’s policies and procedures affecting business and initiating the fees’ reduction or extinction, is certain that the business license policy so qualifies.
He said he contacted the cities of Fruitland, New Plymouth, and Weiser to check their pricing. Although Fruitland does require a new business license every time a business moves, a license there only costs $5. New Plymouth, meanwhile, only exacts a one-time charge of $5, and Weiser doesn’t even issue business licenses.
“My first concern is the cost,” Jensen said. “Since we’re trying to act like we’re a business-friendly community, … we’re a little expensive and a little hard to deal with.”
Jensen added, “I put this into the category of nuisance fees.”
Councilor Ray Wickersham said he could see eliminating the fee altogether, but he wouldn’t be inclined to take the partial measure of reducing it.
“I would either go with nothing, or keep it at twenty-five dollars as a one-time fee,” Wickersham said.
“I’m also in agreement [with Jensen],” Councilor Nancy Dale said. “It fits into your nuisance fee category.”
“Personally, I wouldn’t want to go the way of Weiser and not have a business license,” said Councilor Lee Nelson.
Mayor Jeff Williams pointed out that the fire chief makes contact with business owners and performs inspections as needed in connection with any new license. This can include performing inspections of a new location for an existing business that was previously licensed.
“I think it’s important to our public safety that we do have the fire department go out and look at the places,” Williams said.
The city’s business license pricing is set by ordinance, Williams said, so an ordinance change will be required.
April 27, 2017
Las Vegas, NV
Senate panel OKs business license bill for rideshare drivers
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal; www.reviewjournal.com
By Sandra Chereb | Review-Journal Capital Bureau
CARSON CITY — Drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft will have to verify they have a state business license under a bill approved Friday by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy.
Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Sen Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, now goes to the full Senate.
New drivers would be given six months to obtain a state business license and provide annual verification.
A general state business license costs $200 a year.
Contact Sandra Chereb at [email protected] or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.
April 25, 2017
Annual business license fee use debated
Source: Chicago Tribune; www.chicagotribune.com
By Karen Caffarini
Hobart businesses could be required to pay for a business license on an annual basis, the proceeds of which would be used to pay for fire inspections.
Councilman Dave Vinzant, D-4th, said the inspection would be looking for safety- and fire-related hazards, which could be passed on to code enforcement.
"It would be up to the Board of Works (and Public Safety) to say we will revoke your license if violations are found," Vinzant said.
City Council members noted during a recent ordinance committee meeting that Hobart is one of just a few cities or towns in Northwest Indiana that doesn't require and charge businesses for a license.
"Many calls we get ask about business licenses. It's been a lost opportunity because they expect it," said the city's economic development director, Denarie Kane.
She said the license could serve not only as a check for fire use, but land use as well.
Vinzant said one question facing the council is how to decide what is a business. He said, for instance, if someone operates a beauty salon in their basement, it would need a business license.
"Whether the fire department does an inspection, is up to them," he said.
Another question was whether a landlord is considered a business owner.
inzant said the next step will be to call a meeting with department heads to get their feedback on the proposed ordinance.
Karen Caffarini is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
April 20, 2017
Folly Beach, SC
Going to the mat on beach businesses: Yoga classes under new scrutiny on Folly Beach
Source: The Post and Courier; www.postandcourier.com
By Prentiss Findlay | [email protected]
FOLLY BEACH — Seaside yoga classes have gotten so popular here that the city is bending over backwards to figure how best to regulate them.
"It’s definitely sweeping the island," said Spencer Wetmore, city administrator. "And once one thing becomes a little bit popular, everybody wants to do it."
Options include requiring City Council approval for a franchise agreement, or a business license to offer beach yoga classes.
Mayor Pro Tem Dale Stuckey said she would talk with residents and rental agencies to ensure that classes don't interfere with public enjoyment of the beach.
Wetmore said beach yoga rules would level the playing field.
"The idea is, we want to make it fair to the other lessons and camps on the beach who are paying to be there," she said.
Yoga classes are not mentioned in the city ordinance that regulates commercial activity on the beach.
Melora Morgan, of Charleston, accepts donations from students for her beach yoga classes and would like to continue.
"I love Folly Beach," she said. "Whatever they need me to do, I’m happy to do."
Some other yoga instructors want to have classes on the beach, too.
"I had a number of people asking me if the weather got warmer, if we could start doing classes on the beach," said Alexandra Lucia. She currently teaches yoga at her West Ashley apartment. But the seashore has a special appeal.
"I think for a lot of people it's very calming or soothing."
Yoga instructors Matthew Stephens and his wife Jenny, who live in Summerville, also want to teach at the beach.
"We’ll see what the city says," he said. "I think the beach offers something special."
Folly's existing regulations for businesses that are allowed on the beach came about because surfing and paddleboard instruction mushroomed into a free-for-all that led to resident complaints.
"We moved to a franchise system to try to get some order out there," Wetmore said.
A franchise also means that the city gets four percent of the revenue from a business on the beach.
A map of businesses on the beach — discussed at the last Council meeting — shows surf sport instruction at four locations from 4th Street East to 10th Street East, and at three locations from near 4th Street West to 7th Street West. Watercraft, beach chair and umbrella rental franchises are approved from 3rd Street East to 3rd Street West.
Up to four surf camp and two paddleboard camp franchises are allowed for up to 40 students each between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. at city-approved locations. Surf and paddleboard lessons for up to five students do not require a franchise agreement but must have Council approval and a business license.
Providers of surf lessons and camps are required to have at least $1 million in liability insurance. Instructors must be lifeguard, CPR and first-aid certified. Watercraft rentals, such as for Jet Skis, also face stringent standards.
The situation at Folly is unique to the area.
At Sullivan's Island, no commercial ventures are permitted on the beach.
Isle of Palms allows a beach business franchise, but there have been no applicants, said Douglas Kerr, director of building, planning and zoning.
There was once a plethora of beach surf and paddleboard classes at IOP, but they faded away when the city imposed new rules on them, he said.
Folly Council plans to address the issue of beach yoga classes at its April 11 meeting.
"I think what we need to do as a Council at our next meeting is to get a grip on what everyone wants to do on this beach and make some decisions about what we're going to allow," Stuckey said.
April 19, 2017
Livingston Parish, LA
Hundreds of Livingston Parish businesses fail to renew licenses
Source: The Advocate; www.theadvocate.com
By Ted Griggs | [email protected]
When the deadline hit for Livingston Parish and Denham Springs businesses to renew their occupational licenses last year, just about all of them did. This year, roughly 1 out of every 5 did not file renewals — another troubling sign of the scale of disruption from August's catastrophic flood.
Those who didn't renew were mostly "mom-and-pops," said Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry. "The majority of them were home-based businesses like an attorney or somebody like that."
One business owner that closed was Louisiana Purchases Antique Mall proprietor Deanna Welch, who ran her business for 21 years. Like so many people, she didn't have flood insurance, and with no income, she couldn't secure the Small Business Administration loan she needed to make repairs.
In Denham Springs, 90 percent of which went underwater, 186 businesses, or 22 percent of the total, hadn't renewed their occupational licenses as of Thursday with a Friday deadline. A year earlier, 20 to 25 businesses, only about 3 percent, didn't renew, Landry said.
Outside Denham Springs and Walker, 410 businesses, or 23 percent of the total, didn't renew their licenses this year. In a normal year, the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office might see 40 to 50 nonrenewals, spokeswoman Lori Steele said.
Still, Livingston Parish may be in for a pleasant surprise. The Advocate called a random dozen businesses that had yet to renew and found nine were either open; displaced but still in business elsewhere; or planning to reopen. Recovery is a slow process — for businesses as well as homeowners competing for contractors and trying to adjust in a world turned upside down.
Brandon Buhler, owner of Total Custom Carbs & Dyno, a custom-built carburetor business in Walker, said he's still trying to make repairs to his building and could be back in full operation within a month or so. For now, he's displaced, working out of another garage. Buhler said he's not really sure what he's supposed to do about getting an occupational license for a building that can't be occupied yet.
Gene Nelson, director of operations for Winco, said he wasn't sure what happened with Red Rocket Fireworks' business licenses. It's possible the renewals are still being processed, he said. Red Rocket reopened some time ago and is looking forward to a big Fourth of July, which is just three months away.
As for Welch, she may have closed, but she sold her property to a jewelry business.
License renewal notices went out in December, with reminders distributed in early March. The big rush was in January, and some renewals still could come in late, Landry said. So far, 14 renewal notices returned "no such address," meaning there was nobody to deliver it to.
The scary part is it's still possible that a higher percentage of the nonrenewals may be permanent; a scenario based on National Flood Insurance Program statistics shows 40 percent of flooded businesses never reopen.
Livingston's commercial utility account closures fall right in line with the flood program's projections. Some 169 commercial and industrial customers in Livingston Parish have closed their Dixie Electric Membership Corp. accounts since the flood. That's a 37 percent increase over the same period a year ago.
At Entergy Corp., 59 Livingston Parish business customers closed their accounts from July 31 to Oct. 31. The 2015 numbers were not available for comparison.
Experts say disasters fall more heavily on small businesses, few of which carry flood insurance or the resources available to large firms. Being closed even a few days can kill or cripple a small business. Many Livingston Parish businesses were closed for weeks or even months.
The flood convinced Dr. Phil Thiac and his wife, Janet, to close their Maurepas veterinary clinic and retire after 43 years in business.
"The flood has taken it's toll on our facility and our lives, so we are going to let a younger, smarter, more energetic generation take it's turn to provide the love and care your pets need," the Thiacs said in a March 5 Facebook post.
Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce CEO April Wehrs said it's frustrating that eight months after the flood, there's still no central clearinghouse that can provide data on the number of businesses flooded, reopened or closed.
The chamber has the software to compile that data, but it doesn't have the manpower or funding to track down every business owner in the parish to ask how they're doing, where they're based and those sorts of things, she said. The result is that no one has a handle on the exact number of businesses that have closed because of flooding.
"Everybody wants to know what the numbers are … but as far as having a pulse on every single business in the parish, it’s been very tough to pull those numbers together," Wehrs said.
About 200 of the chamber's members flooded and 100 or so did not, she said. Lots of the member companies are doing well, but the chamber members' recovery percentage is undoubtedly better than that of the parish as a whole.
Business recovery overall is hit or miss, Wehrs said. Although a number of smaller businesses are definitely having issues, others have returned. Both Wehrs and Landry said the recovery has been slowed by the enormous demand for contractors — for home and commercial repairs.
Even well-heeled corporations have taken time to return. The Denham Springs Wal-Mart reopened last week. Other retailers, like Kohl's, aren't coming back.
Landry said the recovery is just going to take time.
So far, the business interruptions and closures haven't affected Denham Springs' sales tax collections, mainly because so many people had to buy new cars, do home repairs and replace furniture and appliances, Landry said. Those sales are starting to taper off, but more commercial businesses, like Wal-Mart, are reopening and that should help.
"Obviously we can't maintain the 20 percent increases that we've been seeing. So where are we going to level off at?" Landry asked. "I just hope we are even with last year. I would be happy with that. Am I being optimistic? Of course, I am."
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter, @tedgriggsbr.
April 5, 2017
Los Angeles, CA
California Uber drivers would need only one business license under new legislation
Source: Los Angeles Times; www.latimes.com
By Liam Dillon
California Uber and Lyft drivers would have to register for only one business license no matter where they drive in the state under a bill unveiled this week by a Los Angeles lawmaker.
Senate Bill 182 from state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) attempts to make it easier for drivers to comply with local rules governing taxation and registration for independent contractors — an employee classification the companies have long argued fits their drivers.
“This bill would add clarity to the process of obtaining a business license for drivers while protecting working-class Californians from fees and costs that can dramatically impact their ability to do business,” Bradford said in a statement.
California cities and counties have been trying to implement the fees as a way to regulate the fast-growing ride-hailing industry. Last year, San Francisco began pushing drivers to pay the $91 annual fee to register. Drivers have worried that cities will require them to register wherever they drive, creating a web of licenses needed to work legally across different jurisdictions. Bradford’s bill would allow drivers to register with one city and use that license to drive across the entire state.
March 29, 2017
Westwood Village, CA
Westwood business owners struggle to obtain liquor licenses
Source: Daily Bruin; www.dailybruin.com
By Sierra deSousa | News reporter
[email protected] - @sierra_desousa
If local workers want to get cocktails at happy hour after work, they have limited options in Westwood Village.
The Westwood Neighborhood Council, which advises the city on alcohol permit applications, imposes conditions on businesses’ alcohol sales because state guidelines restrict the number of businesses that can sell alcohol in the district.
Some say the rules, which often include banning hard liquor and happy hours, impede the growth of Westwood businesses.
Angus Beverly, the council’s student director, said he thinks fewer alcohol restrictions may generate economic growth in the Village, citing Culver City as an example of an area with many liquor licenses and thriving business.
“I am a firm believer that there are repercussions to regulating business,” Beverly said. “We have to be careful about creating a reputation for being nitpicky, because that will affect future business in the Village.”
Some council members said they are reluctant to support alcohol permits because the Village has an overconcentration of permits already.
“We are very hesitant to give full liquor to anyone we think should not be serving alcohol,” said Sandy Brown, the council’s vice president. “It’s a big responsibility. You need to show that you know how to manage what you are asking for.”
Business owners must apply for a California state liquor license and a city of Los Angeles conditional use permit through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The council’s Land Use and Planning Committee evaluates the application, researches the establishment and presents its recommendation to the council to either oppose or support the request. Finally, the council votes as a whole and presents its recommendation to Los Angeles City Council Member Paul Koretz’s office, which makes the final decision about the permit.
“Although the council is strictly advisory, it carries a lot of weight,” Beverly said. “Nine times out of ten, the city follows our recommendation.”
Brown said the LUPC does not have a list of criteria businesses must fulfill to receive a permit. The committee visits the restaurant and considers its business plan, menu, location, size of the space, hours of operation and history of the establishment and owner.
SpireWorks, a doner kebab restaurant on Broxton Avenue, received its beer and wine permit last year despite the LUPC’s recommendation to oppose it. LUPC chair Connie Boukidis moved to oppose SpireWorks’ application in its July meeting, but the council voted to defeat the motion. Boukidis could not be reached for comment as to why she opposed the motion.
Amir Rahimi, owner of D1 Café, a Mediterranean-Italian fusion restaurant that will open in March, applied for a full liquor license in October and is waiting for the city’s response. The neighborhood council originally supported the restaurant’s full alcohol permit application in November, but reversed its decision at its December meeting.
“He has never had a liquor license before, and he did not understand English,” Brown said. “We were concerned about that because it is his first experience selling alcohol.”
Council members believed he did not understand the responsibilities of selling alcohol close to a primary school, she said.
Shirin Shojapour, project manager at D1 Café, said Rahimi is an Iranian immigrant who has eight successful restaurants in Iran.
“I find it unfortunate and distasteful that a business owner’s language barrier is deemed reflective of his intelligence, ability to process information or ability to run a business,” she said.
Shojapour added the restaurant’s employees, who include a fully licensed bartender, will all be English-speaking, as is Rahimi’s wife and business partner.
The council recommended that Rahimi amend his application to a beer and wine permit only. However, since the hearing with the zoning administrator had already taken place, Shojapour said he would have to withdraw his existing application and reapply for a beer and wine permit, incurring up to $25,000 in fees. Rahimi decided to pursue his existing application for a full liquor license and is waiting for the city council’s final decision.
Miguel Anaya, owner of Pinches Tacos, a Mexican restaurant on Glendon Avenue, applied for a beer and wine permit two months ago and is waiting for the ABC’s verdict.
Anaya said many customers from the area have warned him that acquiring a permit is a difficult process in the Village.
“I think it is an unfair process because we are not trying to do anything illegal,” he said. “We are just trying to run a business, and there are much more important things to focus on.”
Another notable alcohol permit debate was CityTarget’s 2012 request for a license to sell liquor for off-site consumption. Brown said the council opposed the supermarket’s license request because Rite Aid, Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s already sold alcohol in nearby locations.
Target responded by asserting its business model involved offering customers the convenience of having everything in one place, said Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association. He added the battle likely cost Target a million dollars. After a yearlong conflict with the neighborhood council, the city council unanimously approved CityTarget’s liquor license in August 2013.
Thomas said he thinks other districts in Los Angeles do not make it difficult for businesses to receive alcohol permits.
“There is a feeling that is perpetuated that alcohol is a problem,” Thomas said. “But I think it’s fiction that serving alcohol at these restaurants is going to lead to debauchery in Westwood.”
Sierra deSousa is currently a news reporter covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles. She has also covered the University of California.
March 27, 2017
Open for Business? Kingwood council confused over business license approval process, Zigray: '“We have been rough on businesses and desperately need new business'
Source: The Preston County News & Journal; www.theet.com/prestoncountyjournal
By Theresa Marthey | Staff Writer
KINGWOOD — Kingwood City Council voted to have all “brick and mortar” business licenses applications reviewed by the city zoning board before coming to City Council.
A debate about the application process occurred at last Tuesday night’s meeting. Members reached the agenda item for the approval of two business license applications: Shay & Yoho Law Office and the Last Hot Spot.
“Did these go to the zoning board before coming to us tonight,” City Recorder Bill Robertson asked.
City Clerk Mary Howell replied “no,” adding that the business license applications did not formally go before the zoning board before coming to Council.
“It was my understanding that I was to discuss the applications (business license) with zoning and to determine if zoning had any problems with it before I brought them to you,” Howell added.
She said the city’s Zoning Board did not have any problems with the Shay & Yoho Law Office being located on Court Street because the location was already zoned as office.
“However, with The Last Hot Spot, they wanted to take some measurements because the potential entrance could be 100 feet from a residential district, and that would be a violation of the zoning ordinance,” She said.
Jason Hyre, who applied for The Last Hot Spot license, was at the meeting and told members of council he did not understand there was a problem.
“I will change the entrance on Route 26 to an exit to get this approved, and people can enter by coming down the steps” Hyre said. “However, just a few months ago, the council approved another Hot Spot license that has an entrance within 100 feet of a residential area, and there were no problems.”
Council members couldn’t remember approving any business license applications that were that close to a residential area, but Hyre said the location was Stacy’s Hot Spot on Pleasant Street.
“You approved that without it going to the zoning board first,” Hyre argued.
According to city records, council did approve a business license application for Stacy’s Hot Spot in November 2016.
Councilman Jeff Zigray said he is concerned the Council is penalizing people who are trying to do everything right to start a business.
“We have Mr. Hyre here who is trying to everything by the rules, and we are penalizing him,” Zigray said. “Then, there may be some businesses that aren’t following the rules and are sliding by. That isn’t right.”
Kingwood Mayor Curtis Stiles agreed with Zigray.
“Until someone comes to us like Mr. Hyre telling us about it, I don’t know if we will know these things,” Stiles said.
The council agreed to send both business license applications to the zoning board for recommendation and approval before coming to council. Meanwhile, Zigray said he believes the city is making the process of getting a business license more complicated then it needs to be.
“We are trying to bring businesses into Kingwood,” Zigray said. “We have been rough on businesses and desperately need new business.”
Robertson agreed and said he would like to see all businesses on a level playing field.
“We seem to go from one set of standards to another,” Robertson said.
At the end of the discussion, Councilman Jean Manuel Guillot made a motion to have all “brick and mortar” building licenses applications go to the zoning board for approval before coming to council for a vote.
The motion passed 3-2, with Councilmen Lefty Stonebraker, Guillot, Robertson and Wiley voting for the change. Councilman Dick Shaffer and Zigray voted against.
Staff Writer Theresa Marthey can be reached at (304) 276-1127 or by email at [email protected]
March 21, 2017
Emergency Power! Mayor Cleared to Pull Business Licenses
By Joseph Hosey (Patch Staff)
JOLIET, IL — The Joliet City Council cleared the way for the mayor to suspend a business’ license for seven days without going through the trouble of holding a hearing.
The council voted 7-1 to allow Mayor Bob O’Dekirk to shutter a licensed business. Councilman Pat Mudron was the lone dissenter.
“I think it opens us up for litigation,” Mudron said.
At Monday night’s pre-council meeting, Inspector General Chris Regis explained that the measure was intended to “close an existing loophole in the city ordinance” and will let the mayor close down a “potentially dangerous business,” such as one where drugs are being sold.
“This gives the police department an additional tool to do their jobs,” Regis said, telling how the ordinance is “investing emergency power in the elected official.”
The mayor must first consult with the city legal department before going ahead and suspending a license, according to the ordinance.
“The mayor can’t just do it,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman said Monday night. “He has to get some legal advice.”
March 13, 2017
No exemptions on business license fees for Prescott
Source: The Daily Courier; www.dcourier.com
By Cindy Barks
Owners of home and apartment rentals will not get a break in the City of Prescott’s business license requirements, after an effort to change the rules failed with the City Council this week.
Prescott city staff members had recommended a change to the business license program, which went into effect on Jan. 1, to exempt owners of long-term residential rentals from the requirement to get a $35 annual business license.
City Budget and Tax Manager Lars Johnson explained at the City Council’s Feb. 28 meeting that the residential-rental requirement had generated many questions and complaints from the rental owners.
To date, Johnson said, the city has licensed 638 of the community’s 3,482 residential rentals.
In response to the complaints and confusion, the budget and tax department recommended this week that the City Council reconsider the requirement for long-term residential rentals. For those owners who had already paid the fee, the staff was recommending refunds.
The proposal did not get that far, however.
With Councilman Steve Sischka absent from this week’s meeting, the vote ended in a 3-3 tie, causing the motion to fail.
Councilman Greg Lazzell, who had strongly opposed the idea of a city business-license program, suggested that the city to rethink the program.
“Now we’re making an exception because it’s unfair and confusing,” Lazzell said, adding, “I think we should just trash the whole thing.”
The two other council members who voted against the business license program (which passed by a 4-3 vote in May 2016) agreed.
“I didn’t support a business license to begin with,” Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lamerson said. “I saw this coming. We don’t have the resources to enforce (the license) on everybody equally, so we’re going to pick and choose.”
Councilman Steve Blair also opposed the program in 2016, and voted against the change this week.
The three remaining council members present at the meeting (Mayor Harry Oberg, and council members Billie Orr and Jean Wilcox) voted for the change, but because of the tie, the motion failed.
Tuesday’s vote might not be the end of matter, however. City Attorney Jon Paladini said after the meeting that council policy allows for any two council members to ask to have an issue reappear on a future council agenda.
Meanwhile, numbers from Johnson indicate that overall compliance with the city’s new business has been relatively sluggish.
Since Jan. 1, the city has received 2,170 applications for business licenses – compared with the rough estimate of 10,000 businesses in the community.
Johnson said on March 1 the city will enter the enforcement phase of the business-license implementation, which will begin with another round of letters notifying businesses that they must apply for a license.
The city’s two other new license requirements have also been slow to catch on. Along with the business license, a license for vacation rentals (short-term residential use of 30 days or less), and one for sober living homes also went into effect Jan. 1.
While the city had earlier estimated that about 100 sober living homes operate in the community, Johnson reported Tuesday that 13 sober living homes have so far applied for the new license.
Part of that can be attributed to the fact that a number of group homes in Prescott must register through the state, he said, which exempts them from the city license.
In addition, some sober living homes may have gone out of business or left the community since the city’s previous estimate, Johnson said, while others may have reduced their number of residents to four or fewer, which also exempts them from the city’s license requirement.
Vacation rental license compliance of 26 applications is also well below the city’s earlier estimate of about 150 properties.
March 7, 2017
Cities worry that they may lose millions of dollars from business licenses
Source: Independent Mail; www.independentmail.com
By Kirk Brown and Eric Connor, Anderson
Proposed legislation could costs cities and towns in Anderson and Greenville counties nearly $10 million in revenue from business licenses
Officials with cities and towns throughout the Upstate say legislation dealing with business licenses could create financial burdens and strain essential services.
The bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives may affect cities such as Greenville, Greer and Anderson, as well as small towns such as Honea Path, where the mayor worries that a loss of revenue could lead to cuts in the police force.
Greenville could see a loss of $5.7 million as a result of the measure.
"This bill is like aiming a torpedo directly at the city of Greenville," said Mayor Knox White, adding that the proposal "has the potential to totally disrupt everything we are doing."
The same measure could trim business license revenue by $1.9 million in the city of Greer and $1.5 million in the city of Anderson, officials said Thursday. The losses would total at least $856,000 combined in Belton, Clemson, Easley, Honea Path, Iva, Pelzer, Pendleton, Starr, West Pelzer and Williamston, according to Scott Slatton, a legislative and public policy advocate with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.
The revenue losses stem from exemptions for insurance companies and other businesses under a bill proposed by Rep. Bill Sandifer. A Republican from Seneca, Sandifer is chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee.
Sandifer said Thursday that he wants to make the process of obtaining municipal business licenses less complicated and more fair. Under the current system, he said, some businesses have to obtain licenses from dozens of cities that have different rules. He also the cost of these licenses is based on an economic factors that are "grossly unfair" to businesses.
"We are not out to harm the municipalities at all," said Sandifer, whose committee passed his bill last week.
The measure, which is waiting to be debated on the House floor, has 13 co-sponsors, including Reps. Eric Bedingfield and Dan Hamilton, who are Republicans from Greenville County, and Brian White, a Republican from Anderson.
Sandifer said he is "sitting on the bill" in hopes of striking a compromise that would satisfy groups such as the Municipal Association and South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. But he also complained that the Municipal Association has not shown a willingness to negotiate in "good faith."
Municipal Association officials said Thursday that they support efforts to standardize and streamline the process for issuing business licenses, but they are concerned about the "Christmas tree of exemptions" in Sandifer's bill.
Ted Pitts, chief executive officer of the state chamber of commerce, said in an interview last month that his group is looking to cut the red tape that makes obtaining business licenses a "cumbersome process."
"Though we would love to pay less in taxes or business licensing, we are not calling for a big tax cut through this," Pitts said. "We just want to standardize the process."
To make up for lost revenue that would result from Sandifer's bill, Greer would have to raise its business license fees by 167 percent, said David Seifert, the city's finance director.
The projected $1.5 million loss in Anderson would account for 6 percent of the city's general fund budget.
"That is a lot of money," city Councilman Matt Harbin said, and would create a significant strain on city services.
Harbin also is president of the Anderson County Municipal Association. He said Sandifer's bill is causing concern in towns and cities throughout the county.
"It is something we take very seriously," he said.
Honea Path Mayor Earl Lollis Meyers said business licenses are an important part of his town's budget. Any significant loss of revenue from these licenses would likely lead to cuts at the town's police department, he said.
"I wish they would keep their hands out of our business," Meyers said.
Ron Barnett of the Greenville News contributed to this report.
Follow Kirk Brown and Eric Conner on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM and @cericconner
February 21, 2017
Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach City Council discusses business license reform, sports tourism, flood resilience
Source: WMBF News; www.wmbfnews.com
By Amy Lipman, Reporter
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - City leaders in Myrtle Beach said business license reform going on in Columbia could be detrimental to the city and end up costing taxpayers more money.
House bills H3650 and H3651 in the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee of the General Assembly were a major topic of discussion at the city council's workshop Tuesday morning because leaders worry they could lose money from the changes those bills would require for charging for business licenses.
Right now, the city of Myrtle Beach charges a fee specifically for businesses that are located outside of the city limits, but do business within the city.
That includes landscaping, plumbing and electrician services, because they still use city services but don’t pay all of the taxes businesses within the city do.
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said a bill changes the city’s ability to do that and also makes it so those businesses pay a fee based on 75 percent of the revenue they make in the city, while businesses in the city still have to pay taxes on 100 percent of their revenues.
He said that loss alone is projected at more than $2.5 million.
Other proposed changes to the system would cost the city even more money, such as the timeline for collecting the business licensing fees by scheduling collections for the end of the year instead of the beginning. This could cause a year-long gap for Myrtle Beach in collecting this revenue.
The city manager said there would be only three ways to make up for the losses the bill could cause.
“Reduce services to its residents or it could raise business licenses to those that are still in the city which is, as we discussed earlier, an inequity or we can raise property taxes to help cover it," Pedersen said. "So everyone in the city has a stake in this decision.”
Pedersen added the bill proposes a $100 first business license fee, which would be the same for both small and large businesses. He added the city has supported business license reform in the past, but this set of bills has radical changes.
The city plans to let the General Assembly know its thoughts and how this could be harmful to city operations and taxpayers.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told council these proposed changes are a bad idea for South Carolina and it's a horrendous idea for Myrtle Beach and Horry County.
In other business on Tuesday, the assistant city manager presented information on the economic benefit of sports tourism.
Back in 2013, sports tourism had a direct spending impact of more than $127 million. Three years later, in 2016, that was up nearly 50 percent to more than $185 million.
Spending increased every year since 2013 as well, including a 12 percent jump from 2015 to 2016.
Sports tourism isn’t currently self-sufficient for Myrtle Beach because what people are paying the city directly to play sports isn’t fully making up for what the city is paying to provide the services.
However, Pedersen said the industry is getting closer to being self-sufficient because the city changed its fee structure last year.
“We probably make two or three times what it costs us to provide that service in terms of impact on things we don’t get directly from that provider, like business license fees, hospitality fees, accommodations taxes and the tourism development fee,” he said.
Finally, the city of Myrtle Beach is also looking to identify and improve vulnerable infrastructure for the next major storm.
Myrtle Beach was one of only five communities to be chosen to receive a technical assistance grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to increase resilience for future floods. Approximately 70 applications were submitted.
The grant covers the cost of a consultant to hold workshops, gather information and come up with strategic plans for the future to improve how the city's infrastructure handles flooding.
“This whole study was designed to help us recover from those as quickly as possible,” Pedersen said. “One of the side benefits is we may be able to go through this process and identify some ways to improve our ratings to save our constituents more on their insurance.”
A community workshop to share ideas and information about being more resilient from flooding will be on March 15 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot. Residents, neighborhood leaders, developers and others are invited to attend.
A six-hour meeting is scheduled for the day after for city leaders and staff members to talk about what was discussed at the community meeting.
February 16, 2017
Waitsburg considers waiving business license fees
WAITSBURG — The City Council on Tuesday, in an effort to spur business growth, will consider waiving licensing fees for the next year for new businesses.
Waitsburg’s current city code requires new businesses to register with the city and pay a $50 fee. A resolution before City Council would temporarily remove the fee requirement until Feb. 6 of next year.
For a business to be considered “new” under this proposed waiver, it must have not operated within the city in the last 12 months.
New businesses would still have to register with the city and pay any other fees associated with their operational activities, and annual renewal fees would remain in effect for existing businesses.
February 13, 2017
Etowah County, AL
Fines, jail time possible without county business license
Source: The Gadsden Times; www.gadsdentimes.com
By Benjamin Nunnally | Times Staff Writer
Etowah County business owners can face serious consequences for not purchasing their business licenses on time, including fines and possible jail time.
County Commission Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dollar announced the new enforcement measures Tuesday morning at the commission's work session.
"If someone has not purchased a business license, they can be fined for the amount of that license, but also they could be subject to six months in jail," said Dollar, who noted that those measures, taken in conjunction with the district attorney's office, are a last resort.
"We don't want to go to that extreme unless we've exhausted all of our resources to try to collect that," he said.
Business licenses in Etowah County must be purchased in October, and are good through the year until the end of September. Businesses that haven't purchased their annual license by November become delinquent, and receive citations that include a 15 percent penalty on the cost of the license and an increase in interest every month as determined by the state.
Deputy License Inspector Connie Arnold manages the citation process, sending notices and, in extreme cases, visiting the business sites themselves to try and collect payment. Usually, these methods are enough.
"A lot of times these folks say, 'I just strictly forgot,' and a lot of them will come in and pay," said Arnold.
Occasionally, a business owner will ask: "What are you going to do about it?" Now, Dollar has an answer.
"If it's still not collected, we'll send a registered letter notifying them that they need to purchase that business license, or our next step is to turn it over to the district attorney's office," said Dollar.
District Attorney Jody Willoughby said his office will handle cases like any other statutory violation, with their focus on prosecuting.
"Any type of sentence that may be imposed will be completely up to the court," said Willoughby, unless another disposition is reached between the involved parties.
Commission staff is still determining how long an account can be held delinquent before being passed to the district attorney's office for legal action. They've always had the option of turning businesses operating without a license over for prosecution, according to Dollar, but have not done so in the past.
Etowah County has about 5,000 active business licenses, according to Accounts Manager Belinda Childress. The commission has seen a little more than 300 delinquent accounts this year.
"If we have to pursue to that level we will do it," Dollar said, "but we're pro-business and want to have a business-friendly county. It's a matter of last resort."
Business license payments are collected by the Etowah County Probate Office, which also issues the licenses.
Call Arnold at 256-547-4612 for more information or to arrange a payment.
February 8, 2017
Barren County, KY
First new package liquor license issued in Barren County
Source: Glasgow Daily Times; www.glasgowdailytimes.com
By Melina J. Overstreet | [email protected]
GLASGOW – All of the first 11 businesses since the Sept. 27 vote for legal countywide alcohol sales that applied to sell package liquor in Barren County are expected to get their licenses once they meet the final inspection and other requirements, according to notices local alcoholic beverage administrators received from state ABC officials Wednesday.
Nine of those were within the city of Glasgow, but only one, Rite Aid No. 4006 on Happy Valley Road at U.S. 31-E in Glasgow, had its space completely ready to go and had its actual licenses issued from both the Kentucky Department for Alcoholic Beverage Control and the City of Glasgow on Wednesday, said city ABC administrator Brandon Kerney.
The others are in various stages of renovations or construction, so the letters they were sent from Kentucky ABC said things like their application is approved, but the license won't be issued until a completed field report and final inspections are received or that if they don't have all their construction finished by May 31, they will have to submit a written explanation with anticipated completion date to apply for an extension, Kerney said.
In all cases, the business receiving a license cannot transfer it to another person or business for at least three years and would have to relinquish it if the business fails or elects to stop selling liquor, for example. If they had an email address listed on their application and have checked that Wednesday, he said, they should have received a message from the state ABC office already and be aware of the initial approval; otherwise they'll learn when they receive the notice in postal mail.
Kerney said he sent out his own letter Wednesday advising applicants that when their spaces are ready, they need to make appointments for their final local building and fire inspections.
With Rite Aid, Kerney said, “it's just a matter of them getting their inventory in.” He said he had spoken with a corporate representative who told him the hope was to have it there within a week.
Kerney said he thought two others, both owned by parent company Glasgow Liquors, were probably relatively close to being ready. One store, at 105 Park Ave., has the same name as the parent, and the other is Glasgow Wine & Spirits at Ford Centre, 199 N. L. Rogers Wells Blvd.
Several are making significant renovations, and some of those were waiting to see whether they got the license before investing the money for the actual work, he said. One store, Fire Pit Spirits, 1100 Happy Valley Road, is being built from scratch.
The other applicants in the city are Jolita's Liquors, 618 Columbia Ave.; Columbia Liquor Store, 103 Park Ave., DV's Liquors, 1621 Cleveland Ave.; Stallion Liquor & Wine, 102 Cherry St.; and Walmart No. 771, 2345 Happy Valley Road, Suite A.
Another business, Triple Star, has applied to sell package liquor in the city, that that application came just a few days ago, so the 30-day period that has to be allowed for a letter of protest to be filed before the state considers it hasn't even passed yet.
Only two of the three businesses that advertised intent to apply for package liquor licenses in the unincorporated portions of the county in the initial round actually submitted applications, and they were also included in this round of initial approvals, said Sherry Jones, fiscal court clerk. Both of their letters give them the May 31 deadline that some of the in-city stores got, she said.
Those two are Barren River Beverages, 1668 Burkesville Road, and Lake Way Liquor, Building 1, 4363 Scottsville Road.
Another business in the Hiseville area more recently advertised intent to apply, but it hasn't yet, Jones said.
Based on its population, Barren County as a whole is allowed to have no more than 18 retail package liquor licenses, and two were already in operation in Cave City, where it's been legal since 2014.
All of the businesses that applied for licenses to sell package liquor – sometimes worded as “distilled spirits and wine” – also were applying to sell package malt beverages, but there is no quota or limit for the number of stores selling the latter, and several locations are selling or plan to sell only package malt beverages – primarily beer but also wine coolers and similar beverages.
Restaurants of a certain size and meeting other requirements have been able to sell liquor, along with malt beverages, by the drink, for a few years now in Cave City and Glasgow, but now the county also is allowed a quota of 17 establishments that sell by the drink without meeting those restaurant requirements.
Only one business has applied for one of those quota licenses: The Cavern in downtown Cave City.
Jennifer Freeman, that city's ABC administrator, said she has not received any notice from the state on the status of that application, but through her conversations with the owner, Tim Brown, and sometimes conversations on speaker with him in her office and a state ABC official on the phone, it is her understanding that his applications for liquor and malt beverages by the drink had needed some minor revisions or additional pieces of information but were on course to be approved soon. She said Brown is hoping to be open for business by around Valentine's Day.
Brown has told the Glasgow Daily Times he intends to give his establishment – a cafe in one of its past lives – a neighborhood pub atmosphere.
Two other places in the unincorporated portions of the county have advertised intent to apply for licenses to have alcohol by the drink, but they fall into other categories without a quota. One is Barren River Lake State Resort Park and the other is the Edwin P. Barlow Post No. 5906 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, doing business as VFW Post No. 5906.
February 6, 2017
Wyoming Would See More Liquor Licenses Under Senate Proposal
By Nick Learned
Four state senators and two representatives are behind a bill that would allow more liquor licenses to be issued in smaller cities and towns across Wyoming.
Senate File 155 deals specifically with bar and grill liquor licenses as authorized under Wyoming Statute 12-4-413.
The proposal would change the population formula establishing how many permits can be issued in incorporated cities or towns of a certain size.
Here’s the current formula:
-Up to two licenses in incorporated cities or towns of 7,500 people or fewer;
-Up to three licenses in incorporated cities with populations between 7,501 and 15,000;
-Up to four licenses in incorporated cities with populations between 15,001 and 27,500;
-Up to one additional license for each additional 7,500 people in incorporated cities with populations over 27,500.
Under Senate File 155, the formula would look like this beginning July 1:
-Up to two licenses in incorporated cities or towns of 4,000 people or fewer;
-Up to five licenses in incorporated cities with populations between 4,001 and 12,000;
-Up to six licenses in incorporated cities with populations between 12,001 and 24,000;
-Up to two additional licenses for each additional 4,000 people in incorporated cities with populations over 24,000.
The proposal was assigned a bill number on Tuesday.
No fiscal or personnel impact is noted in the measure’s fiscal note.
Senate File 155 is sponsored by Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan), Sen. Dave Kinskey (R-Sheridan), Sen. Bill Landen (R-Casper), Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette), Rep. Michael K. Madden (R-Buffalo) and Rep. Tom Walters (R-Casper).
January 26, 2017
New, expanded business license applications in Hazleton cause uproar
By Geri Gibbons
[email protected] - @TLGGibbons - 570-991-6117
HAZLETON —A revised application for business licenses has council members, business owners and Mayor Jeff Cusat embroiled in a controversy involving privacy, necessity and safety.
The new application, made available to council members last week and scheduled to be sent to local businesses in the next few days, was recrafted by Cusat and his administration in an attempt, he said, to reduce business fraud.
Councilman David Sosar disagrees with requesting what he believes is an unnecssary amount of information from business owners, including social security numbers, banks used for business accounts, names of accountants and utility information.
“We’ve all been getting a lot of calls from residents who are business owners,” said Sosar. “They don’t want to provide such a great deal of information; they think it’s intrusive.”
Melody Fuller, owner Hair of the Dog and Jagger’s Doggy Deli dog services, credited Cusat and Police Chief Jerry Speziale with successfully addressing crime during the last year, but she said she doesn’t trust the city with her information.
Fuller, who has been in business on East Broad Street for over 25 years, said city officials historically have not adequately addressed problems ranging from crime to parking to economic development.
“At this point,” she said, “if the government couldn’t address those types of problems, I will not trust them with my personal information. I’m not asking for a line of credit or anything.”
Fuller said she feels so adamantly about the issue that, should she be required to complete the form in its entirety, she would move her business out of Hazleton.
“I have other locations (to choose from),” she said. “I don’t want to leave Hazleton, but I will if I feel that I have to.”
Other business owners posted comments opposing the new forms on Cusat’s Facebook page but declined comment for this story.
Cusat said he intends to go “door-to-door” to businesses that do not return the completed form to the city, and should they refuse to comply with it, will require them to shut down.
Cusat sites such infractions as failure to pay municipal taxes, cash-only businesses and being fronts for criminal activity as reasons for the additional questions on the two-page application.
“Just ask the police department,” he said. “Illegal businesses are the source of a lot of drug activity and violence.”
Fuller, though, said she believes there should be a better way for the city to address fraudulent businesses.
“I could spot fraudulent businesses myself, without any form,” she said. “Long-term businesses will be penalized. Requiring the form could negatively impact businesses.”
Pointing out empty storefronts in downtown Hazleton, Fuller said, “We cannot afford to lose any more businesses.”
Councilwoman Grace Cuozzo said, “They’re crazy if they think the fraudulent businesses are going to fill out the form. And, we don’t have the money to investigate business by business. Some of that investigation should be left to the IRS or the health department.”
For now, Cusat said he will continue to mail out the business licensing forms and to require that they be fully completed.
“If someone has a problem with providing specific information, they are welcome to come in and talk about it,” he said. “But the forms need to be completed and returned.”
Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons.
January 19, 2017
Cobb cites YouTube star in business license case
By Doug Richards, WXIA
MARIETTA, GA -- A YouTube star and Cobb County are at odds over the star's business location. The county has cited Justin Chandler for running a business out of a residence. His business is playing video games and putting it on YouTube.
In late October, a video appeared on YouTube showing off the new Atlanta home of a group called Team Kaliber. Team Kaliber uploads video of its members playing a video game called Call of Duty.
It’s part of an emerging video trend where gamers show themselves playing video games. Some get hundreds of thousands of YouTube viewers – with moneymaking potential in clicks and ads and swag sold on the Team Kaliber store.
"I also make gaming videos and all kinds of videos that I film in my home right here in Atlanta, and I upload 'em to YouTube, in this house I live in with a bunch of my friends who do the exact same thing," Chandler says in a Youtube video.
On Jan. 10, a Cobb County code enforcement officer cited Justin Chandler for illegally running a business out of his house, saying that the “videos he makes for income can be considered business activity” made with business equipment.
Chandler argues otherwise – in a video he posted to YouTube. "This extremely unique and rare scenario poses the question: [Does] filming and uploading YouTube videos from your home constitute the home as a business?” he asks. “Does it matter how many views I have or how much income I make from it? Because to be honest, I do the same thing millions of other Americans do.”
Chandler declined comment when contacted by 11Alive News.
Legal analyst Phil Holloway says it’s about whether it’s a commercial enterprise operating in a residential area.
"There's nothing wrong or illegal with simply monetizing a YouTube account," said 11Alive legal analyst Phil Holloway. "But when you take it to the level of making it a business enterprise which they’ve apparently allegedly held themselves out to be, that’s where it can become a problem and in violation of the code."
Cobb County also cited the home for having too many unrelated adults occupying a single family home. Cobb officials say Chandler subsequently applied for a business license. He hasn't been penalized, but Cobb officials have asked him to apply for a land use permit to avoid any further trouble.
(© 2017 WXIA)
January 17, 2017
Horry County, SC
Horry County leaders change business license law to cut out ‘problem businesses’
Source: WBTW News 13; www.wbtw.com
By Taylor Herlong
CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – In an effort to cut out “problem businesses” in Horry County, council leaders passed the third and final reading of an ordinance Tuesday that will change the way businesses apply for a business license.
Now, new businesses will have to complete a detailed application that identifies everyone involved in the business.
They’ll also have to identify who will be operating the business, give any criminal or nuisance history, and businesses serving alcohol after midnight will have to complete a safety plan.
In October, the county’s attorney said more than two dozen businesses have been closed in Horry County since 2003 as a result of court enforced nuisance actions prosecuted by the solicitor’s office.
County leaders say that’s a costly project for the businesses to re-open just a year later.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says they’re hoping this will help cut down on violence in the county.
“It’s all about safety, creating safety in these late night establishments to help our police officers know who we’re dealing with, what we’re dealing with, and what they’re operation is going to be. We felt this was a better resolve than curtailing the hours that they would operate,” said Lazarus.
Lazarus says this application process is for any new business coming to the county. Existing businesses are not required to submit a safety plan unless they become problems for police.
January 11, 2017
Los Angeles, CA
New law allows free booze in California beauty salons
By Chelsea Edwards
STUDIO CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A law has gone into effect in California that allows beauty salons to serve alcohol without getting a liquor license, and those drinks are free.
As of Jan. 1, AB1322, also known as the "Drybar bill," was officially in effect after being signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.
The law allows salons and barber shops to serve free beer and wine without a license, as long as the drinker is of age and getting a beauty service.
A popular high-end salon chain, Drybar, was the driving force behind the bill. Its founder, Alli Webb, said they've been offering free drinks to customers since the business first started seven years ago.
"That was something women were talking about - why they loved Drybar - they loved getting their hair done, they love the confidence they had when they went out the door, but they also love having a glass of wine while sitting here," Webb explained.
The new law does not mean bottomless booze for your beauty treatments. It mandates that salons can only serve 6 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer per customer. The drinks also have to be free and have to be served before 10 p.m.
Getting the bill passed did come with opposition from alcohol industry watchdog groups and others concerned about the lack of regulation.
But many customers seemed enthusiastically on board.
"To be honest, if I'm about to go out and I'm doing my hair at home, I have a glass of wine while I'm getting ready," said Drybar client Missy Fitzharris. "It makes me feel like I'm home."
January 9, 2017
E-cigarette sellers now need state license
Source: The Modesto Bee; www.modbee.com
Stanislaus County health officials lauded state legislation that went into effect Monday that requires sellers of electronic cigarettes, vaping devices and other related products to pay a $265 annual licensing fee.
Gov. Jerry Brown on May 4 signed into law state Senate Bill No. 5 and Assembly Bill No. 11, requiring that e-cigarettes be regulated the same as other tobacco products. The licensing fee is required for each location selling tobacco products.
The state laws echo a Riverbank city ordinance enacted in 2015 that requires tobacco retailers to obtain an annual license from the city. This license aims to prevent uncontrolled sales of tobacco and e-cigarette products and prohibits tobacco sales within 500 feet of any school or playground.
The new state laws ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone younger than 21, because many youths have had access to the products. The California Department of Public Health’s state health officer noted that e-cigarette use among people ages 18 to 29 tripled in 2014. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than a quarter of a million youths who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013.
In Modesto, Riverbank and Hughson, those cities have amended their definition of smoking to include e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine devices, applying all smoking laws to those products.
The Department of Public Health reports that e-cigarette aerosol contains at least 10 chemicals on California’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
According to the state Board of Equalization, products requiring licensing include:
▪ Any product containing, made or derived from nicotine
▪ Any electronic smoking or vaping device that delivers nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the person inhaling from the device
▪ Any component, part or accessory, even if it is sold separately
For more information on new state tobacco laws, visit tobaccofreeca.com.
January 3, 2017
Standard business licenses statewide?
Source: The State; www.thestate.com
By Clif LeBlanc | [email protected]
COLUMBIA, SC - In what business advocates say would be a giant leap forward, Columbia and other municipalities in South Carolina are eyeing a single, mandated way of issuing business licenses.
Businesses large and small complain that nearly each of South Carolina’s 270 cities and towns – and a few counties – use differing classifications, due dates, government forms and rates to issue licenses that allow them to operate in municipalities, according to advocates for a statewide, uniform law.
“It’s one of the most business unfriendly things we do,” said Ted Pitts, the director of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, which backs one business licensing law across the state.
The mishmash of local laws cost the state an estimated $300 million in 2013, said Melissa Carter, lobbyist for the Municipal Association of South Carolina, citing a legislative fiscal impact assessment.
Business licenses are important sources of income for cities and towns. In Columbia, for example, City Hall collected $11.1 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30 from 9,738 businesses. City budget officials project the figure will reach $11.5 million during the year that ends next June.
For Richland County, among a handful of counties that require business licenses, the comparable-year figures are $6.6 million and $7 million, according to Richland’s chief financial officer. The county adopted a licensing law in 2006 that is similar to what’s being considered statewide.
Jeff Palen is Columbia’s chief financial officer. He and other city staffers have been working with the municipal association toward a statewide system.
“In general, we support the whole idea,” Palen said. “It helps the (business) customer.”
Business licenses are more than revenue generators. They also are a means of tracking the kinds of businesses that open their doors and serve as a way to monitor code enforcement.
Lexington County doesn’t require a license. In 2000, Tin Products in Red Bank spilled toxic chemicals that killed fish, poisoned wells, damaged Cayce’s water plant and forced rate increases for some 12,000 Cayce customers to cover repair costs. All told, the contamination affected nearly a quarter of 209,000 residents Lexington County had at the time.
County officials didn’t know Tin Products was operating or violating pollution laws, in part because the plant was not licensed by the county.
Business leaders, municipal officials and legislators have been talking for five years in an attempt to write a uniform licensing law that is customer friendly and satisfies competing interests.
Some are optimistic that might happen in the legislative session that begins in January. Others are skeptical that a solution is close.
“There is no agreement among stakeholders about what exactly needs to be done,” the chamber’s Pitts said. “But there is agreement that something has to be done.”
The Municipal Association’s Carter is more optimistic that a consensus is close. “I will tell you, cities are completely on board,” she said.
A bill has not been written yet, but advocates are hopeful they have a champion in Rep. Bill Sandifer, a Republican from Oconee County and a committee chairman.
Scott Slatton, the association’s field director, sees the chances of a law this way: “There is enough agreement between the parties that something is going to get done.”
Key elements of a standardized law
The bottom line, he said, is “to take the hassle factor out” of getting licenses.
The key components of any standardized business license law include:
▪ One due date for all businesses
▪ One application for all
▪ An agreed upon definition of gross income, which is how license tax is calculated.
▪ Substantially shrinking the number of business classifications – perhaps to eight – to make it easier to determine the kinds of licenses needed. Columbia has 139 of them.
▪ Create a centralized computer-driven system where companies to submit applications to do work anywhere they chose in the state. The software would use companies’ protected financial information to calculate how much businesses would pay each city.
▪ Cities and towns could not get a revenue windfall the first year the new system goes live.
The association wants to become the clearinghouse for the computer system through a third-party vendor. The chamber suggests the S.C. Secretary of State’s office.
“Cities are adamantly opposed” to state agencies running the clearinghouse, which advocates are calling the “portal,” Slatton said. Who would run the portal is a key sticking point.
Jim Hester owns a commercial drywall business that operates in the Carolinas and Georgia and has annual revenues the said amount to between $20 million and $30 million.
Hester said he had not heard of the push for a standardized system until a reporter called. But he said he’s open to a simplified way of getting licenses – and a clearinghouse doesn’t bother him.
“I wouldn’t have any anxiety about uploading that information,” Hester said.
“I’m pulling licenses all over the state,” he said. “I’m paying all these license fees, and some are high and some are low. I don’t mind paying my fair share.”
Rock Hill’s experience
A version of what the Municipal Association considers a “model law” was adopted in Rock Hill in 2009.
That city’s chief financial officer, Anne Harty, said city officials did a lot of advance work and adjusted rates so that businesses overall were not hit hard.
“In our transition, we made it relatively invisible,” she said, adding she cannot recall a single complaint from any business owner.
In the years since its adoption, lawyers, doctors and accountants have seen the cost of their license dip because their profit margins aren’t as large. Technology firms, however, have been paying more, Harty said.
Some licenses cost more because businesses have grown, which raises their gross incomes and, in turn, what they pay for a license.
The chamber’s Pitts captured the conflict facing city and business leaders. “All businesses would like to pay less in taxes,” he said. “But you’re not going to get local government to agree with that.”
December 27, 2016
Glenview businesses will no longer have to renew business licenses each year beginning in January
Source: Chicago Tribune; www.chicagotribune.com
By Alexandra Kukulka
Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, Glenview businesses will no longer be required to annually renew their business licenses, though restaurants will have to pay an annual health inspection fee and first-time business license fees will increase.
The village's Board of Trustees voted 6-0 in November to eliminate the annual license renewal fee for both businesses and restaurants, which cost $35 and $40 respectively, according to Joe Kenney, the village's director of development.
Officials decided to get rid of the license renewal fee because the process of filling out applications, collecting money and following up with business owners who missed the deadline was time-consuming for village staff, Kenney said.
Each year, the village would mail out more than 1,400 notices for license renewals, and about 30 percent of business owners did not fill out the online application and pay the fee on time, Kenney said. If an owner didn't meet the deadline, village staff would then have to send letters to those businesses and call or even meet with the owners, he said.
"It was really a nuisance for the businesses and a burden for village staff to collect the renewal every year," Kenney said. "It was a very small fee to chase folks around for."
However, fire and health inspections will still be completed annually, which will help the village verify the validity of a business' license, he said.
Eliminating the license renewal fee will result in an estimated $44,000 loss in revenue to the village, Kenney said. But in a separate ordinance, which the board also approved in a 6-0 vote the same night, the board agreed to increase the first-time business license fee to $45 for businesses and $95 for restaurants, along with an annual $95 annual health inspection for restaurants to help "off-set costs of health inspections," he said.
December 21, 2016
City considers requiring a general business license
Source: Idaho State Journal; www.idahostatejournal.com
By Debbie Bryce For the Journal
POCATELLO — Pocatello City Council members heard the pros and the cons about implementing general business licensing throughout the city at a study session Thursday.
Following the discussion, council directed city staff to work up a draft ordinance and reach out to area businesses, providing education on the benefits and drawbacks of business licensing. According to city planner Terri Neu, public hearings on the matter are still at least one year away. If approved in future council meetings, implementation would be at least two years down the road.
Both Neu and Pocatello Fire Department Chief David Gates estimate that about 3,000 to 3,500 businesses operate within city limits.
“But that’s the hard part — without requiring a (city) business license, we really don’t know for sure,” Gates said.
Currently, businesses such as daycare facilities, alcohol sellers and taxi operators need a city license, but there is no requirement or procedure for general business licenses.
Neu told members of the Pocatello City Council during a study session Thursday that the city and the fire department are not always aware of when new businesses open.
Neu said currently the city relies on utility records and building permits to track new businesses, making it difficult to conduct fire inspections to ensure codes and regulations are met and that the business is safe. Gates added that they often simply drive along Pocatello’s main roads to see if anything looks new.
Gates told the council that general business licensing would provide new business owners with a packet of information about the city’s code and all required equipment for that business. The fee proposed by city of Pocatello is $50 annually.
Gates said one new business in the city was forced to close its doors after investing their life-savings because required safety equipment was not installed at the business.
Neu told the Journal last month that fly-by-night business practices in Pocatello were a catalyst to get this discussion rolling as well as input from the police and fire department.
Throughout October and November, Neu conducted a survey of 100 Pocatello businesses. The majority of the businesses claimed one to five employees and an operating budget $100,000 or less annually. Most had been in operation for more 10 years or more.
Only about 36 percent of those businesses that responded to the survey supported licensing.
Neu said licensing would provide validation for businesses and up to date key holder information for the fire and police departments.
She said licensing would also facilitate more efficient water pollution control because the city would know what businesses are discharging into the sewer.
“If we violate that (federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit) it’s thousands of dollars per day that the city has to pay,” Neu said. “Due to our location, the EPA monitors us pretty closely.”
Churches and nonprofit groups would also be required to buy a business license under the new plan.
City Councilman Jim Johnston said he opposed any new restriction on businesses and was opposed to licensing churches, but he said he is also concerned about health and safety.
Councilwoman Heidi Adamson agreed and said she feared that local businesses would see it as another tax on their businesses.
Johnston said he would like to see discussions held with local commerce groups before it moves forward — a step that Neu promised to take following the meeting.
Mike Vigliaturo, owner of Pocatello Electric in Old Town, said he doesn’t see a need for general business licensing in the city.
Vigliaturo has owned the business since 1989 and he bought the store from his father, Al Vigliaturo, who became the sole owner in 1973.
Mike said his business is inspected twice a year by the Pocatello Fire Department to ensure that the building meets city code and that the public is not at risk.
The city is just looking to generate revenue,” Mike said.
Ed Snell, owner of Ed Snell Pharmacy in Pocatello wants to know what he’ll get for his $50.
“Are they expecting to generate revenue or are they providing some kind of service for this $50 annual fee?” Snell said.
Snell said his pharmacy is already inspected and licensed by the state, Medicare and Medicaid, and the fire department conducts regular inspections at the store.
He also opposes implementation of business licenses and believes it’s unnecessary.
For comparison, Chubbuck implemented business licensing around 1953 and about 768 Chubbuck businesses currently hold a city license. The general license fee $25 per year in Chubbuck.
December 14, 2016
Business licenses for private schools? Council must decide
Source: Montgomery Advertiser; www.montgomeryadvertiser.com
By Andrew J. Yawn, Montgomery Advertiser
Are private schools businesses? If so, should they be required to purchase business licenses?
That is the issue facing Montgomery City Council ahead of its next meeting after a private company hired by the city to inspect businesses found something surprising: Montgomery private schools are technically required to purchase business licenses under city law. Most of them just haven't.
“We engaged a firm to come in and take a look at all our city licenses and try to find people operating outside of our ordinances, and this is one thing they picked up on, and it’s an unintended thing really,” said city Finance Director Barry Crabb at the council work session Tuesday. “We had some inconsistencies. We had one or two that were actually paying. We had 25 that were not.”
Crabb said it was not a purposeful action by either party. Private schools didn't know they had to buy annual licenses and the city didn't know it wasn't enforcing a law.
Chapter 16, Article III, Section 74-6b provides a business license exemption to “schools operated by city, county, state, churches, and qualifying non-profit organizations.”
Somehow private schools slipped through the legal cracks. The city now has to choose between enforcing the law or providing private schools an exemption. While the city has not been actively enforcing the law in the past, the law cannot be ignored now that it is known.
“When we started sending out invoices to try to get business licenses for some private schools, they started calling some of the council about why we’re trying to collect business licenses from schools,” Crabb said.
District 7 Councilman Arch Lee proposed the ordinance discussed Tuesday that would amend the code and provide an exemption for private schools grades K-12.
The original proposal would have made all schools exempt, but as Crabb said, there are some schools the city doesn’t want to exempt.
“For instance, for-profit truck driving schools and cooking schools. They require licenses,” Crabb said.
Lee was not present for the council meeting Tuesday, therefore Council President Charles Jinright tabled the issue until the next council meeting. That did not prevent council members from discussing the issue.
District 6 Councilman Fred Bell, a lawyer, asked Crabb what would stop a day care from taking advantage of the exemption.
“I’m not against it, but I don’t want some smart lawyer coming in and having a day care and calling it a private school,” Bell said. “If there’s an exemption, I’m not going to call it a day care. I’ll call it the Fred Bell Private School.”
That led to a discussion of whether or not day cares should be exempt, considering private schools make considerably more in revenue than day cares. Crabb responded that the impact of only exempting private schools would be less because the city does not currently account for that money.
“It’s not going to be a significant impact to exempt (private schools),” Crabb said. “We’ve got quite a few day cares. We don’t have a lot of day cares taking in the kind of money as a St. James or Trinity. Those are $8 million-$10 million revenue a year and would generate $8,000-$10,000 a year licenses. We’ve got quite a few day cares smaller, but they are paying the fee. To exempt them would be a different situation.”
Before the next meeting, Crabb, the council members and Mayor Todd Strange will evaluate what other Alabama metropolitan areas do in regards to private schools and day cares. Ultimately it will be the council’s decision of who — if anybody — to exempt.
December 12, 2016
St. Charles, IL
St. Charles approves property tax levy, issues massage business licenses
Source: Kane County Chronicle; www.m.kcchronicle.com
By Martha Quetsch - [email protected]
The St. Charles City Council on Dec. 5 approved a $20 million proposed tax levy for 2016. The sum represents the total estimated city taxes for property owners next spring.
The city will submit its proposed levy to the county this month. The amount is consistent with 2015 city property taxes.
Before issuing property tax bills in the spring, the county will determine St. Charles' final property tax total based on actual 2016 new property growth. If the city's estimate of property growth is correct, the city property tax rate will decline from 99 to 88 cents per $100 of equalized assessed valuation – or EAV, said Chris Minnick, city finance director.
At $1.37 billion, the city's 2016 EAV estimate of property in St. Charles is slightly higher than the $1.32 billion actually assessed for 2015.
The city portion of property taxes is about 9.6 percent of the total county tax bills. The greatest portion of property taxes is for public schools.
New massage business licenses
Also during the Dec. 5 meeting, the city council approved two new massage establishment licenses. One was for Summer Spa, to be located at 1550 E. Main St., and the other was for Mixology Spa, an existing business at 116 W. Main St.
Fourth Ward Alderman Jo Krieger voted against issuing the licenses.
“We've had too many problems in the past. I'm opposed to it,” Krieger said.
Krieger noted massage license violations earlier this year in St. Charles and an alleged violation Dec. 1 at a Batavia massage business. The Batavia incident led to a prostitution arrest.
The St. Charles City Council next meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.
December 7, 2016
The Department of Revenue Encourages Delaware Businesses to Renew Your Business License Online Now
The Division of Revenue would like to remind business owners with licenses expiring at the end of December that the most convenient way to renew your business license is by visiting revenue.delaware.gov, and renewing online. Any business whose Delaware business license expires December 31, 2016 may opt to renew online using a credit card, debit card, or via direct debit from your bank account. This convenient online service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Last year, over 65% of business owners used the online renewal service. Renewing a State of Delaware business license online is not only convenient, but it allows the taxpayer to print a temporary license directly from their computer – a benefit for any business requiring proof of a current license, such as contractors and businesses receiving government payments.
“Renewing a business license online is fast and secure,” says Division of Revenue Director Patrick Carter, “the online business license system is a tool that makes life easier for hundreds of Delaware businesses.”
To complete the online renewal, businesses will need their Tax ID Number and Business License Number. Business License Numbers can be found on your current license, or on the annual License Renewal Notice mailed to businesses by the Delaware Division of Revenue. Business renewing a license may elect a one or a three-year business license, decreasing future paperwork.
For more information on business licenses, please contact the business license department at (302) 577-8778 or [email protected]
December 1, 2016
Green Bay, WI
The Green Bay City Council is considering banning hard liquor sales at convenience stores
Source: Journal Sentinel; JSOnline
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay City Council is considering banning hard liquor sales at convenience stores.
Another proposal before the council would give city leaders greater authority to revoke liquor licenses.
Scannell doesn't find banning convenience stores from selling liquor is necessary, but he hopes the policy discussion will put an end to arguments for each new license.
Since October, the council has denied three requests by convenience store owners to sell liquor, while approving two others. The owners who didn't get licenses said the decisions put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Alderman Guy Zima is leading the push to limit liquor sales and has promised to vote against any new license requests. He said too many places sell alcohol, and that's impacting the quality of life in city neighborhoods.
"My efforts are to not have any more liquor stores or gas stations or grocery stores that will sell in our neighborhoods," Zima said. "Now, people can get it one way or another, but the easier you make it, the more problems you'll have."
Currently, the Green Bay police are conducting a six-month trial run at increasing enforcements in the downtown area, where most of the alcohol-related complaints occur. After the trial is completed in December the police department will report its findings to the council's protection and welfare committee.
Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com
November 30, 2016
Business License Fees & Enforcement Going Up
Source: KITV 4 Island News; www.kitv.com
By Paul Drewes
For many, doing business in Hawaii means getting a professional and vocational license.
The number of licenses has shot up. So have fees so the state can catch up on enforcing our licensing laws.
Serenity and Massage provides a relaxing environment for a rubdown..There are soft sheets, candles and quiet music to add to the tranquility.
But for those wondering if the massage therapist will rub them the wrong way --
They should instead look for a business license on display, along with one for every masseuse.
"I got licensed because I wanted to legitimate and legal, and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. If I am going to be working with someone's body, that is a very vulnerable space, and I'm sure they would want me to know what I am doing as well," said Serenity & Massage Manager Laura Anderson.
Massage is just one industry where Hawaii workers have to licensed.
47 other professions and vocations including barbers, real estate agents and veterinarians make up the 150,000 licenses issued annually. Licenses are required to protect the health, safety and welfare of consumers.
What does a license do? In the case of a general contractor, it not only ensures the worker knows how to do the job correctly, it also ensures those who do the hiring are covered when things go wrong.
"The insurance piece is very important. In case someone gets injured on your job site, or if anything goes wrong with the job site, the licensed contractor's insurance will cover any incidents that occur on the property," said Daria Loy-Goto, with the State's Regulated Industries Complaints Office.
Each year, RICO investigators take hundreds of actions against unlicensed workers and those in violation of their license, but recently they've noted a disturbing trend.
"In the past decade, the office has seen an increase in more serious kinds of conduct: theft, diversion of drugs, and improper touching in the healthcare industry," said Loy-Goto.
While the number of cases has been steadily increasing, licensing fees had stayed at the same level for decades. This year, an increase, which raised costs by about 30%, a difference many will notice when it is time to renew.
"it was more than I expected, I have a personal budget. I had $120 set aside for it, but it was more like $146," said Anderson.
The additional money will go toward upgrading the state's on-line computer system and fill 8 positions, including more investigators.
"A field investigator will go out and subpoena records, talk to witnesses, conduct a traditional investigation to determine if there are any licensing law violations. From there the matter may be turned over to a RICO staff attorney," said Loy-Goto.
Now, when it comes to massage licensees, investigators can also issue citations for certain violations on the spot.
"It is going to allow us to cover more ground, with the people we have," said Loy-Goto.
Citations can also help weed out unlicensed workers and illegal prostitution parlors that have become a sore spot for the massage industry.
"As long as we follow the requirements, it shouldn't be a problem for licensed establishments. And they are not that hard," added Anderson.
Next year, legislation may be added to allow investigators to issue immediate citations for cosmetology violations as well.
If you have an issue with licensed businesses or unlicensed workers call the State Office of Consumer Protection.
November 28, 2016
New York, NY
New York - A Desire Named Street Cart: Red Tape Stifles NYC Vendors
Source: VinNews; www.VinNews.com
New York - With a guy selling pretzels and hot dogs on every other block, Manhattan must seem to tourists like a Shangri-La for street food vendors — a place where any entrepreneur willing to stand in bad weather for long hours can hustle up a living. In reality, though, New York’s food cart business is no picnic.
For decades, the city’s regulatory scheme has made it next to impossible to obtain a new permit to operate a food cart or truck. That’s locked thousands of vendors into a black-market system where they are forced to pay huge amounts to “rent” one of the city’s roughly 4,200 existing permits from do-nothing middlemen. Or else, they can risk hefty fines by operating illegally.
Unable to get a permit of his own, Mohammed Shaheedul Huq, who operates a cart in downtown Brooklyn, paid $18,000 upfront to lease one from a man who pays the city just $200 every two years for the license.
“I have no choice,” said Huq, who was a stockbroker in his native Bangladesh but now rooms in one of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods. “He’s supposed to not sell it to me. I’m supposed to not buy from him. All departments know how it works, but nobody takes any action.”
That could be changing. The New York City Council is looking at adopting legislation that would create 600 new food vendor permits each year for a seven-year period, roughly doubling the number of carts and trucks allowed on the street.
Street vendors and their advocates hail the legislation, which has the support of the City Council’s speaker, as a much-needed change to outdated rules they say have strangled entrepreneurship.
But others, like representatives of the city’s business improvement districts, say there are already too many carts in prime locations as it is now. They want any increase in the number of permits to only follow after systematic enforcement of existing rules.
“If you lift the cap on the number of vendors without doing anything else, it’s not like 600 vendors are going to spread throughout the five boroughs. They’re just going to go where the money is,” said Ellen Baer, co-chair of the NYC BID Association, which represents the city’s 72 business improvement districts.
New York City capped the number of food vending permits at around 4,200 in the early 1980s after similar complaints from brick-and-mortar businesses about clogged sidewalks. Few people lucky enough to have gotten permits in the 1980s have willingly given them up. Instead, they rent them to people like Huq, even though such arrangements are a violation of city rules.
Only a minuscule number of permits become available in any given year, roughly 50, according to the city. A waiting list that was opened in 2007 with 2,500 spots still has about 1,700 people on it.
Thousands more vendors set up shop without any permit, though they run a risk of steep fines.
Delmy Zelaya, who runs a cart on a Queens street, said she might make $60 a day selling obleas, a Colombian snack that has a layer of caramel between two wafers. In the four years she’s been doing it though, she’s already been fined $3,000.
The system of people holding onto their permits and renting them out isn’t fair, Zelaya said, especially for someone like her who’s just trying to make extra income to help cover bills.
“I want to live and breathe,” she said. “I don’t want anybody to stop me.”
The legislation introduced last month would hike the fee for a two-year permit to $1,000 and create a dedicated enforcement unit.
Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, which advocates for vendors, said he favored removing the caps on permits entirely. But he called the bill “a serious and thoughtful and reasonable effort to get at the heart of the problem, which is the lack of opportunity for people.”
November 21, 2016
Smyrna puts heat on local food trucks
Source: Delaware State News; www.delawarestatenews.net
By Ian Gronau
SMYRNA — Clint Johnson’s wife calls him the Woolly Mammoth because his “old school, authentic” style of barbecuing on the roadside is going extinct.
Like many endangered species, Mr. Johnson laments habitat degradation as the cause, but this kind is of an official nature.
“Traditional Southern rib joints that used to be on the side of the gas stations or out in back of the bar are all extinct because of rules and regulations,” he said.
Mr. Johnson is the owner of Oh’ Phoebe’s BBQ & Down Home Deli in Smyrna. It specializes in barbecued and smoked ribs, chicken, pork, sausage and other savory fare.
In addition to the restaurant location on Main Street he operates a food truck parked in the Advance Auto Parts lot on Route 13, Wednesdays through Sundays.
Although feeling settled in Smyrna — his business’s home for the past five years — a recently approved ordinance has him wondering just how comfortable he should get.
Although the new ordinance’s terms seem fairly innocuous to his current business, new regulations hitting the books remind him of “run-ins” he had with Middletown officials.
“At first it was pretty good in Middletown,” he said. “There was no ordinance as long as you had the state license and the town license. You could pretty much go where you wanted to, provided that you had the permission of the land owner.
“One of my competitors thought maybe that I was doing better than him and he didn’t want me anywhere nearby. And maybe he thought that I would open up the floodgates for all these food trucks to come in and put the brick and mortar people out of business — as if we were going to post up right in front of their store.”
As a result, Middletown approved a new ordinance that would require him to plead his case to the zoning board for a $125 fee and then await approval, he said.
After that, he’d have to be heard by the city council, which can often take 30 to 60 days.
“Before, I could just move from place to place the next day as long as I keep my license up and running,” he said. “Because, if I am going to plan out my summer, by the time I get final permission to move around to the different locations, the summer would be gone. That’s why I got out of there.”
After moving into his storefront location in Smyrna he began running into new issues.
“I had trouble with my restaurant smoking up the town, the people up on Main Street in town really didn’t care for that,” he said. “But there is no state rule about open air smoking in Delaware.”
After meeting with the town manager and chief of police, Mr. Johnson decided that it might be better for everyone if he moved his meat smoking operation in his food truck out to Route 13 while keeping his restaurant functioning in town.
“It was kind of a courtesy thing, and it was agreed that if I moved out there I wasn’t going to be bothered anymore,” he said.
The new ordinance, approved on Oct. 14, establishes requirements for mobile food vendors and specifies that mobile food vendors must have at least $100,000 worth of general liability insurance, trash receptacles, can have limited dining areas and are not permitted within 50 feet of restaurants.
It also outlines details surrounding the participation of mobile food vendors in public events and specifies the licensing procedures. It spells out restrictions for mobile food vendors located on public and private property and notes penalties for violation of the ordinance between $150 and $500.
It also explains that mobile food vendors who obtain a license as a mobile food vendor are not required to get a business license.
Smyrna Town Manager David Hugg says the impetus behind the ordinance is to pro-actively outline a policy before an urgent need for one arises.
“Food trucks are obviously something of a trend that’s growing rapidly and we’ve not really had a problem, he said. “But we wanted to get ahead of the curve a bit.
“We’ve been seeing food trucks on a regular basis out at the Blue Earl brewery. They don’t create any issue out there — they’re actually a great addition — but they’re not necessarily out there with a fully legal status. It’s kind of questionable.”
Mr. Johnson feels that although sometimes good intentioned, added regulations have a way of stifling businesses like his.
“I started out in Philly with nothing but a card table and shishkabobs,” he said. “Then I went to a small grill, then the back of my Volvo, then the back of my van and I got a smoker.
“I left Philadelphia because they were always trying to shut everyone down, and it would take too long to get set back up again.
“I’ve worked in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. So far, Smyrna and Dover pretty much allowed me to go where I wanted as long as I had permission, which has been good.”
Mr. Hugg says the new ordinance won’t exclude anyone who is taking the food truck business seriously and that it’s a good way to monitor commerce taking place in the city limits.
“I want to recognize that it is another commercial activity that will be taking place in town,” he said. “Most of the provisions that are in there, if you’re a legitimate food truck, you already have.
“The day of the guy with a little cart or wagon and some hot dogs is pretty much over. These guys who are in the actual food truck business have pretty expensive rigs — it’s not something you just put together in an afternoon. The retail arena is changing rapidly and we’re trying to be proactive.”
For now, Mr. Johnson is unconcerned: By his reckoning he operates well within all the posted requirements, but he resents duplicated regulatory efforts by the city and state. For instance, he isn’t happy about obtaining a license with the municipality when he already carries one from the state.
“It kind of feels like, food trucks are coming in and they’re thinking: ‘why not make a buck off them?’” he said. “The state issues licenses, why do they have to also?”
Mr. Johnson also thinks the goods and services food trucks like his offer are increasingly in demand, which is more reason to embrace them rather than “roll out red tape.”
“We’re hot. We’re the new trend,” he said. “A lot of people are taking business and their livelihoods into their own hands. We’re breaking out of the stereotypical mass produced food. We’re doing things our way, the traditional way.
“I do things just like you would in the back yard. It’s trend for people who know good food. After 30 or 40 years of seeing McDonald’s everywhere, people are really getting tired of it.
“Now, to see something like what I have on my grill? It’s a breath of fresh air. This chicken has bones.”
Despite the wind at his back, he knows that regulations, should they become too onerous, could chase him out of town as quickly as they have in the past — sending him the way of the Woolly Mammoth.
“I wish I could branch out a bit, but I am treading lightly,” he said. “You never know when you might pull up somewhere and suddenly you wont be welcome. It’s happened to me several times now.
November 16, 2016
Harrisburg council considers higher fee for business licenses
By Christine Vendel | [email protected]
HARRISBURG—For 20 years, business owners have paid $40 for an annual business license to operate in the city of Harrisburg.
That likely will change Jan. 1 as city council members prepare to increase the fee to $50 to adjust for inflation and increasing costs over two decades.
Council members weighed the increase Thursday night at a Community and Economic Development committee meeting. Councilman Jeff Baltimore, who chaired the meeting, said he planned to recommend approval of the measure at the next full legislative session.
"Over the years, there have been numerous increases to the cost of personnel, postage, paper and printing associated with issuing the business privilege and mercantile licenses," the proposed ordinance said.
Council members asked how the fee compared to other jurisdictions, and Mike Hughes, the city's tax enforcement officer, said similar cities such as York and Reading charge $50 while smaller municipalities charge less.
The fee hike would apply to about 5,000 businesses that operate in the city.
Council Vice President Shamaine Daniels asked whether the city could implement a two-tiered fee to cut small businesses a break, especially home-based operations that require other costly licenses. But Hughes said the state's Third Class City Code requires that the fee be equally applied, which means small mom-and-pop shops pay the same annual fee as a large law firms downtown.
The proposed fee increase represents the latest in a series of upward adjustments in fees and trash rates, after decades of neglect, council members said.
Under former Mayor Stephen Reed, the city neglected to raise fees to cover costs, said Councilman Ben Allatt, which helped to exacerbate the city's structural budget deficit.
"It's not sustainable," he said.
In other business, council members considered plans for construction of a 3-story, 20-unit building on a parking lot at 1820 North Fifth Street to house homeless veterans. The lot is next to the building that formerly housed the Hamilton Health Center.
The former health center currently is being renovated by Juanita Edrington Grant, who runs the Christian Recovery Aftercare Ministry for ex-offenders. Her organization, known as CRAM, will work with the TLC Work-Based Training Program, which is building the units for homeless veterans through tax credits.
Construction could begin on the project in the spring, according to architect Steve Funk, who attended Thursday's meeting.