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Vermont Supreme Court Rules Against State Lobby Tax.

ASAE applauded a June 8 ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court that affirms the unconstitutionality of a state-administered tax on lobbying. The case, which was brought by the Vermont Society of Association Executives, Montpelier, and six other plaintiff associations, was filed shortly after a provision taxing annual lobbying expenditures exceeding $2,500 was passed by the Vermont State Legislature as part of a campaign finance reform measure that took effect January 1, 1998. The plaintiffs had argued that the lobby tax was a special tax that singled out and burdened core political speech protected by the First Amendment.

The court held that "the lobby tax plainly warrants heightened security, under which it cannot pass constitutional muster.... Taken to its logical conclusion, refusing to subject a tax on political speech to heightened scrutiny unless it disfavored particular viewpoints would allow the state to impose a tax so great that it could effectively destroy the right to petition one's government, as long as the tax burdened all viewpoints equally. That is not the law."

ASAE, which lent financial resources as well as legal counsel and staff support to the plaintiffs' case, was concerned about the implications that the case held for associations in Vermont and nationally. "This law presented a serious affront to free speech in that it singled out lobbyists based on the amount they spent to be heard," said ASAE President and CEO Michael S. Olson, CAE. "ASAE will continue to aggressively oppose any attempt to obstruct the basic First Amendment right to petition one's government."
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Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U1VT
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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