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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

When is a Tax not a Tax? When it is not a Tax!

Granted, I am neither a 25-year-old maker of raw milk, artisan cheeses from Wisconsin, nor a constitutional scholar (hello, Mr. President, you are the latter), but clearly, tax bills, for the most part it seems, per the constitution, “shall originate in the House of Representatives.”  It does appear that the House Parliamentarian may have an issue with the Senate’s Food Safety Bill, S. 510, and specifically Section 107 which states:

Directs the Secretary to assess and collect fees related to: (1) food facility reinspection; (2) food recalls; (3) the voluntary qualified importer program; and (4) importer reinspection.

However, I think there is a very strong argument to be made that Section 107 was never intended to be a tax. And in fact, it is much more like a fine or a levy upon a facility that relates to reinspection of facilities involved in outbreaks or facilities outside the borders of the United States.  I read this as allowing the House and Senate to not be worried about the risk of a “Blue Slip,” and to simply get to the task of reconciling H.R. 2749 and S. 510 and getting it to the President’s desk for signing (I am sure to be invited).

But, do not take it from me, read it for yourself from the Congressional Research Service – “The Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution: Interpretation and Enforcement:”

“The Supreme Court has occasionally ruled on origination clause matters, adopting a definition of revenue bills that is based on two central principles that tend to narrow its application to fewer classes of legislation than the House: (1) raising money must be the primary purpose of the measure, rather than an incidental effect; and (2) the resulting funds must be for the expenses or obligations of the government generally, rather than a single, specific purpose.”

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  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Exactly!

  • Michael Bulger

    Thank you, Mr. Marler. I should have know you would have been a step ahead on finding literature to prove this point. There has to be all sorts of bills that would offer precedence for this being resolved without sending the bill back to the Senate.

  • Jim

    Hopefully the politicians will be fighting about other things and the House will blue slip this atrocity allowing it to die the slow death it deserves.