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Fake guns, sales tax fairness make Arlington’s lobbying agenda

Stricter regulations on fake guns and tougher penalties for those who target police officers are among the legislative priorities set by the Arlington City Council on Tuesday.

The city’s overriding theme each year for lobbying both the Legislature and Congress is the preservation and expansion of local control, especially, the agenda says, in “public health and safety, public property, conservation, revenues and economic development.”

Those priorities will guide the city’s responses to bills and initiatives emerging from the 2017 lawmaking sessions in Austin and Washington.

“There are so many community development block grants that are so important to us,” said Mayor Jeff Williams. adding that transportation also is high in his mind. “And we want to make sure the state is supporting tourism and job creation.”

The state agenda picked up a late entry when Councilwoman Sberi Capehart asked to support a good Samaritan law that would remove liability in cases where someone breaks into a vehicle to rescue a child or pet from life-threatening temperatures.

“Someone sees that and they want to take action,” she said. “They want to help, but sometimes they’re reluctant because they may be held liable.”

The council agreed to put it on their state agenda, which has three general topics — all involving public safety:

▪  Fake guns: Those include guns manufactured as toys and those, such as BB guns and pellet guns, that might appear to police officers as deadlier weapons. The council says it supports legislation that will encourage safe use of such guns.

▪  Targeting officers: The council supports “enhanced punishments for those who target our police officers for harm.”

▪  Mental health: The council seeks increased “state support” to ease the burden on city public safety departments, which “often become the treatment of last resort for the mentally ill.”

The federal agenda also cites legislation on targeting cops and use of fake guns. Here are the others:

▪  Program funding: Arlington receives $30 million in federal funding for block grants, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and several others. The council urges Congress to maintain funding.

▪  Sales tax fairness: Arlington is among cities and states seeking to require retailers that exist only online to collect the same sales taxes levied by the state where the purchaser lives. Too often, the agenda says, the local businesses “serve as showrooms for customers, who later purchase items sales tax-free over the internet.”

“The business loses out,” said Jay Warren, city spokesman and marketing manager. “And we don’t get the sales tax at the local level. It’s a double whammy.”

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