Sunshine, shield on legislative agenda

Revenue Dept. rules newspapers should not have to pay taxes on delivery costs 

By MPA President David Bradley
St. Joseph News-Press
My term as president of Missouri Press Association has passed by in a flash. Yes, the official duties took a little time, but the enjoyment of carrying them out far outweighed the work.
The MPA staff has done a great job of keeping me on task. The group, particularly event director Kristie Williams, made the annual MPA Convention in St. Louis the highlight of my year. Next year’s convention in Columbia will be huge joining with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Missouri School of Journalism.
Jack Whitaker of Hannibal will fill the presidential role in January. Jack has been on the
MPA Board for several years and helped push our state’s newspaper industry into the digital age. He has also built a financially viable community website and, at the same time, increased his print circulation. That’s impressive.
In November, University of Missouri Interim President Gordon Lamb hosted an MPA luncheon at the president’s residence on the Columbia campus. Dr. Lamb presented a $38 million proposal to increase the number of health care professionals for Missouri. He said the state is facing a growing shortage of pharmacists, nurses, dentists and doctors in rural and low-income urban areas.
Dr. Lamb said all Missouri colleges and universities are working together to come up with a funding formula for the schools. He is going on a statewide “University Unity
Tour” with other higher education institutions to make their case for funding from the legislature.
The MPA is also gearing up for some important legislative initiatives in 2008. With the help of MPA counselor Jean Maneke, we will try to button up some loopholes in
Missouri’s Sunshine Law. We also will try again to push through a Free Flow of Information bill, known as a shield law, to protect reporters and editors (and their sources) who are investigating misdeeds.
Also in Jefferson City, the Missouri Department of Revenue issued a private letter ruling that could provide many Missouri newspapers relief on their sales tax burden. The letter,
issued to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ruled that the newspaper shouldn’t have to pay sales tax on its delivery costs to newspaper customers.
MPA played an important role in facilitating face-to-face meetings between the department and publishers from the Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star.
Before you stop paying this tax, you will need a departmental ruling addressed to your own newspaper. But at least the template has been created for your paper to qualify for such an exemption.
On another matter, your MPA Board reluctantly approved a 25 percent dues increase
for 2008 to fund a statewide newspaper website for public notices and other legal advertising. We hope to reassure legislators that Missouri newspapers will make sure this type of advertising adequately reaches the public in print and online. This is the
first dues increase since 2001.
We were surprised to hear that Gary and Helen Sosniecki have sold The Vandalia Leader and are taking time off for a well-deserved rest. They have been superb MPA board members, and Gary headed the association in 2004. Gary assures me that they will be back after the first of the year looking for newspaper work. “And if we can’t find anything, we may be buying a paper,” he hinted.
Finally, we were glad to see one positive article about our industry in the Oct. 29 issue of Advertising Age headlined “Stop writing those obituaries for the newspaper industry.” Marc Brownstein of the Brownstein Group in Philadelphia said that “innovation and a keen sense of competition will win the day for newspapers.”
MPA knows that is top priority, too. So keep telling us how we can help.

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