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Editorials

Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin and Yakima Herald Republic. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.

Washington state this week wisely got on board the sales-tax-revenue train in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling this summer that gave it and 39 other states the green light. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled states can require online retailers without a physical presence in the state to collect the sales tax owed to them.

Forty states, as well as the Trump administration, asked the high court to overturn its 1992 decision — Quill v. North Dakota. The states argued the court’s decision in that case, which focused on mail-order catalogs, is now obsolete because of the growth in e-commerce.

South Dakota enacted a law in 2017 that required out-of-state retailers with sales exceeding $100,000 or 200 transactions annually to pay sales tax. The law was challenged by online retailers Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg. South Dakota claimed it was losing $48 million to $58 million a year in revenue because of the e-commerce expansion as well as online businesses failing to pay sales tax.

Now, Washington and 29 other states are acting to pass regulations to collect sales tax from online retailers. In Washington, according to The Spokesman-Review newspaper, companies that have more than $100,000 in retail sales or 200 transactions must register and collect sales tax from customers and pay it to the state.

These new rules are going to be an administrative headache for online merchants, and that’s unfornate. Retail business, whether online or at a brick-and-mortar store, have to work hard to make profits.

But as a matter of fairness, it’s past time that online retailers are on a level playing field with Main Street merchants.

Merchants with a physical store in Washington state are required to charge up to 10 percent more for goods than internet-only sellers so they can pass the tax collections to the state and local governments.

Adding to the unfairness was U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricted tax collections to retailers that had a physical presence in that state. As a result, some online merchants were collecting taxes while others were not.

Washington state simply changed its tax code to bring it into the 21st century.

Women finally being heard on sexual assault

The calls to crisis centers keep coming, and the social-media hashtags keep multiplying. The memories, long suppressed deep in gray matter, are surfacing. The stories, at last, are getting told.

And many people, for the first time, are listening.

In Washington and nationally — no, internationally — scores of women (and some men) have responded to last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, alleging sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh 36 years ago, by telling of their own traumatic, deeply personal ordeals.

Amidst all the partisan rancor and recriminations swirling around the Capitol building in the wake of testimony by Ford and Kavanaugh, perhaps the only heartening aspect is that it has started a national conversation about sexual assault. More specifically, a conversation about why so many women, for so long, have failed to report their crime to authorities — or even tell loved ones.

We need to bring the dark, painful subject of sexual violence to light. Not just as a fleeting cause-du-jour, either. And women, from teens to octogenarians, responded. On the day of the hearings, callers flooded C-Span’s phone lines to tell their own stories, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline reported a 201-percent increase in calls compared to a typical day.

Actually, the hashtag #WhyIDidn’tReportIt began trending on Twitter even before Ford shared her story with the judiciary committee and some 20 million viewers on live television. In fact, it was a skeptical President Donald Trump who spurred commentary with his Sept. 21 tweet stating: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

After hearing Ford’s testimony, Trump acknowledged she was a credible witness. However, what the president, and many more people, fail to understand is that there are many reasons sexual-assault victims remain silent — sometimes for decades, sometimes taking it to their graves. Reasons range from fear of retribution to a lack of faith in the criminal justice system, from shame to self-blame.

Regardless of the outcome of the FBI investigation, Ford’s testimony has rightly been hailed as a watershed moment in the public dialogue around sexual assault — just as Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 spawned a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Every time a survivor hears another person disclose it helps them to see they are not alone in their experience,” JoDee Garretson, executive director of the Support Advocacy and Resource Center in Richland, told us. “It is also helpful to see a strong, well-educated woman struggling with disclosing. Too often survivors are perceived as being weak. Dr. Ford demonstrates that that is not true.

“If nothing else, this testimony has brought up a wonderful opportunity for education. It’s extremely common for survivors to never disclose their abuse. The vast majority of victims never report to law enforcement and a very large percentage do not disclose the abuse to anyone. And often when they do disclose it may only be to an advocate or therapist but not to someone they personally know.”

In this #MeToo era, victims of sexual assault — women and some men — are getting bolder in sharing their stories, attaching their names and faces and Twitter handles to it. They have found safety in numbers. They are many voices, and they are of one voice. They are celebrities, and they are everyday people. They are Democrats, and they are Republicans.

The most important thing is for these women and men to be heard and believed. That is happening, and it’s not. For every confessional tweet, there remains a skeptical retort.

Meanwhile, the calls keep coming in.

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