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Online sales tax exemption illegal, AG says
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NASHVILLE (AP) — An association of retailers says a legal opinion from state Attorney General Bob Cooper could require a sales tax exemption for online retailer Amazon.com to be revoked.
The opinion released Tuesday does not specifically refer to Amazon but argues “as a general rule” the state cannot waive requirements to collect sales taxes on items sold in Tennessee.
But the opinion also notes the state’s revenue commissioner has “substantial discretion” — especially in cases where the tax law is debatable.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen agreed to grant Amazon a waiver as part of a deal that led to several distribution centers being built in the state.
Traditional retailers have called that arrangement unfair, and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has been in talks to modify the deal.

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee may be the best place in the country to find a good pumpkin this year.
Severe weather in other parts of the country has put a premium on pumpkins on Tennessee farms, marketers say.
Officials say drought and hurricanes took their toll on pumpkins elsewhere. But Tropical Storm Lee came just in time to give the state a great crop.
The supply of pumpkins in Tennessee may be sold out by Oct. 15, so marketers urge consumers to buy theirs now. Prices are expected to hold steady in the state despite the short supply elsewhere.
Northeastern states like New York and Pennsylvania were hard hit by rain. The reach of Hurricane Irene wiped out many types of produce from Delaware to Maine.
In Georgia, the problem was drought. There have been slim crops for all but those willing and able to irrigate their fields.

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KNOXVILLE (AP) — A Knox County judge has blocked the media from photographing or recording the testimony of an elementary school principal who had been shot by a former teacher.
Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee said Monday the request by the prosecutor’s office was the first time anyone had asked him to limit media coverage.
Inskip Elementary principal Elisa Luna and assistant principal Amy Brace testified during a hearing Monday against Mark Stephen Foster, who has pleaded guilty to the shootings on February 2010.
Attorneys for The Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR-TV in Knoxville objected to limits on cameras in the courtroom and argued it set a bad precedent. But McGee said the rule allowing cameras in the courtroom “does not create a constitutional right.”

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Rating agencies have decided not to downgrade Tennessee’s debt after the state submitted a game plan for how each agency would respond to deep federal spending cuts.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday cited a “proven history of fiscal responsibility” in announcing Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have reissued their top ratings to Tennessee and the state will remain one notch below Standard and Poor’s best grade.
The only change is Moody’s switching Tennessee to a negative outlook, following a decision in August to do the same with the federal government’s debt.
Haslam last month led a delegation of state official to meetings with all three ratings agencies in New York in which he presented plans for coping with federal spending cuts as deep as 30 percent.