SWANSEA, WALES - NOVEMBER 26: Staff at the Amazon Swansea fulfilment centre process orders as they prepare for what is expected to be their busiest Christmas on record on November 26, 2010 in Swansea, Wales. The 800,000 sq ft fulfilment centre, the largest of Amazon's six in the UK and one of the largest in the world, is gearing up for 'Cyber Monday', which this year is Monday December 6, and is predicted to be the busiest online shopping day of the year. In 2009, Cyber Monday saw 2 million orders received at a rate of 23 orders per second. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
It's hard to tell whether it's a serious offer, or part of a longer-term political play.
Amazon's late overture to drop a big-bucks ballot box fight over taxes is stirring a lot of commotion in these closing days of the legislative session in Sacramento.
Gov. Jerry Brown has expressed skepticism about the deal. Democratic leaders, including Assembly Speaker John Perez, are vowing to kill it.
At issue is Amazon's effort to qualify a referendum for next year's ballot that would undo a new law requiring on-line retailers to collect sales tax. Democratic lawmakers see the move as an effort to collect $200 million a year for the tax-starved treasury.
Business groups like the California Retailers Association say the Internet tax collection will help offset an unfair advantage that e-retailers have over conventional merchants.
Amazon, having launched the referendum, now is offering to drop it and establish a couple of distribution centers in California in return for a two-year moratorium on the tax collection law.
In response, Democratic leaders are pushing a new law, AB 155, which would make the tax collection requirement referendum-proof.
That measure, promoted in full- page newspaper ads, can only succeed if it gets a two-thirds vote. Meaning some Republicans would have to support it.
The question being asked in Capitol hallways is this: Is Amazon offering a deal it knows will be defeated?
The firm can then argue in next year's campaign that its opponents turned their backs on those distribution centers, with up to 7,000 new jobs.