2014 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Date: March 18, 2014

Another super session for NFIB and small biz?  You bet!  Let me count the ways….. 

#1  Business Personal Property Tax Reform:     Check!
#2  Corporate Income Tax Reduced:     Check!
#3  Streamlined & Accelerated Building Plan Reviews and Inspections:     Check!
#4  One Stop Shop for Business Contact with the State:     Check!
#5 Greater Emphases on Small Business by State Government:     Check!
#6  Unemployment Insurance Reform:     Check!
#7  Assessment of Real Property Reform:     Check!

And that is really just the beginning…….

Here is a brief rundown of small business victories in in the 2014 Legislative Session:

Senate Bill 1 – State and Local Taxation  (Hershman B)

In the session that just ended late Thursday night, we were successful in securing a local option for exempting new personal property and a local option to exempt the first $20,000 of existing personal property.  If adopted by a county, the $20,000 exemption would eliminate the tax for 50% of all Business Personal Property Tax filers with almost no impact to local governments.  Many of these small business returns are “nuisance” filings which cost more to comply with and process than they generate in tax revenue.  This bill also provides for a Blue Ribbon Commission to study the eventual elimination of the tax.  And finally, this was all wrapped in a bow with a significant reduction in the Corporate Income Tax.

The issue of Business Personal Property Tax reform drew a lot of opposition from local government officials who were concerned that the tax would be eliminated.  None of the proposals, however, would have eliminated the tax.  The final bill combined the House Bill 1001 (local option for exempting new personal property) and the Senate Bill 1 (small business exemption, corporate tax reduction and study commission).  Governor Pence, the Speaker and the President Pro-Tem can all claim victory.  Locals are still crying foul, but the study commission will provide for a full airing of the issue and a thorough review of tax reform options.

Reforming Indiana’s Business Personal Property Tax is the number one state issue for NFIB members.  NFIB Indiana State Director and members testified several times in support of reform.

Conference Committee Report adopted by House 63 to 37

House Bill 1020 – Study of Economic Development Incentives – (Koch E) 

Among other provisions, this bill requires the commission on state tax and financing policy to review, analyze, and evaluate state and local tax incentives that are provided to encourage economic development or to alter, reward, or subsidize a particular action or behavior by a tax incentive recipient.

Note:  This issue is one that emerged following the series of Town Hall meetings conducted last summer by the Indiana Legislature’s Small Business Caucus.

Conference Committee Report adopted by Senate 48 to 0

House Bill 1198 – Business Single Point of Contact with State – (Heuer K)

This bill specifies that state agencies, including the department of workforce development and the department of state revenue, shall provide assistance at no cost to the secretary of state in developing and maintaining a one stop Internet web site for businesses to use. Requires the department of state revenue and the department of workforce development to coordinate with the secretary of state to use an Internet web site to share information with other state agencies and to provide a single point of contact with all state agencies for a person to accomplish various requirements to transact business in the state.

This is another proposal emerging from the Small Business Caucus Town Halls last summer.  Small business owners repeatedly expressed their frustration in dealing with state agencies and the difficulty they encounter when attempting to get timely, accurate information. 

Motion to Concur in Senate Amendments: prevailed in House 90 to 0

House Bill 1301 – Fire and Building Safety Issues (VanNatter H)

Among other provisions, this bill requires the state building commissioner to issue a written interpretation of a building law or fire safety law not later than 10 business days after the date of receiving a request. It provides that a design release may be issued without a plan review if: (1) the application for a design release is complete; and (2) the application for a design release is not selected for a plan review by the division. It establishes deadlines for the division to conduct plan reviews and provide notices. It also provides that, with certain exceptions, if the division fails to provide notice or complete plan review within the time required by statute, a design release must be issued without further review.  

HB 1301 is yet another issue that was brought up at the Small Business Town Halls.  Many complaints were raised about the slow pace of plan reviews and the adverse effect this has on small businesses around the state.

Motion to concur in Senate Amendments:  prevailed in House; 71 to 15

HB 1332 – Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship – This bill codifies the law concerning the office of small business and entrepreneurship. It transfers the small business development center, the small business ombudsman, and the young entrepreneurs program from the Indiana economic development corporation to the office of small business and entrepreneurship by removing or repealing the appropriate provisions in the Indiana economic development corporation law and recodifying them in the law concerning the lieutenant governor. It extends the young entrepreneurs program by two years and makes other changes to the Indiana code.

This legislation that makes common sense streamlined changes and places greater emphasis on the job creators of Indiana.

HB 1332 passed out of the House and Senate and has been signed by the President Pro Tempore.

Senate Bill 266 – Assessment of Real Property – (Schneider  S)

This bill consolidates provisions relating to the burden of proof concerning assessments into one section of the Indiana Code (and repeals the existing provision that is moved to another citation in the Indiana Code). It also specifies that if the assessed value of real property is increased above the amount of the assessed value as reduced by any assessing official or reviewing authority, the assessing official making the assessment has the burden of proving that the assessment is correct. (Under current law, this burden of proof applies only if the assessed value was reduced by the property tax assessment board of appeals.) Amends the existing law concerning the assessor's burden of proof when an assessment is increased by more than 5% over the prior tax year by specifying the following: (1) In calculating the change in the assessment, the assessment to be used for the prior tax year is the original assessment for that prior tax year or, if applicable, the assessment for that prior tax year as last corrected by an assessing official, as stipulated or settled by the taxpayer and the assessing official, or as determined by the reviewing authority. (2) If the assessor fails to meet the burden of proof, the taxpayer may introduce evidence to prove the correct assessment. (3) If neither the assessor nor the taxpayer meets these burdens of proof, the assessment reverts to the assessment for the prior tax year. (4) These provisions concerning the burden of proof do not apply to an assessment that is based on structural improvements, zoning, or uses that were not considered in the assessment for the prior tax year.

Conference Committee Report adopted by the Senate:  45 to 0

House Bill 1083 – Child Labor Law and Unemployment Insurance – (Torr J)

We needed a GPS to keep track of the unemployment bill.  It was originally HB 1346, but then all the unemployment language was stripped in Conference Committee on March 10th and language concerning Fort Wayne government was inserted.  Can they do this?  Unfortunately…Yes!  Then the language miraculously appeared a day or so later in HB 1083.

This bill makes some needed changes in issues concerning teen labor.  It also reforms the unemployment insurance system.  Among other provisions, it removes any burden of proof from the determination of eligibility for benefits and the determination of gross misconduct.  In other words…. Small business owners should no longer have the deck stacked against them in a claims appeal hearing. 

Note:  This is another of the issues that emerged in the Small Business Town Halls.  There were numerous complaints of workers receiving benefits in spite of being fired for just cause.  We hope to see improvement in the adjudication process.

These are just a few of the issues we worked on during the session.  If there is a bill that was of particular interest to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me by phone at 317-638-4447 or by email at barbara.quandt@nfib.org.

Thank you for being an NFIB member!

Barbara Quandt, NFIB Indiana State Director

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