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Past Idaho Legislative Victories

Date: April 30, 2014

From 1996 to the 2011-2012 Session

 2012 Session of the Idaho Legislature

Won $35 million in tax relief on individual and corporate income taxes
House Bill 563 will provide $35.7 million in corporate and individual income tax relief and was strongly supported by NFIB. The bill lowers both corporate and personal income tax rates to 7.4 percent. The corporate tax rate will drop from 7.6 percent to 7.4 percent ($4.8 million) and the individual tax rate would drop from 7.8 percent to 7.4 percent ($30.9 million) and will be effective for 2012 tax purposes. NFIB members will have more money in their pockets and Idaho will have nearly $36 million pumped back in to the state’s economy.

Stopped Sales Tax Expansion to Labor and Services
NFIB strongly opposed House Bill 354, which proposed to reduce the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent and extend the sales tax to nine categories of services, including professional, personal, business, construction, transportation, repairs, among others. The net effect would increase state sales tax revenues by an estimated $400 million per year. NFIB members have long opposed extending sales tax to labor and services, not to mention growing government by $400 million.

Secured labor-reform law on prevailing wages
NFIB pushed for passage of Senate Bill 1373, a labor reform that levels the playing field for workers and employers and limits the influence of unions. The bill, also called the Open Access to Work Act, provides that state and political subdivisions (cities, schools, sewer districts, etc.) would not require contractors to pay a certain wage rate or benefits, except when required by federal law. S1373 follows on the heels of similar legislation (S1006 and S1007) passed in 2011 that was thrown out by the courts.

2011 Session of the Idaho Legislature

Won $3.2 million in lower workers’ compensation premiums
With strong support from NFIB, passage of House Bill 240 will provide employers relief on their workers’ compensation premiums in 2012 and 2013. The state Industrial Commission, which is funded by taxes on the workers’ compensation premiums and which currently has a surplus, will pass on, in the form of lower premiums, 2.5 percent it would normally receive from the tax, which will amount to $3.2 million in saving for employers.

Saved $110 million in extra unemployment insurance fees and taxes
NFIB and other business groups worked with Gov. Butch Otter and the Department of Labor to craft a package of legislation addressing the Unemployment Insurance program. House Bill 108 and House Bill 122, along with several other bills, made changes to the UI program to save employers approximately $110 million in extra fees and taxes to the feds. NFIB will continue to support common sense reforms that protect small businesses.

Obtained tax incentives for new hires
NFIB’s support for House Bill 297, the governor’s Hire One Act, was instrumental in winning a tax credit to employers who make hew hires. The amount of the credit varies on business’s rating in the state unemployment system. The state Department of Labor estimates that although the bill could cost the state $7.9 million per year from the General Fund, it will also help generate an estimated $25.3 million in state tax revenue.

Helped kill a proposed sales tax on tips
An overzealous effort on the part of the state tax commission to raise more state revenues led to an idea to tax the tips food servers make. Working in concert with other industry groups, NFIB succeeded in lobbying for passage of House Bill 213, which headed off the commission’s proposal at the pass. Tips are an important, but mercurial, compensation for restaurant industry workers, many of whom are starting out their work life. Additionally, the proposal would have created more paperwork for employers.

Stopped any tax or fee increases
Like most states, Idaho is required by our constitution to balance the budget. The temptation to pass tax or fee increases was resisted in part due to the constant reminder NFIB gave lawmakers that only through job growth and business expansion could the state’s economy ever improve, growth and expansion that are handicapped by increases in fees and taxes. Instead, as was the better alternative, the legislature made significant cuts to all levels of state government and specifically to education and Medicaid budgets, despite intense pressure from other lobbying associations with a stake in their unchecked growth.

Defeated federal control of health-care exchange
Although NFIB is still fighting to have the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act ruled unconstitutional by the courts, an element of the new law gave states the option of establishing their own health-care exchange or having one imposed on them by the federal Dept. of Health and Human Services. Armed with the result from its 2011 member ballot showing a 53-percent support for a state exchange, NFIB and other groups argued against becoming beholden to the PPAC Act by taking a $2.5 million in a federal grant to set up an exchange, and instead succeeded in having the Dept. of Insurance use $500,000 in state money. NFIB is now teaming up with the business community to work with the state Dept. of Insurance to develop a state-based exchange.

Helped gut costly elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
In addition to defeating the imposition of a federal health-care exchange, NFIB lobbied for successful passage of House Bill 298, the health-care freedom act, which reaffirmed Idaho’s opposition to the PPAC Act by rejecting the discretionary portions of the federal law. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed HB 298, but replaced it with an potentially stronger requirement that state agencies get permission from his office first, before implementing other components of the law.

Past Sessions' Victories

Killed all tax-increase proposals
Armed with results from the 2010 Member Ballot and past ones, NFIB helped dissuade lawmakers from raising or creating any tax as a way to plug the state’s budget deficit. Legislators saw the 79 percent opposition to extending the sales tax to services. In the end, all proposals increasing taxes were defeated, including one creating high-occupancy toll lanes, which were opposed by 64 percent of NFIB members. NFIB member ballot results not only give lawmakers the most accurate gauge on the feelings of Idaho entrepreneurs, they also provide some political cover against interest-group lobbying to raise taxes and fees for a variety of constituent purposes.

Stopped illegal immigration bills putting national security onus on small businesses
House Bill 497, Senate Bill 1271, and Senate Bill 1303 all sought to get tough on illegal immigrants working in Idaho. The problem with the proposals, however, was it made small business owners de facto Border Patrol agents, and did so by threatening to suspend or revoke their operating licenses if they even hired an illegal immigrant who knowingly supplied them with false information. Although NFIB members are divided on the issue of immigration, they are unified in their opposition to making them enforcers for what they see as the federal government’s job. NFIB succeeded in helping defeat these bills.

Defeated proposal to ban cell phone use while driving
Senate Bill 1352 would have banned texting while driving. Although not specifically addressing texting, the 2010 NFIB Member Ballot found 59 percent opposition and only 32 percent support for banning the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. But 46 percent of members would favor limiting the use of cell phones and other electronic devices to hands-free or voice-activated systems. NFIB reminded legislators that an existing state law on law inattentive driving would probably achieve what they were aiming for as much as a new law.

Eliminated paperwork requirements for businesses with less than $100,000 of personal property
Although it will not kick in for a couple of years, NFIB succeeded in getting House Bill 83 signed into law, which will allow businesses with less than $100,000 in personal property value to eliminate the paperwork required in reporting to the county by signing one-time affidavits. As it has done in the past and will continue to do in the future, NFIB will lead the charge to abolish the personal property tax completely. Given the state of the economy, however, this piecemeal victory was all that could have been achieved.

Killed attempts by trial attorneys to mandate payments for certain contested workers’ compensation cases

Lawyers across the county are looking at states’ workers compensation systems as potential revenue sources, and the Idaho legal lobby is no different. This year, in its push for passage of House Bill 305, lobbyists for trial lawyers tried to require payment of attorney fees in certain contested workers’ compensation cases. But NFIB and other business groups teamed up to defeat the measure in committee.

Defeated attempts by local governments to impose a local options tax for local transportation funding

As was predicted, local governments and their big business allies were back for another attempt to have the legislature give them to levy local options taxes to ostensibly finance transportation projects. And once again, NFIB took the lead in killing House Bills 17 and 155, by pointing out to lawmakers that they would be paid by local residents, not tourists; that local options taxes would create competitive disadvantages by driving businesses into counties or states that did not have the tax; and that small businesses would wind up paying for a benefit that big businesses would mainly enjoy.

Stopped two proposals to revoke the license of small business owners over immigration issues

Two Senate bills, S1155 and S1196, sought to implement many elements from Arizona’s immigration law, the toughest in the nation. Although that state has smoothed many of the original rough edges of its law, the two Idaho measures would still have put small business owners in the crosshairs of the immigration issue by threatening to revoke their licenses for a variety of offenses, some not always preventable. NFIB succeeded in killing these two bills in committee, arguing that while small business owners were not against getting tougher on immigration, it was best left to the federal government, whose responsibility it is.

Beat back attempts to drive up healthcare premiums by putting more state-ordered procedures on them

Idaho has the fewest number of mandates (orders by state government to include various medical procedures and devices) on the basic healthcare plans insurers are allowed to sell, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance. Having the fewest mandates makes healthcare more affordable and results in more people being covered. Add new mandates and the costs of premiums go up, putting it farther out of reach of affordability. Senate Bills 1107 and 1116 would have required two more mandates be added to healthcare plan. NFIB helped in securing their defeat.

Protected private property from eminent domain condemnation

NFIB/Idaho was on the scene at the statehouse to remind lawmakers how important private property is to small business. NFIB helped pass additional restrictions to prevent government seizure of private property for economic development.  Idaho was one of many states that acted quickly to curtail a government's ability to seize private property following a disastrous U.S. Supreme Court.

Killed a proposal that would have driven up legal liability costs

NFIB/Idaho halted a bill that would have raised the cost of liability insurance. NFIB acted quickly to oppose a bill that would have increased the number of cases in which mandatory attorney fees are awarded, and in personal injury cases, would have awarded attorney fees only to plaintiffs' lawyers, but not to defendants (even when the defendant prevails). This would have driven liability insurance rates through the roof and clogged the courts with needless additional lawsuits.

Defeated proposals that would have undermined the workers' comp program and driven up costs

NFIB/Idaho protected the workers' comp program by helping kill two proposals that would have allowed "stress claims" and removed the "no fault" provision. These proposals would have exposed employers to additional payroll costs and unnecessary lawsuits. NFIB/Idaho helped contain workers' comp costs by supporting a new requirement that physicians use a fee schedule rather than charging whatever they want. This long-overdue change should reduce rates.

Restructured unemployment insurance program, resulting in a 12.5 percent increase instead of a 113 percent increase

NFIB/Idaho helped restructure the UI program to prevent excessive rate increases to businesses. NFIB helped prevent a 113 percent rate increase and replaced it with a 12.5 percent increase under a new UI structure that will level out rate increases in the future. The new structure links rate increases with benefit reductions, which more fairly balances the employer/employee relationship. Fraud protection measures will also squeeze more efficiency from the system.

Helped craft changes to Idaho’s Unemployment Insurance program that will save employers 15 percent on their rates and allows the state to accept federal money without committing business owners to future increases

As it did with every state in the union, the federal government offered to help shore up Idaho’s unemployment insurance system—but, as with anything from Washington—there were strings attached, such as longer benefit periods. NFIB and other business groups sat down with the Idaho Department of Labor and pulled off a rare hat trick by coming up with changes in the law that allowed the state to accept Uncle Sam’s money; reduced UI rates on employers by 15 percent; and limit future rate increases when the stimulus money ran out. These changes were put into affect by passage of House Bills 248 and 335.

2005 Victories

Sunset of the temporary sales tax

NFIB/Idaho was on the scene at the Statehouse to ensure that the temporary sales tax expired on schedule. The temporary sales tax was estimated to bring in $178 million in additional revenue which would have contributed to more growth in government.

Restructured unemployment insurance trust fund program and prevented excessive rate increases

NFIB/Idaho helped restructure the unemployment insurance program to prevent excessive rate increases to businesses. NFIB helped prevent a 113 percent rate increase and replaced it with a 12.5 percent increase under a new unemployment insurance structure that will level out rate increases in the future. The new structure links rate increases with benefit reductions, which more fairly balances the employer/employee relationship. Fraud protection measures will also squeeze more efficiency from the unemployment insurance system.

Improved workers' compensation program

NFIB/Idaho supported legislation to contain costs by requiring the use of a fee schedule for physicians. This long-overdue change should reduce rates and is a real improvement to the system. NFIB helped kill a proposal that would have turned the workers' compensation system on its head by removing the "no fault" provision of the law, which would have exposed employers to additional payroll costs and unnecessary lawsuits.

Passed tort reform

NFIB/Idaho played a key role in passing two measures to protect small business from tort liability and frivolous lawsuits. Tort reform legislation capped non-economic damages at $250,000 and capped punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages, as well as increased the "standard of proof" need to award punitive damages. Legislation to prevent frivolous lawsuits protects against lawsuits for weight gain or obesity against companies in the food industry, manufacturing, packers, distributors, carriers, holders, sellers, marketers, growers, advertisers, etc. 

2004 Victories

Passed tort reform

NFIB/Idaho played a key role in passing tort reform (HB 92), capping non-economic damages at $250,000 (inflation factor attached) and capping punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages. HB 92 also increased the “standard of proof” needed to award punitive damages.

Froze 2004 unemployment insurance rates

NFIB/Idaho supported a freeze in unemployment insurance rates, saving employers $120 million in additional payroll taxes. Defeated costly workers’ compensation bill. NFIB helped kill a proposal that would have turned the workers’ compensation system on its head by removing the “no fault” provision of the law, which would have exposed employers to additional payroll costs and unnecessary lawsuits.

Passed bill preventing frivolous lawsuits

HB 590 is part of a national effort to prevent frivolous lawsuits for weight gain or obesity against a company including the food industry, manufacturing, packers, distributors, carriers, holders, sellers, marketers, growers, advertisers, etc. 

Local Highway Economic Investment Fund

This proposal would have increased “title fees” by $10, providing approximately $5 million for a new Highway Economic Investment Fund, providing new revenue for matching funds and oversight projects.

Victory: NFIB/Idaho led the fight to freeze unemployment insurance rates and stop expensive health insurance mandates, resulting in significant savings for small businesses in Idaho. A business with $100,000 in taxable income and 10 employees will save nearly $3,000 in annual premiums and unemployment taxes.

Victory: NFIB/Idaho is fighting to defeat an extension of the sales tax to labor and services. In addition, we are standing firm against an increase in the sales tax rate and any increase in health insurance mandates that will drive up the cost of your health insurance premiums.

Victories Many; Defeats Few in 2002 Legislative Session

NFIB/Idaho enjoyed a good legislative session. We defeated health insurance mandates and extended the current system of rate bands for individual and small group policies. There is a very significant victory that does not appear on the list below. NFIB/Idaho, working with the rest of the business community, helped the legislators hold the line against demands from the teachers' union and school officials to repeal the tax rate reductions passed last year.

Victory: Former NFIB/Idaho State Director, Pete Skamser, successfully lobbied against two health mandate bills that would have added to the already rising cost of health insurance. Both bills died in committee.

Victory: With the passage of HB501, small claims actions can now be brought in the county in which they originated, or the county in which the defendant resides, instead of just the county in which the plaintiff resides. This could save small businesses that are defending themselves in a small lawsuit hundreds of dollars in travel costs.

Victory: HB505 extends the sunset date on rate bands for health insurance, thus keeping Idaho from reverting back to the situation we faced in 1991 -- abusive rating practices.

Victory: HB627, the Small Lawsuit Resolution Act, is a reform to the legal system that makes it possible to resolve legal disputes in the easiest and least-costly manner possible -- by allowing dispute resolution between plaintiffs' lawyers, defense lawyers, and an appointed evaluator to work out a meaningful compromise. Both houses passed it with overwhelming support.

Victory: HJM11 is a joint memorial urging Idaho's congressional delegation to support the repeal of the death tax. It was adopted by voice vote.

Victory: HJM12 is a joint memorial urging Idaho's congressional delegation to support President Bush's economic security packaging. It was adopted by voice vote.

Victory: SJR103 would have allowed school bond indebtedness with the consent of 60 percent of voters in a school bond election if it were held on current election days in May or November. Pete Skamser lobbied against the bill, arguing that an overwhelming percentage of our members had voted against this issue in a recent ballot. It was sent to the Senate amending order, where the May election option was removed from the bill. After reaching the floor of the Senate, it was sent back to the Senate Education committee, where it died with no further action.

Defeat: The Senate, in an 18-17 vote in the closing days of the 2002 session, defeated HB651, which would have extended the sunset date on the $500 tax credit for new jobs (which was passed last year). The House had passed it by a 55-11 margin. NFIB/Idaho lobbied hard for this bill, arguing that it increases employment in the small-business sector.

Defeat: The House, with a 62-5 vote, passed HCR45 that would have authorized the appointment of a committee to study the phase out of the personal property tax. It was sent to the Senate State Affairs committee, where it died without a hearing.

2000: If you are self-employed you can deduct the remaining 40 percent of the health insurance you pay for $130 in savings. If you report $30,000 in taxable income on your Idaho individual income tax, you will save $30. If both spouses work, you save $115 through Idaho's elimination of the marriage penalty. As a result, Idahoans will keep $29 million in their pockets next year.

1999: The revised employment security legislation passed by last year's legislature continues to put money in the pockets of small- and independent business owners in Idaho. The legislation, which NFIB/Idaho played an important part in developing and passing, has lowered unemployment insurance taxes for the majority of employers in Idaho. For example, an employer with 10 employees and a payroll of $250,000 per year will save $1,276 in 1999, with comparable savings in each of the following two years.

NFIB/Idaho played a key role in defeating a measure in this legislative session to increase the fuel tax by 2 cents per gallon and increase the vehicle registration fees by $6 for all vehicles under 8,000 pounds GVW. For a business owner with four pick-ups burning 50 gallons of gas a week, this would have added $232 a year to overhead.

1998: NFIB/Idaho played a major role in the passage of HB426. This bill re-wrote Idaho's unemployment security law and reduced the amount of unemployment insurance tax over the next four years by an estimated $113 million. The revised employment security legislation will lower unemployment insurance taxes for the majority of employers in Idaho. For example, an employer with 10 employees and a payroll of $250,000 per year will save $1,276 in 1998, with comparable savings in each of the following three years.

1997: NFIB/Idaho played a major role in defeating SB1200. This bill would have extended the 50/50 homeowner's exemption to include the house lot. This expansion of the homeowner's exemption would have shifted $16 million in property taxes to the business community, increasing business property tax by 5 percent. If your business pays $6,000 in property taxes, the defeat of this bill saved you $300.

1996: NFIB/Idaho played an important role in defeating legislation mandating that all health insurance policies sold in Idaho cover biologically-based mental illnesses to the same dollar level that the policies cover physical illnesses, such as cancer. This mandate would have increased the cost of health insurance by 15 percent. A business with a $20,000-per-year policy covering 10 people would have seen costs increase by $3,000 to $23,000 the next time the policy was renewed.

 

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