NFIB Helps Defeat Costly Workers’ Compensation Proposal

Date: February 10, 2017

Measure would have negatively amended 2011 agreement that produced 8.5 percent in premiums savings

NFIB/Montana State Director Riley Johnson’s report from Helena for the legislative week ending February 10

Gov. Steve Bullock has yet to act on House Bill 1, the Legislature’s feed bill, sending it back to the House and Senate with amendments that would have cut the Legislature’s own operating budget by $1.3 million.

He argued that if the Legislature wants to cut state agency and program budgets, it doesn’t make sense to increase the legislature’s budget. This is called an amendatory veto. Both houses rejected the amendments, so the bill now sits on the governor’s desk. He can sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

The chances of his vetoing HB 1 are slim, according to opinions within the halls of the Capitol, as it would affect too many people and the normal operation of the third branch of Montana government. A decision by the governor awaits a cash-strapped legislature.

Change in W2, 1099 Issuing Dates

The passage of House Bill 63 is of interest to NFIB/Montana members. This would change the dates in Montana for issuing W2 employee wage reports and 1099 reports. The bill would change the reporting dates for employers from February 28 of the next year, as it has been for decades, to January 31st of the next year. This conforms to the new federal IRS rules for 2016 for issuing these reports.

The aim is to get more taxes filed earlier by individuals. The IRS says this will cut down on fraudulent tax filings by persons looking to scam the tax system. HB 63 passed the House 65-32, and the Senate 50-0. It awaits action by the governor.

Costly Workers’ Compensation Proposal Defeated

NFIB/Montana was successful in efforts to kill House Bill 229 by Rep. Andrea Olsen (D) of Missoula. This bill would have allowed injured workers, eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits because of a workplace injury, to select their own treating physician.

This issue was debated in 2011 when the entire workers’ compensation law was rewritten, saving – in its first year – more than 26 percent in workers’ compensation premiums for employers. Experts claimed that not allowing workers to pick their own physicians was a healthy 8.5 percent of that savings. HB 229 was tabled in House Business Committee February 9.

Family and Medical Leave

Then there was the hottest bill to surface so far this session for NFIB/Montana. This is House Bill 392 by Rep. Jenny Eck (D) of Helena. This proposal would create a mandatory Family and Medical Leave insurance program, very similar to the current unemployment insurance program.

Each quarter, both employers and employees would contribute 1 percent of a worker’s total wages, divided between the employer and employee 50/50, to fund the program. Thus, when you had an employee who had a sick family member or a medical problem, that employee could get up to 12 weeks off work and a partial paycheck from the state like the unemployment insurance program.

HB 392 was heard in House Business Committee February 9 before a packed house of opposition testimony. NFIB/Montana strongly opposed the bill, and began working the individual committee members as soon as the hearing was over.

Agritourism

A measure reported on last week, House Bill 342, passed the House Judiciary Committee February 8, on an 11-8 vote. It would add “agritourism” to the list of Montana recreational activities in which the participants assume the liability for the inherent risks of those activities, barring negligent acts on the part of the provider of such activities.

It would include any form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production or agricultural processing with tourism to attract visitors to a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for entertaining or educating the visitors. NFIB/Montana strongly supported HB 342.

Quick Updates

  • As reported last week, the lively hearing held on House Bill 270, which would have provided funding for expanded K-12 Technical Education Training of high school students, was tabled in House Education Committee February 8. So, that proposal is dead.
  • There was no action taken on House Bill 330 which would add a new tax bracket of 8.9 percent to individual taxpayers with incomes over $400,000. A fiscal note was received that showed this new bracket would raise $12 million in 2018 for the state’s general fund and up to $45 million in 2019.

Get Involved

Getting involved in the 2017 Legislature is easy. The best way to have your voice heard quickly is to phone 406-444-4800. Operators are on hand in the Capitol Building to take messages for up to five legislators on each call, and delivery is within a half an hour.

More information on:

  • locating legislators
  • getting an e-mail address
  • viewing committee meetings and floor sessions on television or over the internet
  • review all hearings
  • reading of the actual bills …

… can go to www.leg.mt.gov and access everything electronically.

Previous Legislative Reports

February 3 Report—Skirmish Over Funding Montana Legislative Session

January 27 Report—Montana Legislature Ponders Tax Credits for Startups

January 20 Report—NFIB Helps Defeat Montana Minimum-Wage Bill

January 13 Report—NFIB Readies Opposition to Montana Minimum-Wage Bill

January 6 Report—Montana Legislature Opens Biennial Session

[Tile photo of Rep. Andrea Olsen courtesy of The Montana Legislature]

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