For the Legislative Week Ending January 16

Date: January 16, 2015

It has been a slow week for hearing bills, particularly bills of interest to NFIB/Montana. Consequently, it has been a very slow week for bills before the House of Representatives and the Senate. But things look like they will pick up some next week.
NFIB/Montana is actively tracking 23 bills, with another 45 bills that have not yet been drafted so we can determine if the details are of interest to us. The first hearings of interest to NFIB/Montana start on January 20. 
Tax Bills
House Bill 169 that tweaks the individual income tax will be heard in the House Tax Committee. This bill would provide a tax credit for property taxes in 2016 and a 5 percent reduction in rates. It is sponsored by Rep. Art Wittich of Bozeman. 
A second proposal to be heard is House Bill 166, by Rep. Keith Regier of Kalispell. It would lower the varies rates about one-tenth of one percent for each level. NFIB/Montana will be supporting both bills.
Workers’ Compensation Bill
The real action will come on January 21 in the Senate Business Committee. Senate Bill 123 by Sen. Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell would reorganize the oversight authority of the Montana State Fund (workers’ compensation). This bill would put the oversight from the Legislature to the State Insurance Commissioner (State Auditor), thereby relieving some of the future battles by lawmakers over the surplus funds, salaries, and other operational functions of the Fund.
The Insurance Commissioner would regulate MSF just like he now does with all private insurance companies in Montana. 
Minimum Wage Bills
Also on January 21, the first of four minimum wage bills starts its legislative journey. Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder would raise the minimum wage in Montana from its current $8.05 per hour to $10.10 per hour. It also aims to keep the annual wage increase that current law mandates.
Balanced Budget Amendment
Wednesday afternoon will see a celebrity show for House Joint Resolution 4, which is a bill that calls on the U.S. Congress to enable Article V of the U.S. Constitution that would mandate a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. NFIB/Montana surveyed its membership in December on this issue, with 69.46 percent of the respondents voting to support this idea. To help promote HJ4, Gov. John Kasick of Ohio will be in the Capitol to talk with legislators and hold a press conference. 
The press conference is open to the public, so if any NFIB members want to attend, they would be welcomed. It is expected the news conference will be held in the rotunda of the Capitol Building at noon.

Other Bills
Other bills that have been drafted and await hearing dates include:
House Bill 213 that would increase the business equipment tax exemption from the current $100,000 to $500,000
Senate Bill 99 revises the Insure Montana health insurance program for small businesses
Senate Bill 158 that provides for “pay check fairness” by prohibiting employers from telling employees they cannot talk about salaries and other benefits among other employees.
Getting Involved
Getting involved in the 2015 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 up to five legislators for each call, and delivery is within a half an hour. For those wanting more information on locating legislators, getting an e-mail address, looking to view committee meetings and floor sessions on television or over computers, and just to review all hearings and reading of the actual bills can go to www.leg.mt.gov and access everything electronically.
      
Past Reports

Related Content: Small Business News | Montana

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