Prepared by: Charlene Murdock, Executive Director Campbell County Chamber of Commerce
As the Legislature moves towards the midway point during the eight-week session, a number of deadlines have hit or are looming. Both the House and Senate have hit the point where bill submittal is closed. Nearly 500 bills and resolutions have hit the bill registry; a few more might be added to the list this week, but with the cutoff for consideration in the Committee in the house of origin slated for this Thursday, February 2, bills filed this late in the process are often doomed simply because time runs out.
The House has filed 293 bills and 11 resolutions
The Senate has filed 172 bills and 9 resolutions
To put the work of the Legislature into perspective, especially as it relates to business regulation, a count of bills on specific issues that impact business includes the following:
(note: this count comes from the official subject cross index for bills) Here are a few issues of interest:
HB 135 – Government non-discrimination act attempts to provide the rights of a business to refuse service to clients based on religious beliefs, but which opens the door for discrimination in a variety of ways. This bill has been withdrawn by the sponsor and will not be heard.
HB 169 – Prohibited firearms-business and commercial establishments establishes liability for a business that prevents the legal carrying of firearms on the business premises in the instance someone is injured as a result of not being allowed to carry their firearm into the business to protect themselves. This bill is unlikely to be heard this session.
HB 227 - Automatic Renewal of Consumer Contracts is an effort to eliminate deceptive trade, this bill requires notice and disclosure of automatic renewal provisions in consumer contracts. The bill is an example of creating regulation to penalize poor performers while creating a framework of compliance that might be cumbersome to all businesses. The bill is being heard by the Corporations Committee.
HB 243 - School Finance – Capital Construction Funding was essentially a sales tax on all services provided in the state, to include any service in which a fee, retainer, commission or other sales price is charged and which involves predominately the performance of a service other than the selling of tangible property. This bill was misleading based on the title and had a broad-based impact, including all businesses that provide a service including, health care providers, veterinarians, consultants, professionals, personal services, amusement and recreation, legal services, realtors, engineering, and communications. A similar bill died in the interim and this bill died on a 0-9 vote, with the bill sponsor amongst those voting no.
SF 100 – Limited Liability Companies raises the annual filing fee for LLC’s registered in the state by 200%. The minimum fee is increased from $50 to $150 with a scale for larger businesses. The bill passed the Senate and is waiting for action in the House.
Tax Studies relative to revenues and efficiencies - there are three bills encouraging comprehensive review of the state’s revenues and expenditures to seek out efficiencies to best utilize the tax dollars available, and to make recommendations on changes to the tax structure to avoid the highs and lows of dependence on mineral revenues.
Other observations: On a visit to the Legislature last week, I observed significant pressure on both bodies to try and resolve the looming shortfall in K-12 education funding and school capital construction. The scope of handling 34 tax bills is a significant undertaking and a variety of measures are being evaluated. The House and the Senate are working to find a balance of reductions in spending and tax measures that are fair and reasonable. Of course, there are not many who support any tax increases, pointing to the fact that the State has money in their rainy day fund and should look first towards reductions in spending.
As mentioned last week, there are several measures to change the allocation on the lodging tax, essentially striping the requirement to use the funds for tourism promotion. Alternate uses include Game & Fish, air service, and infrastructure. This issue is of concern to the Chamber; considering our active role in helping get the tax approved by voters, future voters may not support renewal of a tax that is not used for promoting the region.
In an effort to stay focused on the most important issues, leadership has indicated they will not consider controversial bills related to discrimination, guns, etc. This is helpful considering these items tend to polarize the legislature, creating division rather than collaboration. Further, these issues have the potential to drive headlines that are detrimental to the state’s tourism industry, an important sector that contributes significantly to the state’s tax base.
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charlene Murdock will be monitoring legislation and engaging as needed to serve as the “Voice of Business” for Campbell County. If you have questions or concerns on any bill, email CharleneM@GilletteChamber.com. To receive weekly updates, including a list of bills the Chamber is monitoring, contact Teresa Lunbery at the Chamber. 307-682-3673 or email TeresaL@GilletteChamber.com
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