Montana Legislature | Some Big Wins

6 05 2011

The Billings Chamber/CVB staff just learned that according to Tourism Matters to Montana: Governor Brian Schweitzer vetoed House Bill 316 at a Whitefish Chamber of Commerce event this afternoon. This is huge news for Billings’ area tourism as this means there will be no cut in promotional dollars for Montana.

Meantime, the 2011 Legislative Session has officially ended.  Everyone has gone home, and the halls at the Capitol are eerily quiet.  All that is left to be done will be in the office of the Governor as he reviews the last of the bills and decides which one he will sign, which will get his veto, and which will move quietly into law with no formal action taken on his part.  With any bill veto, the legislature will have one final chance to overturn it with a 2/3 majority vote by both the House and the Senate to do so.  Rarely is legislation that has been vetoed ever overturned.

The session saw some significant benefits for our membership as well as some disappointments, however overall the business community fared well.  The most significant victory is Workers Compensation Reform. This will impact the bottom line of most, if not all, businesses.  Workers Compensation rates are expected to go down from 25% to 40% over the next three years. The estimated savings will be in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars.

The next substantial gain for many businesses is the revision of the Business Equipment Tax.  This tax will be reduced from 3% to 2% and the exempted amount will increase from $25,000 to up to $2 million. There is also the potential of further reductions depending on future economic indicators.

Our greatest disappointment was the bonding bill.  This bill had building projects throughout the state of Montana equaling almost $100 million dollars.  Since a dollar usually turns 2.3 times before it leaves a community, the total impact was well over two hundred million dollars. It also would have been a stimulus for a building industry that has seen a severe downturn in activity in recent years.

Pleasant surprises came from the Governor when he announced that the Marijuana bill will be allowed to become law without his signature.

Now, over the next several months we will assess the impact that legislation passed in this session will have on the business community and begin to develop our strategic positions for the 2013 session.  In addition, we work on candidate recruitment.

While I was in Helena on a part time basis, our lobbyist, Ed Bartlett deserves kudos for all of the hard work he did on our behalf.  It is the personal connections he makes with each and every legislator that allows us to be effective.

Finally, the Montana Chamber prepares a comprehensive scorecard on the session.  When we receive it, we will get it out to you.

The 2013 session is only 593 days away!

Bruce MacIntyre

Director, Government Affairs

Billings Chamber of Commerce/CVB

Office: 869-3723

Cell: 855-5801


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