Independent business group cites victory in special sessionThe National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said it achieved a huge victory in the recently held special session.
By: Staff Report, Alexandria Echo Press
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said it achieved a huge victory in the recently held special session.
It successfully pushed for legislation that conforms Minnesota’s estate tax exemption to the federal for assets that are held in a small business or a farm. The Minnesota exemption was increased from $1 million per person to $5 million and it conforms to the federal exemption. It is important to note that only assets held in a small business or a farm apply and personal investments and cash do not.
The victory on the estate tax, according to NFIB, was a very pleasant surprise considering the volatility of the shut down and the very unpredictable nature of the negotiations. "There was always hope we would achieve this victory since this critical exemption was in the first tax bill that passed the legislature and was vetoed by Governor Dayton," said Mike Hickey, state director of NFIB.
Hickey credited Senator Julianne Ortman (Chanhassnen) and Representative Greg Davids (Preston) who both chair the tax committee in each house. "They pushed hard for this key provision and were thankful that Governor Dayton was willing to sign it," Hickey said. "Due to this legislation, the vast majority of small business owners and farmers will be able to pass on their business or farm to family members more easily and save tens of thousands of dollars in estate taxes or needless life insurance premiums purchased solely due to concerns about the estate tax."
Other session developments Hickey highlighted:
Budget stalemate resolved without tax increase
Governor Dayton did not get his way and the state budget deficit was resolved without a large income tax increase even though there was some shifting and borrowing included. Aside from the political bickering by politicians, analysts do not totally agree on the size of the state budget due to the school aid shift and the one time borrowing of tobacco money. House fiscal analysts are stating it is a $34.3 billion budget not counting one time money and the school aid shift for about a 6% increase. Governor Dayton’s budget office states it is a $35.9 billion budget if you count the school aid shift and the new borrowing against tobacco settlement money which is a one time gain of $640 million.
Major tort reform is on the agenda
Four major bills fighting lawsuit abuse passed the Minnesota Senate but got stalled on the House floor on the last day. Below is a brief description of them.
SF 373/HF 645 (Sen. Ortman, Rep. Wardlow) Reducing Minnesota’s General Statute of Limitations from Six Years to Four Years- Passed in Senate, Stalled On House Floor
Minnesota and only six other states have the longest general statute of limitations in the country at six years and this bill reduced it to four years.
SF 429/HF 747 (Sen. Schied, Rep. Mazerol) Offer of Settlement -Passed the Senate, Stalled on the House Floor
This bill would reduce the amount of attorneys fees businesses would have to pay to prevailing plaintiffs under Minnesota’s various fee shift statutes. This legislation could save business defendants tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees that they currently could have to pay to a defendant.
SF 530/HF 770 (Sen. Ortman, Rep. Mazerol) Prejudgment Interest -Passed the Senate, Stalled on the House Floor
This bill reduced the amount of prejudgment interest that businesses, non profits and private citizens must pay on judgments from 10% to 4%. Currently only government has the 4% rate and a higher rate on other parties is totally unjustifiable.
SF 149/HF 211 (Sen. Ortman/ Rep. Wardlow) Reforming Class Action Lawsuits -Passed the Senate, Stalled on the House Floor
This bill reigned in class action lawsuits in two ways; first it allowed a defendant business to appeal the certification of the case before it goes forward and second it required that plaintiffs actually show they suffered an economic loss through the use of the product or service.
Bill To Strengthen Equal Access To Justice Law Stalls
HF 997 Rep. Westrom (Elbow Lake) / SF 1298 Sen. Thompson (Lakeville)
This important bill to provide regulatory relief for small business and to increase reimbursement for attorney’s fees and court costs when they prevail against state agencies did make it out of four House committees and to the Rules Committee during the 2011 session. It did not advance out of that committee and it was never heard in the Senate. This important bill continues to be an important priority for NFIB and we are leading the coalition on this issue
Legislative Approval of New Rules
HF 203 Rep. Westrom / SF 261 Sen. Senjem (Rochester)
-Passed the House, stalled on the Senate floor
This legislation would require the legislature to approve any rule that costs a single party $10,000 or more to comply with in a given year before it could go into effect.
Bill To Require Minnesota’s Many Health Insurance Mandates Be Analyzed Progresses
HF 926 Rep.Gottwaldt (St. Cloud) /SF 880 Sen. Benson (Ham Lake)
This important bill to force the state to analyze its many current mandated benefits (67-69) and compare them to the new federal benefit set made it to the floor of the House and passed out of committee in the Senate.
This may be one of the rare good things about the new federal health care law and it could cause Minnesota to reduce some or many of its mandated health insurance benefits since the state will have to subsidize coverage for mandates that exceed what is mandated under the new federal law for those receiving coverage in the futuristic exchanges.
No new health insurance mandates heard
On a related issue, not a single new health insurance mandate was heard during the 2011 session. "On issues like this, you can really see the difference the new pro-small business majority is making in St. Paul," Hickey said.
Health insurance exchange legislation stalls
HF 497 Rep. Gottwaldt (St. Cloud)
Legislation to adopt a futuristic health insurance exchange in Minnesota never got out of the blocks in the 2011 session. The bill authored by Rep. Steve Gottwaldt never got introduced in the Senate and never passed out of committee in the House.
This issue became embroiled in controversy when conservative health care activists and Congresswoman Michelle Bachman opposed it. "The conservative activists don’t want Minnesota to adopt any provision in the new federal health care reform and felt that early adoption by Minnesota increases the acceptance of this controversial law across the country," Hickey said.
NFIB joined with others in the business community and did support it. "We pointed out that if the new law is allowed to stand, it is much better for states to enact private sector oriented health insurance exchanges as opposed to accepting the one that would be imposed on them by the federal government and the Obama administration. To be continued, we will have to see how the court case turns out. It is expected that the case challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law will be heard next summer or possibly sooner by the US Supreme Court," Hickey said.
Legislation to repeal section 125 requirement
SF 191 Sen. Scheid (Brooklyn Park)/HF 248 Rep. Loeffler (Minneapolis)
This bill passed the Senate but got stalled in the House when a controversial amendment was placed on it. This bill repealed a mandate on small employers to be educated or informed on the benefits of a Section 125 plan and then report to a state website that they had completed that requirement.
Prevailing wage reform
HF 1476 Rep. Scott (Andover)/SF 1199 Pederson (St. Cloud)
This reform to prevailing wage law stalled on the floor of the Senate and in the Ways & Means committee in the House. NFIB and others are pushing for passage of this measure in the special session, especially if a bonding bill is agreed to.
Progress made on environmental permits
HF 1 Rep. Fabian (Roseau)/ SF 42 Ingebrigsten (Alexandria)
The bill to expedite decisions on environmental permits for critical development projects passed the legislature and was signed by Governor Dayton
Dayton signs variance legislation
HF 52 Peppin / SF 13 Olson (Minnetrista)
A bill to overturn a Supreme Court ruling on variances that local governments frequently need to grant to property owners passed the House and the Senate was signed into law by Governor Dayton.
Removing the ban on increased carbon dioxide emissions by utilities.
SF 86 Sen. Rosen (Fairmont) / HF 72 Rep. Beard (Shakopee)
-Passed the House and the Senate and was vetoed by Governor Dayton
This legislation would remove the ban on the expansion of coal based energy for utilities in Minnesota and would also allow the importation of energy from out of state energy facilities that utilize coal based energy
Repealing nuclear power prohibition
SF 4 Koch (Buffalo) / HF 9 Peppin (Rogers)
-Passed the House and Senate, in conference committee
This bill would repeal Minnesota’s prohibition on the construction of new nuclear power plants in the state of Minnesota. Minnesota is the only state that has this type of ban on nuclear power expansion.