The Montana Chamber of Commerce recently reported on what it sees happening during the first half of the Montana State Legislature, and what its experience has been in supporting and opposing various pieces of legislation. It's a good insight for business people.

Coming up soon:

SB 317, sponsored by Sen. Dan Salomon, addresses the interest rate levied on businesses of which discrepancies were discovered in their tax audits by the Department of Revenue. The current rate is 12%, even if audits are delayed for several years. This bill changes that arbitrary rate to the federal prime interest rate plus 2%. Tying this rate to the cost of money is a more consistent, fair, and predictable approach for businesses that are audited by the state. The bill will be heard on Tuesday, March 7 in Senate Tax at 9:00 am in Room 405 of the Capitol.

Another priority bill of the Chamber, will also be heard on March 9. SB 327, carried by Sen. Roger Webb and co-sponsored by Sen. Terry Gauthier, will reduce and/or eliminate business equipment tax burdens for more small to medium-sized Montana businesses. The bill increases the tax exemption from the first $100,000 to the first $350,000 worth of equipment at market value. This tax relief will give businesses more financial flexibility to expand and create more jobs. The bill will be heard in Senate Tax at 9:00am in Room 405 of the Capitol.

And, in keeping score the Chamber reported the following:

-on some of the legislative successes that it has supported in keeping with its Envisions 2026 goals. On the support side of the ledger the Chamber has supported bills that will increase the number of district court judges, revised interest payments in civil cases, revise state law to step up the process in applying for commercial driver's licenses which is currently bogged down in a backlog, promote business with Israel, support fuel tax to build infrastructure, create "safe harbor" so private employers may not be held liable for negligent hiring for acts committed by an employee with a criminal record outside of their employment.

-At the same time, the Chamber has opposed bills that would prohibit pipelines from crossing under bodies of water, increase income taxes for high income earners by creating new tax brackets of 7.4% and 7.9%, impose more fees and regulations on Montana's natural resource industry, prohibit use of biometric recognition technologies in private sector, prohibit use of credit rating scores by insurance companies in setting premiums.

The Chamber is reporting as early successes the advancement of some bills as they have passed one house or in cases in which they have opposed the bill, defeated or tabled bills in the first half of the session.

Revise Interest Payments in Civil Cases which has passed the Senate; a tax credit incentive program for investors that would help grow new Montana business and engage out-of-state investors has passed the House; a bill that would increase the Property Tax Abatement for New or Expanding passed House; tabling a bill to raise the minimum wage in Montana; tabling two bills that would have created new marginal tax brackets for high income earners; two bills have passed Senate that give employers reasonable latitude to disallow benefits when relevant medical history is not disclosed by employees or in cases of fraud; tabling bill that would allow workers to choose treating physicians in work comp cases; Governor signed a bill that will allow more business to apply for worker training program grants; a law that makes permanent the current 10-year tax exemption for the installation of Pollution Control Equipment has passed Senate; helped to table a bill that would have restricted tax increment financing revenue to local mills only; helped pass both houses a law that clarified how community colleges may offer dual enrollment courses to high school students; helped pass renewal of six mill levy for the Montana University System.

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