From: Minnesota Chamber of Commerce [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Monday, February 23, 2009 4:13 PMTo: email@example.com
Subject: Legislative Update -- February 23, 2009
February 23, 2009
For daily updates on key legislation being lobbied by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, visit www.mnchamber.com and click on “legislative bill tracker.” To contact your legislators, visit the Minnesota Prosperity Project at www.minnesotaprosperity.org.
STATE BUDGET: LEGISLATORS MUST HEAR FROM YOUMinnesota lawmakers are holding a series of town hall meetings this week in the Twin Cities to solicit comments on Governor Pawlenty’s 2010-2011 budget proposals. These forums, as they did last week in Greater Minnesota, are likely to attract special interests that oppose state budget cuts and support tax increases on those of us who create jobs. It is imperative to attend and reinforce the message that businesses cannot afford to absorb additional costs in this economy.
Our message is even more important as the state’s general fund shortfall is expected to reach at least $6 billion when the next financial forecast is released March 3.
If legislators don’t support the Governor’s plan, then ask them what their plan is for resolving the projected $4.8 billion shortfall for the FY 2010-2011 general fund without inflicting additional pain on businesses.
Business tax relief that can help create jobs in Minnesota is possible only if we speak up. Business tax increases are inevitable if we don’t speak up.
Specific times and locations are posted on the Minnesota Chamber Web site – www.mnchamber.com.
PRIORITY LEGISLATION TO LOBBYFollowing are bills that warrant your immediate attention at the Legislature:
CIVIL JUSTICEClass-action reform (HF 941, Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis): We support this bill which would allow an immediate appeal of class certification and a stay of proceedings while the appeal is pending. This is important because once a class is certified, the costs associated with class-action litigation – i.e. discovery – quickly add up. A stay of proceedings while the appeal is pending makes sure the class-certification decision was properly made before proceeding with other aspects of the litigation.
Insurance recovery (HF 417, Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights/SF 528, Bakk, DFL-Cook): As introduced, this bill would allow a business that successfully sues its insurer for breach of contract to recover attorney fees and consequential damages. It also increases the prejudgment interest rate to 12 percent.
During the last three months, the Minnesota Chamber met with the proponents and opponents of the bill to try to reach a compromise. When it became apparent that the parties were not going to agree, we crafted a compromise that the Minnesota Chamber Board approved. We recommend that the prejudgment interest rate for commercial coverage disputes be increased to the greater of 4 percent or the one-year constant maturity treasury rate plus 3 percent. At present, the prejudgment rate is the greater of 4 percent or the one-year constant maturity treasury rate. The Chamber will oppose this legislation if it contains a one-sided “loser pays system” for awarding attorney fees, or if it awards consequential damages.
False Claims Act (HF 8, Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park/SF 82, Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park): We oppose this bill because it will likely increase litigation with businesses that have contracts with the state or a political subdivision. The bill’s goals are laudable – to improve fraud prosecution with state services and contracts. However, frauds can be prosecuted now under a federal false claims act, and the state has a version of a false claims act under its criminal code. This bill goes beyond the federal law in several areas, and would potentially subject any business that has a contract with state and local governments to expensive litigation.
HEALTH CARESingle-payer health care financing (HF 135, Bly, DFL-Northfield/SF 118, Marty, DFL-Roseville): We oppose this bill which would establish a government-run, single-payer approach to financing health care for Minnesotans. The business community is committed to discussions around market-based reform and competition for health care. We oppose this bill which proposes an undefined business health tax to pay for a single-payer approach to health care financing.
LABOR/MANAGEMENTPaid sick leave (HF 612, Lesch, DFL-St. Paul/ SF 461, Anderson, DFL-St. Paul): We oppose this bill that would require employers with more than 10 employees to provide one hour of paid sick time off for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 72 hours, which can be carried over year to year. For employers with fewer than 10 employees, the requirements are one hour of paid sick time off for every 30 worked up to a maximum of 40 hours, which also can be carried over. Paid sick time can be used to care for ill family members, both immediate and nonimmediate. Employees would have a broad ability to file civil suit if they are not allowed to use the time or if the employer retaliates against an employee.
We find no demonstrated need for mandating sick leave standards. Most employers already have some type of “leave” package and employers, in consultation with their employees, should be able to tailor benefits/leave packages to satisfy the distinctive needs of individual workplaces.
REGISTER FOR INSIDERS ISSUE SERIESWorkforce will be the focus of the first session of the Insiders Issue Series from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. February 27 at The St. Paul Hotel. State Education Commissioner Alice Seagren, Senator Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), and Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) will present their perspectives. The Minnesota Chamber is advancing a comprehensive K-12 education reform package to the Legislature.
Other sessions are: March 27 – Energy, Environment and the Economy; April 24 – State Budget; May 20 – Session Wrap-up (special time: 3:30 p.m. followed by 4:30 reception.)
Sign up now for the entire series – four meetings for only $100. Otherwise, each breakfast is $30 for members. Nonmember price is $50 per breakfast and $175 for the series. To register, contact Lisa Engdahl at (651) 292-4699, (800) 821-2230 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at www.mnchamber.com.
FEDERAL ‘CARD CHECK’The Minnesota Chamber is leading an effort to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as “Card Check,” at the federal level. While we are working with our national partners like the U.S. Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers, our members feel very strongly that this legislation undermines the principles of workplace democracy. Last week, we coordinated meetings with Congressman Collin Peterson and with Congressman Tim Walz attracting more than 100 business leaders in total. We also are trying to meet with Senator Amy Klobuchar. To learn more about the issue and to contact members of the Minnesota delegation, go to www.minnesotaprosperity.org or call Jennifer Byers at (651) 292-4673.
TAX REFORM COMMISSION RELEASES RECOMMENDATIONSThe Governor’s 21st Century Tax Reform Commission released its recommendations February 13. The business community was well represented on the commission membership including Dave Beito, president of Northern State Bank in Thief River Falls and treasurer of the Minnesota Chamber Board.
The commission was charged with providing recommendations involving long-term improvements in Minnesota's business tax climate. Its primary recommendations:
Reduce business tax burdens: Repeal the state corporate income tax; exempt 20 percent of active “pass-through” business income from taxation; conform to federal tax write-off provisions for business-related assets; replace the capital equipment sales tax refund with an up-front exemption; extend the capital equipment exemption to businesses that produce services subject to sales tax.
Improve the transparency of business taxation: Simplify the state property tax system; require a biennial “benefits-received” report of Minnesota business taxation.
Promote investments in innovation, entrepreneurship and emerging/high-tech companies: Overhaul the research-and-development tax credit; enact the Small Business Investment Act; enact an Early-Stage Investment Tax Credit; encourage low-income entrepreneurship and business creation loans.
Paying for reform: Extend the sales tax base to a broader range of consumer products and consumer services; increase the excise tax on cigarettes.
A copy of this report, and other information relating to the commission’s work, can be found at http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/mntaxreform/index.shtml.
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