Your Business Advocate
The Montana Chamber is your year-round advocate, not just during the biennial Legislative Session. We represent your business all year, every year, 24/7/365. Whether it’s Interim committees, agency rulemaking or important judicial cases with broad impacts, we are your voice on all business matters that matter to business. We also advocate at the federal and local levels on issues important to our members and the economy.
New! Click here for a recap of the agreement on federal UI provisions
Here are some of our important issues:
Reducing Workers’ Compensation Costs
In 2011, the Montana Chamber led the charge in passing major reforms to our workers’ compensation system, and many employers have started to see savings. Experts estimate employers should see savings of around $100 million per year. In addition, the Montana Chamber has intervened in larger workers’ compensation court challenges.
We were successful in stopping lawsuits that would have cost businesses over $250 million in rate hikes and damaged exclusive remedy protections for employers. Still, many businesses are paying too much for their work comp premiums. We will continue to lead the way in bringing down the cost of work comp premiums so that Montana can be more competitive with neighboring states.
The Montana Chamber has its own worker’ compensation program, Montana Safety Choices, which provides safety resources and a retro return on premium.
Fair and Competitive Taxes
Taxes can make the difference in a business’ hiring plans, decisions to expand, or to close up shop altogether. The Montana Chamber has fought for decades for a competitive tax structure, including big reductions in the business equipment tax and more competitive individual income tax rates.
We have been the primary organization leading the charge in lowering the business equipment (personal property) tax rates from a high of 12% down to its current levels, including new reductions in the 2011 Session.
In the 2013 Legislative Session, we will support bills that enhance taxpayers’ rights and tax simplification. The Montana Chamber will also advocate for more clarity in the laws related to centrally-assessed companies, which are often subjected to unpredictable, inconsistent valuation formulas by the Department of Revenue. We will also actively oppose new or higher taxes and fees on business, which would only slow our economic recovery.
Promoting Responsible Natural Resource Development
“The Treasure State” of Montana is this country’s answer to decades of dependence on foreign energy. In Montana, we have plentiful amounts of coal, oil, natural gas, wind, hydro, geothermal, and more. Timber and mining are also anchor businesses that help provide good jobs for Montanans. These industries have helped sustain our state during these tough economic times and we must continue to encourage the responsible development of all our natural resources. They also provide large revenues for state government and Montana’s schools.
We were successful in passing positive changes to the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) in 2011, which will help get more projects permitted and off the ground (instead of in court).
The Montana Chamber will continue to support legislation that removes the unnecessary legal roadblocks that keep companies from investing in our state. We will also encourage lawmakers to take revenues from new developments and put them towards our education system and tax relief.
Affordable and Quality Healthcare
The federal government recently passed major revisions to our health care system that will have a significant impacts on businesses. The Montana Legislature will be spending a great deal of time debating how the state of Montana implements the reforms and pays for the increased costs over time.
The Montana Chamber will actively support free market concepts in the debate as well as focus on the issues of health care costs and wellness. The Montana Chamber will also be sponsoring legislation requiring state government to test all new health insurance mandates for cost on its own health plan before it can be passed on to businesses.
In addition, we will continue to provide quality and affordable health insurance through Chamber Choices, our small business health insurance program.
Help for Montana’s Small Businesses
Small businesses make up the vast majority of Montana’s economy—97%, to be exact. If small businesses are not doing well and hiring more people, our state’s economy suffers. State government has a duty to foster small business and make sure it does not unnecessarily burden employers with needless regulation and taxes.
That is why the Montana Chamber has authored the “Small Business Consideration Act,” which allows a sponsor of a bill to request a small business impact study be conducted on their legislation. In addition, the we will encourage the Legislature to pass the “Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act,” which requires government agencies to look at the impacts to small business when new regulations are proposed.
Attention to small business issues will help those economic engines create more good-paying careers for out-of-work Montanans.
Common Sense Legal Reforms
During the past two decades, the Montana Chamber has been the leader in championing legal and tort reform measures that keep frivolous lawsuits out of court. Whether it’s caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits or improvement in employment law, we have had a hand in fighting for reforms to our legal system.
In addition, the State Chamber has filed amicus briefs at the Supreme Court level in cases that have wide impacts on all Montana employers. Despite our best efforts, Montana employers still face extreme exposure in employment law, workers’ compensation and other tort cases.
The Montana Chamber will likely sponsor legislation that firms up the exclusive remedy provisions in workers’ compensation law, in order to ensure those important protections remain in place for employers. We will continue to support medical malpractice reform legislation and protect the tort reform measures already in law.
Stopping Anti-Jobs Bills
Although we have numerous ideas on how to improve Montana’s business climate, much of our work is centered on defeating bills and ideas that will over-tax, over-regulate, and overburden our state’s business community. Whether there are deficits or surplus money, some lawmakers look to business as the way to find new revenue for maintaining or expanding unnecessary government programs.
Many of the same bad bills reoccur each session, including bills aimed restricting employer private property rights in situations involving firearms on company premises, fee increases, anti-tort reform legislation, paid sick leave or paid break requirements, proposals that lock up our natural resources, new health insurance mandates, proposals to raid special funds like the bed tax and employer funds, and new taxes on income, property, natural resources, and capital gains.
One of our primary goals as your advocate is to prevent government from making it harder for you to hire more people, grow your business, and help the state’s economy.
Controlling Federal Overreach
In the past few years, we’ve seen Washington, D.C. take steps towards greater debt, increasing regulation, and heightened partisanship instead of good policy. In short, the President and Congress have created unprecedented uncertainty for the private sector in areas such as healthcare, environmental regulation, legal reform, taxation and much more.
Although our focus is usually on state matters, the Montana Chamber has taken a greater role in encouraging Montana’s own federal delegation to look beyond party politics in favor of balancing the federal budget, creating long-term frameworks for our private businesses to invest and create jobs, and empowering entrepreneurs to innovate and grow businesses that will employ Americans.
These are just a few of the issues we work on for you, as Your Business Advocate
Click here for more resources on our advocacy program:
2013 Roadmap to Jobs
2010-2011 Jobs Plan
2011 Legislative and Executive Voting Review