|By Sanders, Bob|
This is a budget year for the
It isn't just that Democrats seem intent on reversing some of the changes put forward by very conservative Republicans, mostly from the House, last session. It also means that some Republicans - either chastened or
perhaps emboldened by the change in political mood - seem to be a bit more willing to look at proposals that might have been unthinkable last year.
Thus we might see some agreement on finding creative solutions on issues ranging from participation in a health insurance exchange to finding ways to fund infrastructure improvements.
The tax would only go up if the price of gas were to fall
While a legislator like Weyler proposing to take
"We're trying to make certain to fix the roads," said Weyler, pointing out "a growing number of red-list bridges."
"We've got to do something. The cars are getting more per gallon, so that means there is more wear and tear on the road per gallon," said Weyler.
Weyler's blood hasn't turned blue.
He is opposed to reversing the
Proponents of that decrease said it should have increased cross-border sales during a two-year trial period. That hasn't happened for the most pan, aside from an uptick over the last few months.
But to Rep.
The cut "cost us a fair amount of money," she said. "Fortunately it didn't encourage youth smoking, because all the savings generated went to the manufacturers."
However, Almy and Dumais seem to be seeing eye-to-eye on any increase on the beer tax, which has been proposed by Rep.
"Beer sales are flat," said Dumais. "A beer tax would hurt cross-border sales."
Almy pointed out that the state's beer tax is already higher than that in neighboring states, but it remains competitive because other states, which have bottle deposit laws, tack a surcharge on beer sales.
If we put it up, it would be higher than our neighbors, and that's not a good place to be," Almy said of the tax.
Almy does envision some other changes. She wants to spend
Many of these audits have to do with "reasonable compensation," the amount a business owner pays him or herself. During the last session,
"You might as well be telling them they don't have to pay taxes," was Almy's response. "If we give away all of our business taxes, we might as well close up shop and get rid of state government."
That sentiment doesn't bode well for one of the
The bill would raise the total cap for the program from
Almy isn't on board, however. She said the program is like "picking out winners and losers. My opinion is doubling it is not going to help anything but get a few businesses a few more dollars."
In recognition of Almy's stance, Juvet said that the BIA would be pleased if at least the sunset provision of the current law were eliminated, or at least pushed forward.
All told, at this point there doesn't seem to be any proposal, however, to increase business taxes, but there's not much hope of reducing them either.
And why would a
"Because I'll ask nicely," Sanborn joked.
While every business group said it would like the government to control spending, most opposed cuts that affect them.
On the revenue side, Somers said he is pleased no one is talking about raising the rooms and meals tax, though Sen.
Her bill would send more money to communities that contribute revenue (such as
"While we love our tourism industry, it is currently costing communities on their local tax to support extra police, fire and public works to support tourism," she said.
Last session, the future of the federal Affordable Care Act was as iffy as Obama's reelection.
The state Legislature forbade lawmakers from planning a state-based health insurance exchange. But the alternative - a federal exchange - caused some Republicans to oppose the ban, but it passed nevertheless.
This go-round, several bills are being sponsored - including one from House Commerce Committee Chair
Everyone agrees that it's too late for a state-based exchange to be set up, at least for the next few years. But in the meantime, the federal government has come up with another alternative: a "partnership" between a state and federal exchange.
The feds will do "some of the heavy lifting" in the words of Deputy Insurance Commissioner
"It's sort of a no-brainer," he said.
The legislative oversight and fiscal committees will still need to weigh in, and the
But Sanborn, over in the
"We never really considered a partnership, so we still have a lot of discussion," he said. He worried that a federal exchange could cost independent insurance agents their jobs 12
The concern, said
As for the exchange itself, Nash would like to keep it as local as possible.
"We want to keep the state structure intact," he said. "It's more efficient than dual regulation."
Indeed, the whole state vs. federal debate will come up in an
The idea, explained Feldvebel, is that the state can't offer a lesser level of protection than the federal floor. If it did, the feds could wind up regulating that portion of the law itself, creating the same messy dual regulation.
The biggest effect of the ACA will be on the individual market, Feldvebel said. The law requires that insurers accept everybody, doing away with the assigned risk pool. That's great for those in the pool, who are paying an average of 125 percent more than the rest, but it will also mean everybody else's rate will go up.
So House Commerce Chair Butler will be introducing a Department bill will use a reinsurance mechanism, to soften "rate shock", Feldvebel said.
The other major ACA question - whether to expand
The hospitals are locked in a fight with the state over
"First and foremost is the budget." said
At deadline, no one knows exactly what kind of casino bill Sens.
"Some people have to put their greed aside for some kind of a compromise," said
"If I were a betting man," said Newman, "they never will build that
Betting men wouldn't wager on a bill sponsored by
"Doesn't seem to be in the cards this session," said Juvet of the BIA, which backs the legislation.
"He is committed to wasting the time of the House," dismissed
MacKenzie said labor interests will be spending much of their time bringing back the state minimum wage, which was eliminated last session, perhaps even increasing it beyond the federal wage.
Also on the labor front, one measure would prevent an employer from asking for an employee's social media password. Other bills would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of a credit check or the length of previous unemployment.
"I don't think an employer should have access to everything," said MacKenzie. "And I don't think the unemployed, whose credit has deteriorated so, should be denied the opportunity to work."
Rappaport said he considers aerial transmission lines for a private company "theft by unauthorized taking" because they impede the view of a neighbor. Besides, putting the lines under an existing right of way would give the revenue to the state, not a private company, he said.
Also, look for some bills relating to the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard. Because those standards are tightening, the state
Of course, the money could always be used for what it was intended - funding residential and business renewable energy projects. But don't count on it.
Public Service of
"Our focus when considering this legislation is with the potential for unintended consequences of well-meaning bills that end up increasing the costs of energy."
Here are some other bills coming up.
* Cell phone tax: Aside from opposing a sales tax, the big issue for the Retail Merchants this year would be collection of E911 fees on prepaid cell phones at the retail level.
* Gas station generator mandate: The Retail Grocers are concerned about a bill that would require installation of generators at gas statigns (to make sure that gas could be pumped during extensive blackouts).
* After hours: There is a bill in that would extend the hours that liquor can be served to
* Title loans: House Commerce Chair Butler is sponsoring a bill that would resurrect the cap on title loans at 36 percent, the same cap that is imposed on payday loans.
* Auto dealer bill of rights: Senate Commerce Chair Sanborn has a bill that he said will help dealers when faced with manufacturer-mandated upgrades.
* Prepaid oil regulation: The same bill that passed the
* Medical marijuana: Probably has a better chance of passage compared to legalization or decriminilization and would set up a new industry. The bill
* Consumer protection: One bill is being sponsored that would give the
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