Legislogger - Jason Todhunter
It’s that time again! Montana is several months from another legislative session although I can say without question that this one will be different than any I have attended in the past. The rumor mill is that it will be a mostly virtual session; whether this rings true or not we shall soon see! I have monitored the Economic affairs and Environmental Quality Council this interim and neither are bringing any major legislation this year….at least not for our industry. I will continue to keep you updated with weekly emails and bi-monthly articles. Below are our general legislative goals we have for this session.
Natural Resources and forestry legislative issues are at the forefront of our legislative interests. We are very supportive of Montana’s Best Management Practices for forest operations as well as Montana’s Stream Side Management Zone Law. These have both been very effective and any legislation that would change these we monitor very closely. Also, legislation effecting the Hazard Reduction Law and brush burning we also monitor very closely as these rules directly affect timber harvest operations. We also have an interest in legislation that would affect any of Montana’s remaining sawmills as we obviously need them to have a market for our logs.
Business and Labor legislation is also an area that we get involved with as logging is a small business industry and decisions made at the legislature directly impact our members. Workers Comp is a big cost of doing business in Montana and for the logging industry it is no different. We strive every year to increase the safety culture in our industry but it is still considered a high-risk industry. Because of this we support the current three-way work comp system; being self-insured, private carriers and the Montana State Fund. Anything that destabilizes this we usually oppose. We do not want to go to an assigned risk pool as it historically drives costs up for high risk industries like logging. We also monitor the general business and labor issues and support legislation that improves Montana’s business climate, and oppose legislation that has a negative effect on our members’ businesses.
Transportation issues are another area of interest as our industry needs trucks to get our logs to market. Many of our members are involved in just the trucking aspect of our industry so it is another one of our focal points during the biannual Montana Legislature. We monitor and get involved with legislation that would have either a positive or negative effect on log hauling in Montana. The Professional Log Haulers committee within our association acts as a sounding board for these issues. We work closely with Motor Carrier Services to help keep our folks abreast of safety issues or changing rules.
Taxation is another issue for our members, especially the class 8 business equipment tax. Logging equipment is very expensive and this tax is big hit for our type of business. We applaud the fact that it has been reduced to 3% from the past but we generally support the further reduction or elimination of this tax. Other taxation issues we watch involve general business tax issues including some of the corporation taxes. Many of our members are small family owned corporations and sometimes tax legislation aimed at big business sweeps small business into the mix as well. We also have interest in the fuel tax and non-taxed or (red) fuel which most of our members use while in the woods.
Health Insurance and how to provide insurance for employees is a continuing issue for our members. We typically oppose health insurance mandates that drive up insurance costs while reducing the choices for the consumer. We monitor and support legislation that makes health insurance more affordable as our members struggle to find affordable health insurance for them and their employees. We also opposed legislation last session that would have taxed work comp to pay for Medicaid expansion.
Always feel free to get ahold of me if you have questions or concerns on any of this session’s legislation or issues.
Jason Todhunter firstname.lastname@example.org 406-539-4882