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NFIB unveils new insurance options for members

June 21st, 2013 No comments

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has started a new program designed to provide its 350,000 members easier access to personal health insurance plans.

The program is a partnership between NFIB, a small business advocacy group, and health insurance provider UnitedHealthCare. It will be administered by UnitedHealthOne Agency, an affiliate of United HealthCare.

Health insurance options include co-pay plans, which are similar to traditional employer-sponsored coverage, lower-cost high deductible plans and health savings account plans Dental, vision, critical illness and disability insurance will be offered to NFIB members. The plans are underwritten by UnitedHealthCare’s Golden Rule Insurance Company.

“The new program provides access to personal health insurance options for small business owners that fit individual budgets and offer a network of quality health providers,” said Mark Garzone, senior vice president of marketing for NFIB, in a press release.

“Working together with the UnitedHealthOne Agency, we can now give our members easier access to quality, affordable individual insurance plans that give small business owners and their families the choices they want and the coverage they need.”

NFIB members interested in more information on the new program can visit nfib.com/unitedhealthone or call 888-280-3511.

 

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Latest deadline has mixed results for business legislation

March 14th, 2013 No comments

Wednesday’s deadline for floor action on bills that originated in the opposite chamber brought mixed results for legislation aimed at the state’s business community.

Of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s legislative agenda, only a bill that would provide a 25 percent rebate to businesses that contract with one of the state’s colleges or universities for qualified research remains alive. The Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through (SMART) Business Act would cap rebates at $1 million per business and $5 million per fiscal year. It died in the 2012 session. It has been sent to conference.

Other bills Hosemann supported – tax credits for businesses relocating their headquarters to Mississippi, expanding existing headquarters  and an employee pass-through tax credit – all died for the second consecutive session.

Already signed by Gov. Phil Bryant into law is legislation that that will provide $8 million in additional money to the Workforce Enhancement Training Fund. The WET fund is used by community colleges to provide training for jobs and skills that employers have identified as being in demand.

The money will be generated by a one-year decrease in the unemployment tax businesses pay and a corresponding increase in the WET fund tax. The net effect on employers who pay each tax will be neutral. Also contributing to the additional job training money is $14 million in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits the Mississippi Department of Employment Security has gotten back.

Bryant signed the bill Wednesday. The measure was supported by the Mississippi chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Legislation directed at the Mississippi Development Authority had mixed results. A bill requiring the agency to issue an annual report of the tax breaks and other incentives it provides to businesses died. Executive director Brent Christensen has said that’s something the agency plans to do anyway, starting with the one issued late last year. Also dead is a bill that would have authorized the MDA to periodically hire consultants to assess the incentives it issues.

Still alive is a measure that would divert money from an MDA fund established to lure Toyota to a workforce training grant fund.

The next hurdle still-active bills face is a conference report deadline on April 4.

Data: Raising accelerated tax threshold would have little financial impact on state

January 29th, 2013 No comments

The latest issue of the Mississippi Business Journal has a story about the push to raise the liability threshold that requires small businesses to participate in the accelerated tax payment system.

Simply put, small businesses with a monthly average of at least $20,000 in tax liability have to pay a portion of June sales and use taxes no later than June 25.

Normally, those tax payments are due on the 20th of the next month. For example, April taxes are due no later than May 20. The accelerated system forces small businesses that qualify to pay two months’ (May and June) worth of taxes on one day.

Ron Aldridge of the Mississippi NFIB, which is advocating the proposal to raise the threshold from $20,000 to $50,000, provided some data from the Department of Revenue that sheds light on how many small businesses are triggered by the $20,000 threshold, and how many would be triggered by the $50,000 threshold. The data arrived after the MBJ’s press deadline last week, and did not make the print version.

As of Oct. 26 2012, 2,623 businesses qualified under the $20,000 threshold, and paid $157.9 million in sales and use taxes. Of those businesses, 853 would still have to pay accelerated sales and use taxes if the threshold increased to $50,000. Of the $157.9 million total, those businesses paid $123.1 million, about 67 percent of the total.

The NFIB, in a press release that accompanied the data, said the state having to wait a month for $34.8 million is not enough to justify keeping the threshold at $20,000.

Four bills that address the issue have been filed and sit either in the House Ways and Means Committee or in the Senate Finance Committee. Gov. Phil Bryant made raising the threshold part of his executive budget recommendation late last year, so it’s likely at least one will be sent to the floor for debate before the first committee deadline Feb. 5.

Regulatory, local option bills clear Senate

March 13th, 2012 No comments

A little more than 48 hours until the deadline for floor action on bills that have made it out of committee, the House spent much of Tuesday morning debating a bill that would require doctors performing physicians to have admitting privileges at hospitals. The bill passed 80-37, but not before reigniting the worst parts of last fall’s Personhood debate.

The Senate, on the other hand, passed a handful of bills that have been watched closely by business groups and their advocates. One of those was the Mississippi Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act. 

The bill establishes a committee whose membership would include small business owners to review new and existing regulations, in an effort to make them less of a burden. This has been a priority for Ron Aldridge, head of the Mississippi National Federation of Independent Businesses, which lobbies for small business issues. Gov. Phil Bryant also made it part of his legislative agenda.

The Senate also approved a local option bill that would allow cities whose populations are greater than 6,000 (or if the city has fewer than 6,000 people but serves as a county seat) to vote to come out from under countywide dry laws. The process could not start until 20 percent of a city or town’s electorate signed a petition to put the issue on the ballot.

If approved, the bill would allow alcohol by the glass to be served in restaurants and hotels within the municipality, or at places that already have an on-premises retail permit. The permit requirement, offered in an amendment by Pearl Republican Sen. Dean Kirby, would make it almost impossible for new retailers (like liquor stores) to locate in newly wet cities and towns.

If the vote fails, the issue could not be revisited on the ballot for at least another two years. Probably the best thing this bill would do — besides putting the power in the hands of the cities and not the Legislature — is stop the endless parade each session of cities seeking permission to hold a vote to repeal their counties’ dry laws.

The Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association had been the bill’s most ardent supporter.

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Regulatory review legislation tries again

January 8th, 2012 No comments

Mississippi has a law on the books that is supposed to educate businesses on the effects of new rules and regulations.

An effort to strengthen that law and to establish a commission whose members would include business owners to review new rules will soon be a part of the 2012 legislative session.

According to the federal Office of Advocacy, Mississippi is one of 26 states that already have a partial regulatory flexibility statute, meaning there is already a mechanism in place to alert businesses of how new rules will impact them, and ways rules can be altered after they’re enacted.

Legislation to create a full-blown review of proposed rules before they take effect has cleared the Senate in past sessions and has been on the calendar for floor debate in the House, but has failed to advance.

“It would allow us to look and see if there’s a more flexible way to alter the rules and regulations that come out, to where the intent can still apply without inflicting a (financial) burden,” said Ron Aldridge, director of the Mississippi National Federation of Independent Businesses. The organization has spent several sessions lobbying for a review commission. “That’s what this is about, is to put into law in Mississippi a framework where small business owners can sit on a commission and give feedback to the agencies as the rules are being put into place but before they take effect. The way it works now, if they do harm on the front end, you can alter them later. By then, though, they’ve done their damage.”

Aldridge listed as an example Mississippi’s window tint law, last modified in 2005, in which the Mississippi Department of Public Safety mandated tint darker than a particular shade be inspected, and receive clearance for road use. The process is similar to the one that governs state inspection stickers for vehicles. Law enforcement agencies are allowed to have darker tint on their vehicles than civilians.

“It ended up that these places that did the inspections, it was going to cost them so much to deal with these rules it wasn’t any way they could actually do it,” Aldridge said. “The people who would have been impacted by it never got to sit down with the agency and figure out a way to make it work before the rule was passed.”

Aldridge said a number of rule-making state agencies have opposed the legislation, for the same reasons they opposed the original administrative procedures law passed in 2003 and officially put on the books in 2005. Former secretary of state Eric Clark pushed that legislation, which requires agencies to project what kind of impact new regulations might have on targeted businesses.

“But it doesn’t give any frame of reference for that,” Aldridge said. “In other words, what do they mean when they say small business. This review commission would define that, and it would make agencies more clearly state what the impact would be. Right now, all they have to do is say this has no impact, or little or minimal impact. How do they know? Unless you’ve been in that business yourself, you don’t know. Minimal impact for one person could have an entirely different meaning for another. One size does not fit all. Also, a commission will let us look at what’s already in place and see if there are any modifications to rules that have proven to be harmful that will maintain their purpose but reduce or eliminate the costs associated.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Laurel, has sponsored since 2008 legislation that would create a regulatory review commission. He said in an interview last week he plans to do the same this session.

“It’s always good to have honest feedback from business professionals and business owners. They need to know very specifically on the front end what a new rule will mean for them.”

Aldridge and McDaniel are optimistic new House leadership will be amenable to the bill’s passage. Gov. –elect Phil Bryant has already endorsed the idea, and may introduce a bill of his own, according to a press release from his office.

“I think the chances of its passage are greatly improved,” McDaniel said.