When the 2011 Mississippi Legislature convenes Jan. 4, registered lobbyists will be on hand to make their clients’ issues known to representatives and senators.
Hayes Dent of Yazoo City says it’s clear to all observers that the state’s budget will be the key issue in this session. “There are two separate and distinct philosophical views on this, and as long as there is a veto-proof majority in either house the call to continue spending cuts and no new taxes will win the day,” he said. “Another very interesting topic will be legislative and congressional redistricting. Anytime you have to split our 82 counties into 122 house districts and 52 senate districts, you’ve got the makings of great political theater.”
Dent says his clients are most interested in good government but have several issues that may arise this session. “We have one client trying to get a certain type of drug paraphernalia off the streets of Mississippi that I believe will be met with broad support,” he said. “Additionally, there will be some issues that may have a shot because of the fact that 2011 is an election year, and you’ve got members running not only for reelection but several may be candidates for statewide office.”
Rims Barber, lobbyist for the Mississippi Human Services Coalition, says he will be watching and working on a variety of issues with the budgeting problems that he sees coming. “Compliance with the child welfare lawsuit will be difficult with the budget constraints,” he said. “Mental health appears to be in deep difficulty as it relates to maintaining community services. We are concerned about funding issues.”
Ron Aldridge lobbies for the Mississippi Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Beverage Association of Mississippi (non-alcoholic beverage industry) and the Mississippi Automatic Merchandising Association.
As a major voice for small businesses in the state, he says the NFIB is actively promoting a number of major issues that include:
> No tax or fee increases.
> Full inventory tax credit/rebate phased in over multiple years to have no impact on local governments.
> Mississippi Strategic Planning and Performance Budgeting System Act.
> Bill establishing a Mississippi non-profit small business health insurance exchange.
> Small business regulatory flexibility act.
> Bill lowering the 50 percent penalty for delinquent sales tax payments to the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
> Reauthorization of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security without a repealer.
“NFIB Mississippi will not quit working to solve these continuing problems for small businesses,” he said. “We want to eliminate or phase out the negative impact of the unfair and discriminatory local government inventory tax with a full state rebate/tax credit. The estimated savings to businesses is $141 million.”
He points out that this legislation was recommended by Gov. Haley Barbour’s Tax Study Commission, and was introduced in 2010 by Sen. Billy Hewes. The bill passed the senate but failed in the house.
Aldridge says his organization hopes to exempt the first $20,000 of true value of business furniture, fixtures and equipment from the local government business personal property tax with an estimated savings to businesses of $29 million. They are also working to enact a state self-employment tax deduction for income tax
purposes similar to a federal law, and government cost-saving and efficiency legislation that will require a performance review of state government with adequate funding thereof.
“We are proposing to study and establish a workable and efficient Small Business Health Insurance Exchange concept as an expanded and more affordable, consumer-driven marketplace for small business owners and employees to choose from a variety of policies,” he said, “and to receive additional federal and state income tax advantages.”
This insurance exchange will allow for insurance agent commissions and will have input from Mississippi small businesses.
“We want to enact a Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act which would provide protection from state regulations with more flexible rule-making requirements and small business input,” Aldridge said.
He says the NFIB will continue to oppose tax and excessive fee increases, a state minimum or living wage law, a state department of labor, governmental inefficiency and health insurance mandates.
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