Josie Kavanagh

New Florida Taxpayer Protection Caucus Announced, Led by Rep. Bob Rommel

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Monday, August 10th, 2020, 3:38 PM PERMALINK

Just last week, Florida State Representative Bob Rommel announced that he plans to form a new Taxpayer Protection Caucus in the Sunshine state legislature.   

In leading this caucus, Rep. Rommel aims to work with other pro-taxpayer legislators to protect Floridians from incoming pressure to add new taxes and hike old ones, as well as defend against increased spending driven by third parties and the left. He vows to “be ready for action and to stop any proposed new taxes.” 

Rommel, who represents Florida’s 106th district, is one of 62 Florida state House pledge signers of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. Members who have signed the pledge are welcome and encouraged to join the Taxpayer Protection Caucus. 

“One of the important aspects of leadership is making sure to build an infrastructure for carrying important policy goals from one generation to the next. Our caucus will be an important part of helping to stop tax increases in Florida well into the future. I am honored that Grover asked me to take this on, and I look forward to working with ATR on an ongoing basis,” said Rep. Rommel. 

This new caucus can help ensure Florida remains one of the leading states for job growth, and for families looking to build a future, by keeping the tax burden on Floridians low.  

Photo Credit: Steven Martin

Sinking NY Should Pull "Safety Valve" On Job-Killing $15 Minimum Wage Plans

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Friday, July 17th, 2020, 5:31 PM PERMALINK

In 2016, when New York implemented its gradual minimum wage increases up to $15 per hour, it included a so-called safety valve provision. The hikes, scheduled to be implemented over a five year period, could be stopped in upstate New York in case of economic strife.

The plan also set the wage for upstate New York areas to top out at $12.50 per hour at the end of 2020, then the state would use various economic parameters to decide how to move forward to $15 per hour upstate.

Putting aside the recklessness of enacting a policy that requires a “safety valve” in the first place, the option exists. Why is this so relevant now? Coronavirus’ impact on the economy has been severe.

New York is at its highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression - nearly 20%. Like most states, there are businesses that will be unable to recover from the length of the shutdown.

The state lost nearly 1.8 million private-sector jobs in April alone, which the New York Department of Labor reported was the largest unemployment drop on record. The Empire Center has reported the leisure and hospitality job sector alone losing a devastating 68% of its workers.

This is the worst possible time for businesses to absorb further mandatory wage increases, when many can barely afford to stay afloat and are having to lay off employees. During times like these, the more employers must pay employees higher wages, the more employees they must lay off. Some will be pushed out of business. People looking to return to work, or perhaps find part-time opportunities, will see those opportunities curtailed by higher minimum wages.

Governor Cuomo himself has said of the safety valve, “If the economy slows, a national downturn, you have a safety mechanism for the minimum wage increase, which is the perfect design.”

It is safe to say the state’s economy has reached the point where the safety valve needs to be considered.

Upstate New York was already struggling before coronavirus ground the economy to a halt. Further, pulling the safety valve and stopping the increase scheduled to occur by the end of 2020, would also send a message that further increasing the wage upstate to $15 is an absurd proposition.

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State Lawmakers Continue to Tear Down Unjust Barriers to Employment, As Missouri Becomes the Latest State to Pass Licensing Reciprocity Reform

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Tuesday, July 7th, 2020, 4:45 PM PERMALINK

As rioters seek to topple statues, state lawmakers around the country are focused on unjust statutes, working to remove barriers to employment that occupational licensing requirements often serve. On July 6th, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed HB 2046 into law, making Missouri the sixth state to enact a licensing reciprocity law for out-of-state occupational license holders, allowing “any individual holding a current, valid license for at least one year at the same practice level as Missouri in any profession regulated by a state board, department, or office of a jurisdiction”.  

HB 2046, sponsored by Rep. Grier, also creates the Fresh Start Act and the Expanded Workforce Act, with the former banning occupational licensing boards from discriminating against those with a criminal history, unless the crime was related to the occupation. The Expanded Workforce Act provides opportunities and career pathways such as an apprenticeship for an occupational license, as long as it is regulated by the Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance. 

“By expanding license reciprocity, HB 2046 will eliminate governmental barriers to employment and allow citizens to become licensed faster when moving or needing to find work in Missouri. This will not only help fill critical jobs in our economy but also highlight Missouri as an ideal state to live and work,” Governor Parson said

This move follows the passage of universal license recognition bills in several states, with the most recent being Iowa. The first to pass such a law was Arizona, and has since then been followed by Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana, and Idaho. Other states such as Arkansas, Florida, and Texas have passed licensing laws more specifically aimed at allowing those with criminal backgrounds to be able to find jobs. These reforms remove unjustified barriers to work and unnecessary regulations that hurt both families and the economy. 

Even though employment barriers hurt all citizens, they disproportionately affect military families who do not have control over where/when they have to move. Military families are especially burdened by occupational licensing requirements, as frequent relocation requires military spouses to repeatedly navigate obstacles such as taking classes or paying fees in order to be able to go back to work in their field for which they are already well trained. 

In January 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 7 into law, which looks out for military families by allowing military spouses to continue working in their field without having to get recertified or pay fees to get a new license. Requirements for occupational licenses can vary state-to-state, which makes it very difficult and tedious for military spouses and people in general to go back to work after moving to a new state. SB 7 has been in effect since April 2020. The Buckeye Institute helped push for this legislation and is still working with Ohio lawmakers to pass occupational licensing reform for not only military spouses, but all Ohio residents. 

North Carolina has also passed a bill to reduce barriers for military spouses to find work once they move to the state. House Bill 1053/Senate Bill 717 was passed unanimously by both chambers in June to get rid of employment roadblocks for military families by improving data reporting and publicizing licensure information and opportunities available for them. This legislation automatically recognizes out-of-state speech pathology and audiology licenses without requiring a Noth Carolina license.  

“In North Carolina, we have always striven to be the most military friendly state in the nation,” said Rep. John Bell. “This bill is yet another important step we can take to help support and improve the quality of life for North Carolina veterans, military service members and their spouses.”  

With nearly 20 million Americans out of work, state lawmakers are wise to remove unnecessary barriers to employment, many of which were put in place for protectionist reasons. The pandemic has been enough of a roadblock, there does not need to be any more. The pandemic is bringing light to the fact that many regulations were never needed, and that occupational licensing reciprocity is a good thing. Hopefully more states will follow the lead of Arizona and Missouri by enacting universal licensing legislation.  

Photo Credit: Jim Bowen

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States Move to Pass Liability Protection Laws Critical to Recovery

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Tuesday, June 30th, 2020, 10:35 AM PERMALINK

In the past few weeks, a rising number of state legislatures have been passing or seeking to pass bills to provide legal liability protection for businesses for lawsuits related to the spread of Covid-19. Such liability protection is needed to shield already struggling businesses, including healthcare facilities, from frivolous lawsuits as they seek to safely open back up.

Many believe it will be impossible to achieve the “V-shaped recovery” so many are hoping for if businesses have Covid-19 lawsuits on their hands from those who contracted it, or those who will try to claim safety guidelines were not being followed in a time when the CDC rules seem to change every week. State lawmakers are taking actions into their own hands and not waiting on the federal government to provide Covid-19 legal liability protection.

These liability protection laws will be crucial for local and state economies to truly get back on their feet. Recognizing such liability protection will encourage businesses to reopen and bring people back to work without the fear of getting sued, Covid-19 legal liability protection legislation has been enacted recently in Utah, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, and Wyoming. Other states, such as Mississippi, South Carolina, Connecticut, and Montana, are still debating the topic or currently working on getting such legislation passed.

Back in May, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed SB 3007 into law, a reform that protects businesses from being sued by those who contracted coronavirus on their property. Businesses are immune from civil liability unless they display intentional infliction of harm. North Carolina lawmakers passed similar legislation, though only applying the protections to essential businesses that needed to stay open. As for Oklahoma, Governor Stitt signed into law the COVID-19 Product Protection Act on May 21st. This establishes liability relief for companies and individuals who manufacture, distribute or donate materials needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Just last week, the Mississippi Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Back to Business Liability Assurance Act (SB 3049), which will provide protections to essential businesses that had to stay open even when they weren't sure of what guidelines to follow. This bill prohibits COVID-19 lawsuits unless malicious intent or willful misconduct can be proved and increases the burden of proof in those lawsuits to need “clear and convincing evidence”. If this bill is signed into law, it would also cap non-economic damages in the lawsuits to $250,000.

A group of seven states (Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York) have passed legislation and/or executive orders specifically aimed to protect healthcare facilities and hospitals from coronavirus-related lawsuits. These states have given their healthcare facilities (nursing homes, assisted living residences, etc.) immunity from civil liability as long as they acted in good faith and without malice or gross negligence. Massachusetts in particular also extended protections to healthcare providers and personnel in its legislation.

Employers and businesses owners around the country are calling on legislators and Governors to follow suit and pass legal liability protection laws. Tennessee lawmakers may return for a special legislative session just to tend to this matter.

“The pandemic is negatively impacting our local and state governments, which certainly will experience declines in revenue, affecting many Tennesseans for the foreseeable future,” Bradley Jackson, president and CEO of Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry & Jim Brown, Tennessee director of National Federation of Independent Business, wrote in a May 27 op-ed. “A relatively quick and safe economic recovery will provide jobs and revenue for the state to continue providing core services; however, a rise in frivolous lawsuits will jeopardize our recovery from these devastating events.”

Hopefully lawmakers in Tennessee and other states can reach an agreement to provide pandemic liability protection for employers. It is now more important than ever for businesses to be reassured enough to open back up and continue to employ their workers. Liability protection for businesses in every state will give the workforce the confidence it needs, which benefits us all.

Photo Credit: dmbosstone

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Governor Wolf's Cap-and-Trade Coup Faces Resistance

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Wednesday, June 24th, 2020, 5:53 PM PERMALINK

Pennsylvania lawmakers are working in a bipartisan fashion to stop Democratic Governor Tom Wolf from forcing the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a multistate cap-and-trade agreement that claims to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

Pennsylvania has been a major thorn in the side of RGGI, because the state never joined, and its emissions are down as much as any state that did join RGGI.

Cap-and-trade would be harmful to the state’s economy, and will allow the government to set limits on power plant emissions. This is supposed to encourage companies to cut their pollution, but not many are convinced it actually helps.

According to a 2018 report by David Stevenson from the Caesar Rodney Institute, it is not clear whether states who have joined the RGGI cap-and-trade system have seen any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions overall, or any greater than the national trend. Only 10 states have committed to the RGGI, and Pennsylvania and Virginia are likely to be next, unless Pennsylvania’s legislature can stop it.

Democratic State Representative Pam Snyder and Republican State Representative Jim Struzzi have both co-sponsored and are advocating for the passage of House Bill 2025, which prevents Governor Wolf from overstepping his authority by blocking him from entering the RGGI agreement without consulting the legislature.

Lawmakers are concerned on both constitutional grounds and on economic grounds.

The Governor has seemed to move forward unilaterally with signing Pennsylvania up for the climate agreement, with little regard for the region’s coal and energy industries, as well as the jobs it holds for hard-working families.

Struzzi claims that joining the RGGI has not been proven to actually help the environment, but that it has been proven to shut down businesses and put people out of work. It is also a possibility that businesses and plants will just move to other states that will not enforce a cap on emissions.

State Senator Joe Pittman, a Republican has sponsored a companion bill to HB 2025, Senate Bill 950.

HB 2025 has already been passed through the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The legislation is critical to preventing Governor Wolf from killing jobs, and inflicting endless damage on Pennsylvania’s economy, all for no quantifiable environmental benefit.

Photo Credit: Kyle Yunker

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Kansas Governor Rejects Pro-Taxpayer Reforms (Again)

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Posted by Josie Kavanagh on Friday, June 12th, 2020, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

Another session in Kansas, another case of Governor Laura Kelly playing defense against taxpayers.

Governor Kelly has made it clear that helping taxpayers and small businesses hit hard by COVID-19 is not in her list of priorities. Instead, Governor Kelly is focused more on growing government.

She has made this clear with her recent veto of House Bill 2054, which would have provided seemingly necessary legislative oversight to her emergency management authority, spending of federal COVID funds, and also would have provided much-needed liability protection for healthcare workers and businesses. If it had passed, it would have required Governor Kelly to get permission from legislators to use her emergency powers and to keep businesses closed. House Bill 2054 also would have given state leaders, rather than Governor Kelly, the say of where the coronavirus relief funds are directed.

According to the Kansas Policy Institute, Governor Kelly has also vetoed property tax reform, House Bill 2702, loans for small businesses House Bill 2619, and a student-focused education bill, House Bill 2510. All 3 of these bills were passed with supermajorities in the House, and almost all earned supermajorities in the Senate as well.

Of particular importance is HB 2702. The property tax reform bill would have waived penalties on interest on property tax payments, extending the deadline by 3 months. This would have provided some relief for businesses forced to shut down or limit their operations due to coronavirus. Though, local governments have collected most of their annual property tax levies.

So why the opposition? HB 2702 included a Truth in Taxation provision to provide additional protections for taxpayers and transparency. Truth in taxation requires notifications to voters when local officials are considering a property tax increase; more significantly, it compensates for increasing tax burdens due to property values increasing.

In Utah, Truth in Taxation has proven very effective in keeping property tax burdens down. Kelly slamming the door on HB 2702 is a huge loss for Kansans, one that could sting for generations if this reform is not revisited.

Now that Kansas legislature’s special session has begun, there will not be any opportunities for the legislature to override these vetoes.

Governor Kelly continues to veto relief for Kansas taxpayers, following her veto of legislation last session that amounted to a significant net tax cut. Meanwhile, she aggressively pushes Medicaid expansion, which would add hundreds of millions of dollars worth of costs for taxpayers.

Photo Credit: Holley St. Germain

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