With less than a month to go in the Session – I’d like to be able to report things have slowed. That’s not the case. Every day holds some amount of progress, an equal amount of woe, some element of surprise and no small amount of perplexity as activity on bills ebb and flow. This is truly a time when anything could happen on a given day. We have several priorities coming up and ask you to weigh in as appropriate for your mission and organization. Please note you need to send comments or register to testify via zoom by 5:00 p.m. the day before the hearing. Please reach out if any of us at MNA can support your efforts.
The Montana Endowment Tax Credit (METC) passed through the Senate 46 -3 and will be heard on Thursday, 4/13 in House Tax at 8:00 a.m. Though the bill has strong bipartisan support, we take nothing for granted. Please reach out to the committee and request a yes vote. You can do that here or by emailing a committee member directly. Given the number of bills the committee is hearing on Thursday, your brief online note will be welcomed. Your message can be this simple: This is a tool we use to carry out our mission, and we ask for your support. Thank you. If your community has benefitted in some way from the METC, please share your story. This will make a difference to legislators – especially at this point in the session when, like us, legislators are weary. Attached here is background on the METC which may be useful to you.
ADVOCACY AND LOBBYING RIGHTS
SB524 proposes to tax litigation expenses regarding specific sections of Montana code related to the environment and natural resources. The taxes are based on a presumption that litigation is unrelated to mission, and therefore the tax would be unrelated business income (UBIT). This idea is contrary to the IRS position. Last week this passed through the Senate and it will be heard in House Tax on Thursday 4/13 at 8:00 a.m. Please reach out to members of the committee in opposition. You can message the committee by choosing (H) (H) Taxation on this form. For reference, here is MNA’s Call to Action with our message to legislators.
SB557 is also related to litigation of environmental issues connected to the Montana Environmental Protection Act. Our opposition messaging is similar to SB524 – this bill discriminates against one particular type of nonprofit, and it presumes and writes into code that litigation in this area is not mission-related, contrary to the IRS position. SB557 will be heard on Wednesday, 4/12 at 3:00 p.m. in House Natural Resources. Please reach out to members of the committee in opposition.
TAX TREATMENT OF NONPROFITS
HB870 proposes to require a property tax on agricultural land owned by certain nonprofits. The tax would be on land currently receiving the agricultural tax rate but not being used for ag purposes; it would amount to ten times the taxable rate for agricultural land. The bill passed out of the House 68-31and will be heard in Senate Natural Resources on Wednesday, 4/12 at 3:00 p.m. Our main question is “How big is the problem?” It would help us to know if this bill impacts you. If you are impacted, please reach out to the committee and/or your legislator, tell your story, and ask for a no vote. Please let us know if this bill impacts you so we can advocate on your behalf.
HB906 proposes that – to be eligible for an agricultural property tax rate – the owner of a parcel of 160 acres or more must be eligible for Farm Service Agency payments. This will impact land trusts that currently pay an agricultural property tax rate even though the land is not used for agricultural purposes. We are still working out what this means for nonprofits that don’t pay any property tax. It is being heard 4/12 in Senate Tax.
HB546 – a priority for the Montana Housing Coalition – passed the House 65-33 and was heard last week in Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs. MNA supported this as a component of workforce support for nonprofits. HB829, the other priority housing bill for the Coalition, was tabled in committee.
HB648 passed through the House 65-34 and was heard in Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs on 4/7. The stories that seemed to resonate with legislators in the hearing were those of working families who suddenly are facing astronomical co-pays. Consider reaching out to Committee members requesting a yes vote on this. Thank you.
Please note that SB307 which revises reporting requirements for nonprofits and charitable trusts passed. We were able to make the bill better by requesting an amendment which narrowed it to 501(c)(3) organizations only. We will be watching over the next two years to ensure the ambiguity we took issue with in the bill language does not create problems for nonprofits. HB513 which would have revoked the nonprofit hospital property tax exemption was tabled in committee.
As you can see, we have a challenging week ahead. Please take time to note which bills would impact you and consider offering written or verbal testimony. Your engagement matters – especially for those in one of the communities represented by a committee member. Thank you for all you’re doing. We are proud to represent you and the meaningful work you’re doing in every part of Montana.