Montana Recreational Liability Statute Passes Senate Judiciary Committee
By a vote of 7 to 5, HB 150 passed the Montana State Senate Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for a vote on the floor. The bill bars providers of recreational activity from responsibility for claims caused by the inherent risks of the recreation activity. Montana is one of few states in the nation that bans the use of liability waivers. An amendment to HB 150 removed the exclusion for accidents caused by inherent risks of activities on public lands. A complete copy of the bill can be found at: http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billhtml/HB0150.htm.
Obama Administration Announces Plan to Free Up Credit and Streamline SBA Loans
Have you been rejected previously for an SBA loan? The goal of President Obama’s small business 2009 Recovery Act is to make credit more available to small businesses by underwriting $15 billion in loans, streamlining the application process and removing some fees associated with applications. The President also announced a new “carryback provision” that will enable some small businesses to claim a tax refund on previous year’s taxes. http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=205330,00.html
To read more about the announced SBA loan plan, go to http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/reports/tg58_smallbiz_qa.pdf
The additional provisions in the Recovery Act include:
• Microloan Expansion: Provides extra funding for loans and technical assistance to SBA backed micro lenders
• ARC Stabilization Loans: Offers 100% guaranteed deferred payment of loans up to $35,000 to help viable small businesses facing immediate economic hardship make payments on existing qualifying loans
• Expanded 504 Refinancing Project: Allows borrows to refinance an existing eligible loan as part of a new 504 small business expansion project.
• Surety Bond Program Expansion: Allows more small businesses to compete for contracts by raising the maximum amount for contracts that qualify for SBA surety bonds to $5 million and up to $10 million for certain contracts.
• SBIC Program Expansion: Increases the maximum levels of funding that SBA can provide to SBICs.
• Secondary Market Guarantee for 504 First Mortgages: Provides liquidity to lenders by allowing SBA to guarantee 504 first mortgage pools sold into the secondary market.
• 7(a) Secondary Market Lending Authority: Increases liquidity in the secondary market for SBA loans by directly lending money to brokers to purchase SBA 7(a) loans.
For a list of SBA offices, go to http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html
Card Check Bill Will Apply to Many Small Businesses
The Employee Free Choice Act (S. 560 and H.R. 1409) enables unions to organize a workplace with a simple card instead of using of a secret ballot election. The choice of whether to use an election process or majority sign-up to establish union representation has been exclusively controlled by companies. Currently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will certify a union as the exclusive representative of employees only if it is selected by a NLRB election.
This legislation can apply to almost any small business. If a union or union organizer obtains approval from a majority of workers, including the company’s part-time employees, by approaching them with a card check, the union may begin collective bargaining within 10 days. After 90 days, if no agreement is reached, the company and unionized workers are subject to binding arbitration. The bill also increases penalties for actions taken against those organizing a union.
The NLRB thresholds give them broad dicretionary authority to apply the law to small businesses with "greater than a diminimus flow of goods and services across state lines."
Many small businesses may not have the wherewithal to deal with the complex labor laws associated with this legislation and there is some question whether labor mediation resources will be adequate. One analysis said, “The arbitration parts of the card check bill are so vaguely drawn that nobody knows who the arbitrators will be. The job appears to be delegated entirely to the Federal Mediation Service. The FMS might decide to use its own employees. It might decide to use arbitrators from the private sector selected along more traditional lines.”
A similar bill passed the House in 2007 but was blocked in the Senate. The primary sponsor of S. 560 is Senator Ted Kennedy. However, this year the bill, when introduced in the Senate, drew nine fewer co-sponsors. Representative George Miller (D-CA) is the primary sponsor in the House.
2000 Page Omnibus Lands Bill (aka S. 22) Passes Hurdle in Senate
In a procedural move to cut off amendments to the bill, the sponsors of the S. 22 attached it to H.R. 146 under consideration in the Senate, after it failed passage on the suspension calendar in the U.S. House. The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act (H.R. 146) had previously passed the House and was used as a vehicle for the Omnibus Public Lands Bill in the U.S. Senate. This procedural move is designed to cut-off debate on amendments when the bill goes back to the House of Representatives. Efforts to filibuster H.R. 146 failed when the Senate voted to cut off debate by a 73 to 21 vote. The bill will be scheduled for passage in the Senate again later in the week as H.R. 146.
One interesting element in the bill we recently found is direction to the Forest Service to come up with a strategy to fight fires in wilderness. Previously, the Forest Service has allowed some fires in wilderness to burn.