Sponsored By West Texas National Bank
This is Eric Wareham, Vice President of Government Affairs for WEDA, and welcome to another edition of Legislative Landscape. In this episode we update you on where we’re at in the middle of session at the state level and talk about the developments at the federal level on some key issues to keep your eye on.
We begin with our Right to Repair roundup this time because it has been the issue taking up most of our attention this legislative cycle. Over 20 states have introduced a Right to Repair bill this year and it seems like proponents have been more motivated this year than others to take advantage of a strange legislative atmosphere due to COVID. So far, not a single bill has passed and we hope to continue that. There are a couple states where bills have already died this year. For WEDA, that includes Oklahoma, Washington and Kansas.
There are still Right to Repair bills alive in Oregon, Missouri and Texas. In Oregon, we have managed to gain an exemption for ag and construction equipment, and the bill now targets consumer electronic devices. The Oregon bill sponsor has a Cat dealership headquartered in her district that really made the difference. In Texas, the democratic bill sponsor took the approach of introducing three different bills, one for consumer electronics, one for medical devices and one for construction and agriculture equipment. After discussing these bills with the sponsor’s staff, the bill relating to construction and ag equipment is their lowest priority and was introduced just before the deadline. Combined with all of the storm and power problems Texas is dealing with, we believe the bill is very unlikely to move anywhere in Texas’s biennial session that lasts only 140 days.
The bill giving us the most grief is Missouri. Last month, an in-person public hearing was held on the bill in the House Agriculture Policy Committee. There were only two people that testified in support of the bill. The farm bureau was one of them and gave a very half-hearted endorsement of the legislation and added that they did not want to interfere with intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, the rest of the room was packed with dealers and manufacturers who were opposed to the bill. We had several dealers and organizations testify against the bill before time ran out on the hearing. It appeared the bill was dead for a couple weeks. Then, just this week the bill was scheduled for a vote and despite overwhelming opposition, the committee voted 10 to 5 in favor of HB 975. The bill is expected to be held over and we continue our efforts against this bill and we have every reason to believe that it will not pass this session.
Moving on to other topics, a quick update on two bills that are legislative priorities for WEDA where we get to play offense instead of defense. The first bill is actually two companion bills, one House and one Senate version, that are identical. Those bills would codify an exemption for farm equipment dealers from escort vehicle requirements when hauling oversized loads. Both bills have passed their chamber of origin and are on a path to pass the opposite chamber and head to the Governor’s desk for signature.
The other WEDA legislative priority is in Texas where Senate Bill 153 has picked up a couple of co-sponsors and been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill would clarify that credit card processing fees are not subject to sales tax. This has been an issue for some of our dealers during sales tax audits, resulting in substantial additional sales tax owed. We believe the Texas Comptroller has gone well beyond their authority to claim that and this bill would make that explicit.
We now turn to the federal level where both chambers of Congress are currently in recess for the Easter break. With the large stimulus package now passed, attention is turning in D.C. to the administration’s new $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan, which has already been lambasted by some as far too much after all the stimulus, and yet by others as not enough, setting up a partisan fight on the bill. Among the $2 trillion of spending, there is about $115 billion for actual roads and bridges, $100 billion for hi-speed broadband, $80 billion for railways and $17 billion for waterways and ports, all items that would benefit rural America and Agriculture. The vast majority of the proposal would increase spending in urban areas for priorities not typically referred to as infrastructure.
On another note specific to agriculture, the USDA has announced that it will disburse another round of Pandemic Assistance for Producers, or PAP, to the tune of $12 billion. That money was allocated by Congress last December and includes top-ups for programs such as CFAP payments for cattle producers. The administration was reluctant to disburse this money at first because it uses Credit Commodity Corporation funds that USDA has targeted for use in establishing a carbon bank. For more information about the Biden administration’s plans to establish a carbon bank without authorization from Congress, look for an article on the topic in the next edition of WEDA’s magazine.
There has been enough legislative activity in the last few months at the state and national level to make your head spin, and it is difficult to keep up with even when it’s your full-time job to stay on top of it. If you have any questions about these topics or anything else legislative or regulatory, WEDA is your resource for information and advocacy so please reach out to me and thank you for listening to another edition of legislative landscape.
Podcast By Eric Wareham
ERIC WAREHAM is the vice president of government affairs for the Western Equipment Dealers Association. He is a graduate of the Willamette University College of Law and Augusta State University. Eric may be reached by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.