Montana Chamber of Commerce Delivers Results for Montana Business in 2023 Legislature

Tax and Tort Reforms Will Lower the Cost of Doing Business in Montana

HELENA – On Wednesday, May 18, Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the last of nine Montana Chamber of Commerce proposed bills into law. These bills, largely centered around tort reform, were championed by the Montana Chamber throughout the 68th Legislative Session. Working to improve the state’s business climate, policy priorities for the Chamber included modernizing ballot initiatives and reforming different elements of litigation including insurance claims, third-party litigation financing, and product liability.

“The Chamber shared a number of priorities with Governor Gianforte, especially around tax reform,” said Todd O’Hair, President/CEO, Montana Chamber of Commerce. “We are especially proud of the passage of HB212, which raised the business equipment tax exemption to $1 million, taking thousands of small businesses, farms, and ranches off the tax rolls.”

David Bell, President & CEO of ALPS Insurance, said, “We could not be more pleased with the leadership of the Montana Chamber of Commerce on tort reform this session. From helping lower insurance premiums through claims cooperation reform to protecting consumers from predatory litigation financers, they are working in the best interest of Montana businesses, and we were happy to collaborate with them throughout the process.”

The Montana Chamber is the only organization representing the general interests of virtually all industries and served as a powerful voice to help defeat legislation that would have undermined tax increment financing districts used to improve communities; made it difficult for banks to do business; and destabilized Montana’s worker’s compensation system.

Courtney Kibblewhite, the current Chair of the Montana Chamber of Commerce Board, appreciates that this organization can act as a sword and shield in the legislature. “Our staff led the way on extensive tort reform to lower the cost of doing business, encouraged entrepreneurship and workforce development, and defeated bills that would discourage business in Montana. Like most small business owners, I’m busy with the day-to-day operations of running a business. I’m grateful for the Montana Chamber of Commerce for watching out for our interests as a family-owned small business.”

The Montana Chamber also weighed in on more than 100 other pieces of legislation in accordance with the four pillars of their ten-year strategic plan, Envision2026.
Addressing workforce development was a key priority and took a variety of approaches. These included advocating for childcare programs, supporting additional funding for career and technical education (CTE), and allocating funding for innovative affordable housing solutions. The Chamber also supported other successful bills that funded infrastructure and encourage entrepreneurship in Montana.

A detailed list of the bills the Montana Chamber proposed, supported, and opposed this session can be found here.

Montana Chamber priority bills passed that lower the cost of doing business in Montana:
· SB 93 (Sen. Mike Cuffe – Eureka) strengthens transparency and reporting requirements for the ballot initiative process to maintain trust in the process and ensure legitimacy of proposals.
· SB 216 (Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick – Great Falls) institutes common sense product liability reforms to protect manufacturers and Montana businesses from frivolous lawsuits.
· SB 269 (Sen. Greg Hertz – Polson) sheds light on the shadowy industry of third-party litigation financing to protect consumers and encourage transparency.
· SB 165 (Sen. Barry Usher – Billings) requires claimants to cooperate with insurers who are investigating and adjusting claims to expedite reasonable claim adjustment.
· SB 236 (Sen. Greg Hertz – Polson) creates standards for time-limited demand letters to reduce unreasonable settlement demands.
· SB 260 (Sen. Dan Salomon – Ronan) ensures that captive insurers or self-insured companies are not subject to a bad faith claim merely for defending themselves in a case.
· SB 279 (Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick – Great Falls) raises the fair offer-of-settlement threshold to $3 million, incentivizing parties in more cases to settle at reasonable amounts, rather than pursuing expensive trials.
· HB 410 (Rep. Brandon Ler – Savage) reduces the time for service of process (the amount of time to serve a case after the case has been filed) down to two years, better allowing businesses to gather evidence and defend themselves in a lawsuit.
· HB 971 (Rep. Josh Kassmier – Fort Benton) explicitly states that the inclusion of a greenhouse gas and climate analysis in a Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) review is not required.