At the start of the year, PIA of Wisconsin announced the hiring of our new Communications Director and Lobbyist, Natalie White, who will lead our organization’s advocacy efforts at the Wisconsin State Capitol. As a former legislative staff member, Natalie brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the inner workings of our state government.
January also marked the start of the new and highly anticipated legislative session. After the pandemic disrupted the end of the 2019-20 legislative session, many are eager for action on proposals that were left hanging and for other measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Civil Liability
One such measure is one of PIA’s highest legislative priorities – COVID-19 Civil Liability Protection for Small Businesses. With the economy open in Wisconsin, it is imperative that protections be put into place to ensure that employers, retail businesses, schools, and other entities do not fall victim to predatory COVID-19 lawsuits. A wave of lawsuits looking for compensation for COVID-19 infections could be disastrous for our economy. The legal fees alone could be the “last straw” for thousands of struggling businesses in Wisconsin.
Though the Assembly and Senate both included immunity language in their proposals for COVID-19 relief, known as Assembly Bill 1, continued amendments have put the future of this proposal and these liability protections in question. With controversial measures included in the amended bill, it will likely draw a veto if it reaches Governor Evers’ desk.
PIA has already sent a direct letter to all lawmakers in Madison asking them to do whatever it takes to get this measure passed and signed into law. We will advocate for COVID-19 civil immunity language to be enacted as swiftly as possible. Wisconsin needs to ensure that small businesses do not suffer more hardships in the form of needless litigation.
PPP Loan Taxation
One year into the worst pandemic in a century, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue recently released their guidance for the 2020 tax season. To the great surprise of the business community, DOR has declared that the federal Paycheck Protection Program Loans are taxable. Despite a law passed by Congress declaring forgiven PPP loans exempt from federal income tax, the State of Wisconsin has the ability to tax them and has decided it cannot pass up the expected $444 million in tax revenue.
These federal funds were intended to provide relief to small businesses and NOT for states to use to supplement their tax revenue. Small businesses should not be forced to bear this surprise burden – especially given a recent projection from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau anticipating an expected budget surplus of $1.76 billion.
Since this revelation, PIA has joined a coalition of small business organizations and sent a letter to the Wisconsin State Legislature asking for this issue to be swiftly remedied.
Furthermore, PIA has also individually contacted Governor Tony Evers and Secretary of Revenue Peter Barca to convey the importance of relieving this burden on small businesses by any means necessary.
The 2021-22 Legislative Session is only beginning, but rest assured that PIA is scrutinizing every bill introduced in the Capitol and working hard to protect your agency’s interests.