The 2015 Legislative session is now over, although by the way it ended there is more than a possibility for a special session being called by the Governor.
ACM went into the session with five goals. Get three policy bills passed, get tax relief and come to agreement with the Gambling Control Board over their fee increase request.
We got three of the five goals accomplished. Policy bills Senate File 634 (authors in the Senate were Senators Scalze, Pappas, Wiklund, Goodwin and in the House Representatives Atkins, Hoppe) and Senate File SF229 (authors in the House were Representatives Sanders, Hoppe, Lillie, Davids, Daudt, Halverson, Anzelc, Newton, Bernardy, Poppe and in the Senate Senators Koenen, Torres Ray, Skoe, Chamberlain, Rest) both passed. Recaps of these bills are attached. SF229 is already in effect, SF634 will become effective on July 1, 2015. There are close to 50 changes being made by these bills. The GCB will have information out soon regarding all of the changes; ACM will send out and post to the website as soon as it is made available. HF 1519/SF1786 (authors in the Senate were Senators Eaton, Eken, B. Petersen and in the House Representatives Swedzinski, Hoppe, Anzelc, Atkins, Lillie, Sanders, Christensen) the third policy bill was passed by the House, but was not acted upon by the Senate. If it is the will of the membership we will put the provisions in that bill back up next session. If any of the authors are your Senator or Representative, please remember to thank them for their support.
Tax relief was a major priority, but did not happen. There was no tax bill this session so no changes will be made for anyone. We were in the House Omnibus tax bill, but not in the Senate Omnibus tax bill. Our authors in the House were Representatives Hoppe, Lucero, Poppe, Atkins, Anzelc, Dettmer, Davids and in the Senate our authors were Senator Skoe, Stumpf, Metzen, Senjem, Gazelka. There is a possibility that with a special session there will be another attempt at a tax bill. If that is the case, we will again work to be part of the package. Either way, the tax bill and the tax conference committee are still in play whether in a special session or next session. More news on this as it becomes available.
Allied Charities has reached an agreement with the Gambling Control Board regarding a monthly fee increase for licensed gaming charities. Our monthly regulatory fee had not increased since its inception in 2004. The GCB had originally requested a doubling of the fee, going from .001 of sales to .002 of sales, which represented a $1.2 million annual increase in fees to licensed gaming charities. ACM objected publicly to the proposed increase at the GCB board monthly meeting where the request was presented to the board. The proposed fee increase is included in the State Government Omnibus Finance bill which was passed by the Senate and House, but has not yet been acted upon by the Governor.
Governor Dayton looked at the GCB request and lowered it to .0015 of sales, a fifty percent increase or $600,000 increase in fees annually to licensed gaming charities. While we appreciated the change, ACM did not think that all of the increase should be passed directly on to licensed gaming charities without anyone else that touches charitable gaming getting an increase of some kind.
In talks with the GCB ACM stressed that everyone involved should be looked at in regards to an increase. At one point, tongue somewhat in cheek, I said that we should all open our books and whoever best can afford it should have the greatest increase. I stressed that any fee increase comes directly out of our mission funds.
The final agreement that was passed by the House and Senate is a fee increase on licensed gaming charities of 25% or $300,000 annually. The monthly fee as of 7/1/2015 will be .00125 of sales for licensed organizations. Exempt organizations, manufacturers and distributors will also be seeing increases.
While no fee increase is welcomed, this is a compromise that keeps the GCB at their current staffing level and financially sound for the foreseeable future. For the average licensed gaming charity this will mean an additional $261 dollars in fees annually. Moving down from $1.2 million to $300,000 is recognition that licensed gaming charities are hard pressed to come up with more money for regulation, but also recognition that regulation is important and needs to be funded.
I want to recognize Director Barrett of the GCB for working with us on the three policy bills (two were ACM sponsored, one was GCB sponsored) and the fee increase. There was a lot of give and take over the course of the negotiations, but we were ultimately able to come to agreement. I told Director Barrett at the beginning of our talks that I wanted to come to agreements that when looked at by an impartial third party, they would agree that they were fair to both parties. I believe that we met that standard.
Thanks to all of you that worked to communicate our issues to your legislators. When legislators hear from their constituents they listen. While ACM works hard at the legislature presenting our case, you are ultimately the best lobbyist that there ever will be. We cannot be successful in making changes without your help.