Wisconsin’s small businesses are poised to make large leaps forward in 2008. Key changes in health care, unemployment insurance law, business equipment contracts and small claims court are all expected to receive significant attention during the legislative floor periods and, in some cases, through the remainder of the year.
Reform of health insurance purchasing has the attention of Wisconsin Independent Businesses in the new year. WIB’s Wayne Corey, Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Representative Donna Seidel and officials from the Department of Health & Family Services, Department of Administration, Governor Doyle’s office and the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families serve on the State Coverage Initiatives team studying techniques to make health insurance more accessible, more affordable and easier to purchase. The State Coverage Initiatives effort is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The legislature is expected to vote on Unemployment Insurance reform legislation early in 2008. The changes in state UI law, including tax increases to be phased in gradually in 2009, 2011 & 2013 are supported by WIB. “We don’t like tax increases but this in the only way to keep the UI fund solvent and stable and resolve the problem,” said Corey.
The Senate Small Business Committee is expected to vote January 10th on SB 212, a bill to regulate the use of automatic renewal clauses hidden in contracts for business equipment and services. The legislation is an outgrowth of small business complaints to the WIB member HOTLINE. The legislation requires that large equipment and service firms actually tell a small business when a contract is up for renewal. The renewal clauses are, too often, hidden in tiny print deep in the contract.
WIB hopes the small claims court jurisdictional limit gets needed attention in 2008. New court funding is essential before the limit can be raised above $5000 where it has been stuck for a dozen years. Most small claims cases are heard by court commissioners. Although circuit judges are funded by the State of Wisconsin, court commissioners are funded through their local counties. Justice is being denied, according to WIB, but added funding for court commissioners can restore justice for small businesses that want to use small claims court.
“We have some exciting opportunities in 2008,” WIB’s Corey said. “WIB believes that we can make Wisconsin an even better state in which to do business if we work on these issues and resolve these problems.”