MNCPA PERSPECTIVES

New legislators, new opportunities

December 6, 2018  |  Geno Fragnito

New legislators, new opportunities

Holiday planning, year-end business planning, tax planning packets for clients -- so many things to do as 2018 draws to a close. Have you made your list? Have you checked it twice?

Planning for the upcoming legislative session and developing the MNCPA legislative agenda are recurrently on my year-end list. This year in particular, my planning process involves identifying who was elected in the November midterms and preparing for my conversations with new legislators when they take the oath of office in January.

New legislators bring a lot of new ideas and opportunities with them to St. Paul. The challenge is the steep learning curve they will have in front of them to help turn those ideas into reality.

The results from the 2018 elections will usher in 40 new legislators to St. Paul in January -- that’s nearly 20 percent of the Legislature. Imagine if 20 percent of your staff turned over and all your new employees started on the same day. Imagine the time required to introduce them to staff and clients, and training them on industry standards and internal processes. It could take months (or years) to get your organization back to full productivity.

The Legislature is no different, except their timeline for getting things done is accelerated. Oftentimes, after an election, the first month of session is spent in committee hearings learning about the various executive departments (the Department of Revenue, Department of Transportation and the Department of Health & Human Services, just to name a few) and their jurisdictions in state government. There’s also a crash course for new legislators on who is who, where to go for questions and information, and the standard “how a bill becomes a law” overview. All of this must be done quickly because the Minnesota Constitution requires the Legislature to adjourn no later than the first Monday after the third Saturday in May. There’s little time to waste!

That’s why new legislators rely on experts to help them better understand the issues they will be facing during session. One of those issues will be tax conformity. For CPAs, federal tax conformity (or lack thereof) is a huge issue causing uncertainty, frustration and concern for you, your business and your clients. But, for new legislators, this issue isn’t top of mind. At a recent Minnesota Chamber of Commerce luncheon, nearly 20 legislators and legislators-elect spoke about the issues they’re looking forward to working on this coming year. Not a single new legislator brought up nonconformity.

Legislators, particularly new ones, need to understand how Minnesota’s current tax structure affects their constituents. What better way to learn about this complex issue than a first-hand account? That’s where you help. No one is better situated to provide advice than CPAs -- the trusted advisers for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota taxpayers.

So, as you prepare your list of year-end to-dos, be sure to add learning who your legislators-elect are to your list. Look up your legislative district online to see your state and federal elected officials. There's an icon next to their names that will lead you to each official's contact information.

Topics: Legislative & Government Affairs, Government

Geno Fragnito

Geno Fragnito is the MNCPA’s government relations director, advocating on behalf of the CPA profession. His days consist of last-minute meeting changes, building relationships with lawmakers, helping CPAs navigate state government, and putting in more than 15,000 steps per day walking the halls of the Capitol. Geno unwinds with a little golf and traveling with his family. If he weren’t a lobbyist, Geno would perfect his cast and be a professional fisherman. Geno can be reached at 952-885-5550 or gfragnito@mncpa.org.

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