The fate of two bills introduced in the 2009 legislative session in Montana has been decided: H.B. 291 has passed and H.B. 286 was killed in committee.
H.B. 291 dealing with labor rates changed the term “lowest prevailing” to “average market” rate. It is now law after the House passed it 96-3 and the Senate 47-3.
H.B. 286, modeled after similar bills that have become law in Minnesota and Rhode Island, was written to allow use of the database estimating systems in their entirety. One difference between it and the Minnesota bill was the exclusion of the words "unilaterally and arbitrarily.”
The House passed H.B. 286 with a 95-5 vote. However, according to the Montana Collision Repair Specialists Association (MCRS), the vote in the Senate was postponed due to intense opposition from the insurance lobby. The MCRS said that this opposition ultimately changed the direction of committee members’ votes.
MCRS accepted the Senate’s suggested amendment, adding “unilaterally and arbitrarily” to the bill to make it identical to Minnesota’s, but the bill was still killed in committee.
“This was politics, and a hard lesson well learned,” a statement from the MCRS read. “Our hope is that our costly experience will help other associations recognize who the players are when they put forth their legislative efforts so they’re aware of potential opposition before they proceed.”
For more information on the MCRS, visit www.gomcrs.com.