In an effort to present itself as more business-friendly, the Arizona House of Representatives recently gave final approval to a bill that would give $50 million in tax breaks over three years to insurance companies that invest in high-tech corporations in that state. [Read more…]
Dave Jones, the California Insurance Commissioner, has offered the insurance industry $4.67 million worth of tax credits to invest in under-served communities.
In a letter he sent to the CEOs of insurance companies doing business in California, Jones encouraged insurers to place part of their $4 trillion in investments into COIN – the California Organization Investment Network, administered by the California Department of Insurance (CDI).
Every year, the DOI (Department of Insurance) allocates $2 million in tax credits to support community development investments in the amount of $10 million. Because this program has not been fully exploited in recent years, CDI’s COIN program currently has $4.67 million available tax credits to support $23.7 million in community development investments. There is a deadline of July 1, 2011 to place investments into the program; after that other investors also have access to the pool of tax credits.
Under the COIN program, insurers put at least $50,000 on deposit with a designated Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) for five years at zero percent interest. In exchange, the investor receives a state tax credit of 20% with an annual percentage rate of return of roughly 4.5 percent.
In turn, the CDFI’s then provide loans to non-profit organizations and small businesses that serve economically disadvantaged communities. The CDFIs serve as a bridge across the ever-expanding gap between loans and services available to those who are “economically mainstream” and those people and communities who are considered low-income. These loans help provide development services and technical assistance in these communities, as well as the money from the loans themselves.
These CDFIs include community development loan funds, credit unions, banks, microenterprise funds, corporation-based lenders and venture funds.
In a statement, Commissioner Jones said, “This is a critical program that benefits some of California’s most underserved communities, and so I want to encourage insurance companies to give back by investing in these communities. The state tax credit to encourage these investments has been underutilized in recent years, and it is long overdue that we get this program back on track. I call on all California insurers to examine their investment portfolios and invest in this program before June 30.”
Since 1997, 81 CDFIs have been certified by COIN as eligible for the tax credit program. Some of their investments in the past fourteen years include:
• A mortgage loan for a nonprofit residential alcohol treatment facility;
• Micro-loans of $500 to $5,000 to self-employed business owners;
• Loans for six childcare centers to serve 500 low-income children;
• Pre-development loans to Habitat for Humanity to construct affordable homes;
• A loan to a church to build a child care center for lower income residents;
• A loan for 953 water hook-ups in two small, rural communities; and
• A short-term loan to close escrow on housing for low-income foster youth.
Okay, we know there is insurance out there for almost everything. I mean, just last Christmas we learned that you can get insurance in case you fall out of a sleigh. But a lawmaker in Rhode Island has recently filed a bill that would require landscapers to register with the state and carry at least $100,000 in public liability and property damage insurance.
The bill was sponsored the earlier this week by Rhode Island state Senator John J. Tassoni, Jr. (D-Smithfield) who says that the point of it is to “level the playing field” between reputable, upstanding landscaping companies and “fly-by-night” companies that don’t pay taxes. He also claims that since the latter sort of landscaper has no overhead they have a big advantage.
Tassoni also said his state is losing a lot of revenue from income and sales taxes.
A spokeswoman for a taxpayer and business advocacy group known as the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition said that she was concerned that smaller landscaping businesses could be hurt by the bill’s requirements.
What I want to know is, what are they defining as a “landscaping business?” Will the teenager who mows someone’s lawn for $20 have to find the cash to buy $100,000 in insurance if this bill passes?
Cold weather affects us all, especially since all the extra time indoors in close quarters means we’re passing colds and flu back and forth with greater than average efficiency. Cold weather affects more than just people however, and, in fact, unseasonably cold weather in Florida – including ice storms – has caused citrus growers in the central part of the state to report crop damage.
Ray Royse, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association in central Florida, said, “There was definitely some damage,” and added, “We did have some areas that had damage last night.” He continued, saying, “It’s too early to tell whether or not we’ll have significant fruit drop but certainly we’re going to have juice loss within some fruit in some areas.”
On Tuesday night, overnight temperatures in Highlands, the second-largest citrus-producing county in Florida, fell well below freezing. Florida growers are responsible for more than seventy-five percent for the U.S. orange crop, and roughly forty percent of the world’s orange juice supply.
Citrus is fairly fragile where temperature is concerned, and even four hours of temperatures lower than 28 degrees Fahrenheit can cause damage, which, according to Royce, is exactly what happened Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Royce elaborated, “I don’t think it’s to the level of being catastrophic tree killing cold anywhere, but we certainly are going to see some damage coming out of last night. It is not fruit frozen in every single grove. It is not small twig damage everywhere, but there’s definitely some blocks that are going to have damaged fruit.”
Highlands County Growers Association represents 185 members in the geographic center of Florida’s world-renowned citrus region.
Royce said his damage assessment, while still early, was based on contacting growers scattered across some 40,000 acres of orange groves across the region.
Most commercial citrus growers carry some kind of insurance on their crops, but even if their finances are relatively secure, it means the cost of orange juice may increase this year.
If you live in one of the fifteen states where medical marijuana is legal, and are concerned about the cost of being involved in the medical cannabis industry, you can rest a little easier. Last March, an insurance company based in Rancho Cordova, CA launched the first nationally available coverage designed specifically for the medical marijuana industry.
As reported in the Sacramento Bee, Mike Aberle, a commercial insurance agent with the firm – Statewide Insurance – and the national director of its new Medical Marijuana Specialty Division said, “Given the growth in the industry, I think it’s only a matter of time” before other states allow medical marijuana. Now that we can offer (services) in all 50 states, we can start the minute they go legal, without delay.”
According to Aberle, the program covers all of the various aspects of the medical cannabis industry, including dispensaries, general liability, workers’ compensation, equipment breakdown/damage, property/product loss (including pot spoilage), auto insurance (for vehicles that transport medical marijuana) and other related operations.
It was California voters who took the first steps into medical marijuana as an industry back in 1996 when they initially approved Proposition 215, which allows physicians to recommend cannabis for the treatment of cancer, chronic pain, AIDS, glaucoma, and other chronic illnesses which could benefit from treatment with cannabis. It’s estimated that there are now over 2,000 dispensaries in that state.
Aberle began forming Statewide’s Medical Marijuana Division (MMD) in 2007, and since then it has provided insurance to clients in California, Colorado, New Mexico and Rhode Island. Last year, he began expanding the national program. Premiums, he said, range from $650 – $25,000 a year, with different variables affecting the cost. A typical policy has premiums between $1,000 and $4,000.
A lobbyist with California Capitol Solutions in Sacramento told the Bee that Statewide’s MMD program is a “milestone in an industry that needs insurance protections for everyone in the distribution chain, from growers of the product to those that use it. He also said, “It’s very big, especially right now with public safety. Safety protocols need to be put into place.”
Del Real said that he represents medical cannabis dispensaries and other segments of the medical marijuana industry throughout California. He also said that the group with the fewest protections is the growers, asking, “How do we move out of residential areas and into commercial and industrial space?” He continued, “A lot of people are trying to get their minds around the cultivation of medical marijuana.”
According to Del Real, governments throughout California have decided numerous issues like whether insurance for dispensaries will be required. He said that there was, “… a big thing of catching up going on. Each community is passing its own laws, and that becomes problematic.”