Saturday, February 20, 2010

SF 2685 - The Horse Boarding amendment

It's official - we have a horse boarding amendment bill! It is Senate File 2685. With language that original author Dan Ramberg and I worked out with John Hagen at Department of Revenue, this bill is approved by the Minnesota Horse Council, the Minnesota Stable Owners Association, and the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The bill would amend the list of agricultural products in the agricultural property classification law, Minn. Stat. 273.13 Subd. 23(i)(3) as follows:

(3) the commercial boarding of horses, which may include related horse training
4.2and riding instruction, if the boarding is done in conjunction with on property that is also
4.3used for raising pasture to graze horses or raising or cultivating other agricultural products
4.4as defined in clause (1);

This is language that was carefully worked out with Department of Revenue so that we could all be assured that statewide uniformity can be achieved. The Department has been very helpful to us by reassuring legislators that we are unifying caselaw and MDOR policy with statutes, nothing more. As a result of this cooperative effort, the Chair of the Senate Property Tax subcommittee, Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL), has agreed to co-author the bill with Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R). We also have Senators Olseen (DFL), Koch (R), and Fobbe (DFL). Five cheers for bipartisanship!

We have to keep an eye on this, though. Ironically, bipartisan, consensus legislation that everyone agrees is good policy can be vulnerable to change by other interests who hope to jump on the fast track with us. I am making it clear to legislators that this is very specific language that cannot be changed because it was worked out so carefully with Department of Revenue. And we don't want other controversial bills (ie, anything to do with Green Acres) attached to ours in the hope that they can piggyback, because any controversy could derail our bill. We have what Sen. Skoe calls "peace in the valley" legislation that should pass because it is non-controversial, sound policy. And that's how we want to keep it.

Please help by contacting your Senator to voice your support. You can find your legislators at the Legislature's "district finder" web page, which is pretty slick:

Thanks to you all for your interest and support, and stay tuned for additional information about our companion bill in the House of Representatives as well as other pending horse-related legislation. I recently started a "Constant Contact" email newsletter service to manage my Equine Policy Update subscribers. This should help everyone maintain privacy and let people subscribe or unsubscribe easily.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

We won! What happens next?

Congratulations to the Sommerdorfs for winning a sweeping victory in their property tax appeal in Sherburne County. The Tax Court's decision was well written and broad in scope with potential implications for other counties and property owners statewide.

The County has yet to decide if it will appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court. However, Department of Revenue policy already had changed before the January 21, 2010 tax court decision to acknowledge that pasture used for grazing boarded horses is an "agricultural product raised for sale." And I have drafted new legislation on behalf of the Minnesota Horse Council in consultation with the Department of Revenue, the Department of Agriculture, the new Minnesota Stable Owners Association, and many individual taxpayers. This new legislation would essentially codify in statute the Tax Court's opinion in the Sommerdorf case, that horse training and riding instruction are not to be considered commercial activity but rather are integral to horse boarding.

In the next couple of weeks we hope to have companion bills introduced in the House and Senate that will resolve this issue once and for all. Stay tuned, and be prepared to contact your local legislators to encourage their support. In the meantime, if you would like a copy of Sommerdorf v. County of Sherburne, (Court File No. 71-CV-08-752 )it is available by query on the Tax Court's web site.