House Bill No. 536
Introduced By bohlinger
A Bill for an Act entitled: An Act establishing the Family Education Savings Act; establishing a family education savings program oversight committee; establishing procedures authorizing a person to make contributions to accounts that are established to pay higher education expenses for a designated beneficiary of an account owner; requiring the board of regents to implement the program and authorizing the board to select financial institutions to act as depositories and program managers, using specified bidding criteria; providing for the federal deferral of taxes on investment earnings contributed to an account; providing a deduction from state income tax purposes of up to $3,000 annually for contributions to an account; requiring annual reporting of contributions received to the internal revenue service and the account owner; requiring distributions from an account to be reported to the internal revenue service and the account owner; providing a 10 percent penalty for a nonqualifed withdrawal from an account; authorizing a change in designated beneficiary by an account owner under certain conditions; authorizing the withdrawal of all or part of the balance of an account pursuant to board of regent rules; prohibiting use of account interest as loan security; amending section 15-30-111, MCA; and providing an effective date.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
Section 1. Short title. [Sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11] may be cited as the "Family Education Savings Act".
Section 2. Purpose. (1) It is the intent of the legislature to establish the Family Education Savings Act in recognition that the general welfare and well-being of the state of Montana are directly related to the educational levels and skills of its citizens. A vital and valid public purpose of the state of Montana is served by the establishment and implementation of a program that will encourage and make possible the attainment of an accessible, affordable postsecondary education by the greatest number of citizens through a savings program.
(2) The legislature further intends that the board achieve this purpose most effectively through a public-private partnership using selected financial institutions to serve as depositories for individuals' postsecondary education savings accounts.
Section 3. Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11], the following definitions apply:
(1) "Account" means an individual trust account or savings account established under [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11].
(2) "Account owner" means the person designated at the time that an account is opened as having the right to withdraw money from the account before the account is disbursed to or for the benefit of the designated beneficiary.
(3) "Board" means the board of regents of higher education established by Article X, section 9, subsection (2), of the Montana constitution and 2-15-1505.
(4) "Committee" means the family education savings program oversight committee established in [section 6].
(5) "Designated beneficiary" means, with respect to an account, the person designated at the time that the account is opened as the person whose higher education expenses are expected to be paid from the account or if this person is replaced in accordance with [section 5], the individual replacing the former designated beneficiary.
(6) "Financial institution" means any bank, commercial bank, national bank, savings bank, savings and loan association, credit union, insurance company, trust company, mutual fund, or other similar entity that is authorized to do business in this state.
(7) "Higher education institution" means:
(a) an institution described in the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 1141(a) and 1088(a); or
(b) an area vocational educational school, as defined in section 521(3) of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 2471(3)(C) and (3)(D), that is located in this state.
(8) "Member of the family" means:
(a) an ancestor of a person;
(b) the spouse of a person;
(c) a lineal descendant, including a legally adopted child, of a person, of a person's spouse, or of a parent of a person; or
(d) the spouse of any lineal descendant described in subsection (8)(c).
(9) "Nonqualified withdrawal" means a withdrawal from an account that is not:
(a) a qualified withdrawal;
(b) a withdrawal made as the result of the death or disability of the designated beneficiary of an account;
(c) a withdrawal that is made on the account of a scholarship or the allowance or payment described in section 135(d)(1)(B) or (d)(1)(C) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 135(d)(1)(B) or (d)(1)(C), and that is received by the designated beneficiary; or
(d) a rollover or change of designated beneficiary.
(10) "Program" means the family education savings program established pursuant to [section 4]. The program must be structured to permit the long-term accumulation of savings that can be used to finance all or a share of the costs of higher education.
(11) "Qualified higher education expenses" means tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance of a designated beneficiary at a higher education institution.
(12) "Qualified withdrawal" means a withdrawal from an account to pay the qualified higher education expenses of the designated beneficiary of the account.
Section 4. Program requirements -- application -- establishment of account -- qualified and nonqualifed withdrawal -- penalties. (1) A person who wishes to deposit money into an account to pay the qualified higher education expenses of a designated beneficiary shall:
(a) complete an application on the form prescribed by the board that includes:
(i) the name, address, and social security number or employer identification number of the contributor;
(ii) the name, address, and social security number of the account owner if the account owner is not the contributor;
(iii) the name, address, and social security number of the designated beneficiary;
(iv) the certification relating to no excess contributions adopted by the board pursuant to [section 7]; and
(v) any other information required by the board;
(b) pay the one-time application fee established by the board;
(c) make the minimum contribution required by the board or by opening an account; and
(d) designate the type of account to be opened if more than one type of account is offered.
(2) A person shall make contributions to an opened account in cash.
(3) An account owner may withdraw all or part of the balance from an account under rules prescribed by the board to enable the board or program manager to determine if a withdrawal is a nonqualified withdrawal or a qualified withdrawal. The rules may require that:
(a) account owners seeking to make a qualified withdrawal or other withdrawal that is not a nonqualified withdrawal shall provide certifications, copies of bills for qualified higher education expenses, or other supporting material;
(b) qualified withdrawals from an account be made only by a check payable jointly to the designated beneficiary and a higher education institution; and
(c) withdrawals not meeting certain requirements be treated as nonqualified withdrawals by the program manager, and if these withdrawals are not nonqualified withdrawals, the account owner shall seek refunds of penalties directly from the board.
(4) If a nonqualified withdrawal is made from an account, an amount equal to 10% of the portion of the proposed withdrawal that would constitute income as determined in accordance with section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529, must be withheld as a penalty and paid to the board for use in operating and marketing the program and for state student financial aid. A nonqualified withdrawal constitutes income for Montana purposes to the extent it was previously deducted from income in calculating Montana individual income taxes.
(5) The board, by rule, shall increase the percentage of the penalty prescribed in subsection (4) or change the basis of this penalty if the board determines that the amount of the penalty must be increased to constitute a minimum penalty for purposes of qualifying the program as a qualified state tuition program under section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529.
(6) The board may decrease the percentage of the penalty prescribed in subsection (4) if:
(a) the penalty is greater than is required to constitute a minimum penalty for purposes of qualifying the program as a qualified state tuition program under section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529; or
(b) the penalty, when combined with other revenue generated under [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11], is producing more revenue than is required to cover the costs of operating and marketing the program and to recover any costs not previously recovered.
(7) If an account owner makes a nonqualified withdrawal and a penalty amount is not withheld pursuant to subsection (4) or the amount withheld was less than the amount required to be withheld under that subsection for nonqualified withdrawals, the account owner shall pay:
(a) the unpaid portion of the penalty to the board at the same time that the account owner files a federal and state income tax return for the taxable year of the withdrawal; or
(b) if the account owner does not file a return, the unpaid portion of the penalty on the due date for federal and state income tax returns, including any authorized extensions.
(8) Each account must be maintained separately from each other account under the program.
(9) Separate records and accounting must be maintained for each account for each designated beneficiary.
(10) A contributor to, account owner of, or designated beneficiary of an account may not direct the investment of any contributions to any account or the earnings generated by the account and may not pledge the interest of an account or use an interest in an account as security for a loan.
(11) If the board terminates the authority of a financial institution to hold accounts and accounts must be moved from that financial institution to another financial institution, the board shall select the financial institution and type of investment to which the balance of the account is moved unless the internal revenue service provides guidance stating that allowing the account owner to select among several financial institutions that are then contractors would not cause a plan to cease to be a qualified state tuition plan.
(12) If there is any distribution from an account to any person or for the benefit of any person during a calendar year, the distribution must be reported to the internal revenue service and the account owner or the designated beneficiary to the extent required by federal law.
(13) The financial institution shall provide statements to each account owner at least once each year within 31 days after the 12-month period to which they relate. The statement must identify the contributions made during a preceding 12-month period, the total contributions made through the end of the period, the value of the account as of the end of this period, distributions made during this period, and any other matters that the board requires be reported to the account owner.
(14) Statements and information returns relating to accounts must be prepared and filed to the extent required by federal or state tax law or by administrative rule.
(15) A state or local government or organizations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3), may, without designating a designated beneficiary, open and become the account owner of an account to fund scholarships for persons whose identity will be determined after an account is opened.
Section 5. Changes in designated beneficiary. (1) An account owner may change the designated beneficiary of an account to an individual who is a member of the family of the former designated beneficiary in accordance with procedures established by the board.
(2) If requested by an account owner, all or a portion of an account may be transferred to another account of which the designated beneficiary is a member of the family of the designated beneficiary of the transferee account.
(3) Changes in designated beneficiaries and rollovers under this section are not permitted if the changes or rollovers would violate:
(a) the excess contributions provisions adopted by the board pursuant to [section 7]; or
(b) the investment choice provisions of [section 4(10)].
Section 6. Family education savings program oversight committee -- membership -- powers and duties. (1) There is created a family education savings program oversight committee under the authority of the board.
(2) The committee consists of seven members appointed by the governor to staggered 4-year terms. The members must include:
(a) the commissioner of insurance or the commissioner's designee;
(b) the director of the department of commerce or the director's designee;
(c) the state treasurer or the state treasurer's designee;
(d) the presiding officer of the board or the presiding officer's designee; and
(e) three members of the general public, each of whom possesses knowledge, skill, and experience in accounting, risk management, or investment management or as an actuary.
(3) The committee shall select a presiding officer and a vice presiding officer from among the committee's membership.
(4) A majority of the membership constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business. The committee shall meet at least once a year, with additional meetings called by the presiding officer.
(5) The committee:
(a) shall recommend financial institutions for approval by the board to act as the depositories and managers of family education savings accounts pursuant to [section 4]; and
(b) may submit proposed policies to the board to assist in the implementation and administration of [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11].
(6) The committee is allocated to the board for administrative purposes only, as prescribed in 2-15-121.
(7) Members of the committee must be compensated as provided in 2-15-124.
(8) The definitions in [section 3] apply to this section.
Section 7. Board -- powers and duties. (1) The board shall:
(a) retain professional services, if necessary, including services of accountants, auditors, consultants, and other experts;
(b) seek rulings and other guidance relating to the program from the United States department of the treasury and the internal revenue service;
(c) make changes to the program as required for the participants in the program to obtain the federal income tax benefits or treatment provided by section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529, as amended;
(d) charge, impose, and collect administrative fees and service charges pursuant to any agreement, contract, or transaction relating to the program;
(e) select the financial institution or institutions to act as the depository and manager of the program pursuant to [section 8];
(f) on the recommendation of the committee, adopt rules to prevent contributions on behalf of a designated beneficiary in excess of those necessary to pay the qualified higher education expenses of the designated beneficiaries. The rules must address the following:
(i) procedures for aggregating the total balances of multiple accounts established for a designated beneficiary;
(ii) the establishment of a maximum total balance that may be held in accounts for a designated beneficiary;
(iii) requirements that persons who contribute to an account certify that to the best of their knowledge, the balance in all qualified state tuition programs, as defined in section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529, for the designated beneficiary does not exceed the lesser of:
(A) a maximum college savings amount established by the board; or
(B) the cost in current dollars of qualified higher education expenses that the contributor reasonably anticipates the designated beneficiary will incur;
(iv) requirements that any excess balances with respect to a designated beneficiary be promptly withdrawn in a nonqualified withdrawal or rolled over to another account in accordance with this section; and
(g) adopt procedures as necessary to implement [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11].
(2) The definitions in [section 3] apply to this section.
Section 8. Selection of financial institution as account depository and manager -- contract -- termination. (1) The board shall implement the program through the use of one or more financial institutions to act as the depository and manager. Under the program, a person may establish accounts at the depository.
(2) The committee shall solicit proposals from financial institutions to act as the depositories and managers of the program. Financial institutions that submit proposals shall describe the financial instruments that will be held in accounts.
(3) On the recommendation of the committee, the board shall select as program depositories and managers the financial institution or institutions from among bidding financial institutions that demonstrate the most advantageous combination, both to potential program participants and to this state, of:
(a) financial stability and integrity;
(b) the safety of the investment instruments being offered, taking into account any insurance provided with respect to these instruments;
(c) the ability of the investment instruments to track estimated costs of higher education as calculated by the board and provided by the financial institution to the account holder;
(d) the ability of the financial institutions, directly or through a subcontract, to satisfy recordkeeping and reporting requirements;
(e) the financial institution's plan for promoting the program and the investment that it is willing to make to promote the program;
(f) the fees, if any, proposed to be charged to persons for maintaining accounts;
(g) the minimum initial deposit and minimum contributions that the financial institution will require and the willingness of the financial institution or its subcontractors to accept contributions through payroll deduction plans and other deposit plans; and
(h) any other benefits to this state or its residents contained in the proposal, including an account opening fee payable to the board by the account owner to cover expenses of operation of the program and any additional fee offered by the financial institution for statewide program marketing by the board.
(4) The board shall enter into a contract with a financial institution or, except as provided in subsection (5), into contracts with financial institutions to serve as depositories and program managers.
(5) The committee may select more than one financial institution and investment for the program if:
(a) the internal revenue service has provided guidance that giving a contributor a choice of two or more investment instruments under a state plan will not cause the plan to fail to qualify for favorable tax treatment under section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529; and
(b) the committee concludes that the choice of instrument vehicles is in the best interest of program participants and will not interfere with the promotion of the program.
(6) A program manager or its subcontractor shall:
(a) take action required to keep the program in compliance with its contract or the requirements of [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11] to manage the program so that it is treated as a qualified state tuition plan under section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 529;
(b) keep adequate records of each account, keep each account segregated from each other account, and provide the board with the information necessary to prepare statements required by [section 4(12) through (14)] or file these statements on behalf of the board;
(c) compile and total information contained in statements required to be prepared under [section 4(12) through (14)] and provide these compilations to the board;
(d) if there is more than one program manager, provide the board with the information to assist the board in determining compliance with rules adopted by the board pursuant to [section 7];
(e) provide representatives of the board, including other contractors or other state agencies, access to the books and records of the program manager to the extent needed to determine compliance with the contract. At least once during the term of any contract, the board, its contractor, or the state agency responsible for examination oversight of the program manager shall conduct an examination to the extent needed to determine compliance with the contract.
(f) hold all accounts in trust for the benefit of this state and the account owner.
(7) A person may not circulate any description of the program, whether in writing or through the use of any media, unless the board or its designee first approves the description.
(8) A contract executed between the board and a financial institution pursuant to this section must be for a term of at least 3 years and not more than 7 years.
(9) If a contract executed between the board and a financial institution pursuant to this section is not renewed, at the end of the term of the nonrenewed contract:
(a) accounts previously established and held in investment instruments at the financial institution may not be terminated;
(b) additional contributions may be made to the accounts in existence at the time of nonrenewal of a contract; and
(c) new accounts may not be placed with that financial institution unless a new contract is executed.
(10) The board may terminate a contract with a financial institution at any time for good cause on the recommendation of the committee. If a contract is terminated pursuant to this subsection, the board shall take custody of accounts held at that financial institution and shall seek to promptly transfer the accounts to another financial institution that is selected as a program manager and into investment instruments as similar as possible to the original investments.
Section 9. Higher education expenses -- exemption from taxable income. A person may in any year deposit into an individual trust or savings account up to $3,000 that is deductible for tax purposes under 15-30-111(2)(k) to pay the qualified higher education expenses for the benefit of a designated beneficiary.
Section 10. Scholarships and financial aid provisions -- exceptions. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a student loan program, student grant program, or other financial assistance program established or administered by the state or a financial assistance program administered by a state-supported college or university must treat the balance in an account of which the student is a designated beneficiary as if it were an asset of the parent of the designated beneficiary and not as a scholarship or grant or as an asset of the student for determining a student's or parent's income, assets, or financial need.
(2) This section does not apply if:
(a) federal law requires all or a portion of the amount in an account to be taken into account in a different manner;
(b) federal benefits could be lost if all or a portion of the amount in an account is not taken into account in a different manner; or
(c) a specific grant establishing a financial assistance program requires that all or a portion of the amount in an account be taken into account.
Section 11. Limitations. (1) [Sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11] may not be construed to:
(a) give any designated beneficiary any rights or legal interest with respect to an account unless the designated beneficiary is the account owner;
(b) guarantee that a designated beneficiary will be admitted to a higher education institution or be allowed to continue enrollment at or graduate from a higher education institution located in this state after admission;
(c) establish state residency for a person merely because the person is a designated beneficiary; or
(d) guarantee that amounts saved pursuant to the program will be sufficient to cover the qualified higher education expenses of a designated beneficiary.
(2) [Sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11] do not establish any obligation of this state or any agency or instrumentality of the state to guarantee for the benefit of any account owner, contributor to an account, or designated beneficiary:
(a) the return of any amounts contributed to an account;
(b) the rate of interest or other return on any account; or
(c) the payment of interest or other return on any account.
(3) Under rules adopted by the board, each contract, application, deposit slip, or other document that may be used in connection with a contribution to an account must clearly indicate that the account is not insured by the state and that the principal deposited or the investment return is not guaranteed by the state.
Section 12. Section 15-30-111, MCA, is amended to read:
"15-30-111. Adjusted gross income. (1) Adjusted gross income is the taxpayer's federal income tax adjusted gross income as defined in section 62 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. 62, as that section may be labeled or amended, and in addition includes the following:
(a) (i) interest received on obligations of another state or territory or county, municipality, district, or other political subdivision of another state, except to the extent that the interest is exempt from taxation by Montana under federal law;
(ii) exempt-interest dividends as defined in section 852(b)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, 26 U.S.C. 852(b)(5), as that section may be amended or renumbered, that are attributable to the interest referred to in subsection (1)(a)(i);
(b) refunds received of federal income tax, to the extent that the deduction of the tax resulted in a reduction of Montana income tax liability;
(c) that portion of a shareholder's income under subchapter S. of Chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 that has been reduced by any federal taxes paid by the subchapter S. corporation on the income;
(d) depreciation or amortization taken on a title plant as defined in 33-25-105(15); and
(e) the recovery during the tax year of an amount deducted in any prior tax year to the extent that the amount recovered reduced the taxpayer's Montana income tax in the year deducted.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of the federal Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as labeled or amended, adjusted gross income does not include the following, which are exempt from taxation under this chapter:
(a) (i) all interest income from obligations of the United States government, the state of Montana, county, municipality, district, or other political subdivision of the state and any other interest income that is exempt from taxation by Montana under federal law;
(ii) exempt-interest dividends as defined in section 852(b)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, 26 U.S.C. 852(b)(5), as that section may be amended or renumbered, that are attributable to the interest referred to in subsection (2)(a)(i);
(b) interest income earned by a taxpayer who is 65 years of age or older in a tax year up to and including $800 for a taxpayer filing a separate return and $1,600 for each joint return;
(c) (i) except as provided in subsection (2)(c)(ii), the first $3,600 of all pension and annuity income received as defined in 15-30-101;
(ii) for pension and annuity income described under subsection (2)(c)(i), as follows:
(A) each taxpayer filing singly, head of household, or married filing separately shall reduce the total amount of the exclusion provided in subsection (2)(c)(i) by $2 for every $1 of federal adjusted gross income in excess of $30,000 as shown on the taxpayer's return;
(B) in the case of married taxpayers filing jointly, if both taxpayers are receiving pension or annuity income or if only one taxpayer is receiving pension or annuity income, the exclusion claimed as provided in subsection (2)(c)(i) must be reduced by $2 for every $1 of federal adjusted gross income in excess of $30,000 as shown on their joint return;
(d) all Montana income tax refunds or tax refund credits;
(e) gain required to be recognized by a liquidating corporation under 15-31-113(1)(a)(ii);
(f) all tips or gratuities that are covered by section 3402(k) or service charges that are covered by section 3401 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, 26 U.S.C. 3402(k) or 3401, as amended and applicable on January 1, 1983, received by persons for services rendered by them to patrons of premises licensed to provide food, beverage, or lodging;
(g) all benefits received under the workers' compensation laws;
(h) all health insurance premiums paid by an employer for an employee if attributed as income to the employee under federal law;
(i) all money received because of a settlement agreement or judgment in a lawsuit brought against a manufacturer or distributor of "agent orange" for damages resulting from exposure to "agent orange";
(j) principal and income in a medical care savings account established in accordance with 15-61-201 or withdrawn from an
account for eligible medical expenses, as defined in 15-61-102, of the taxpayer or a dependent of the taxpayer or for the
long-term care of the taxpayer or a dependent of the taxpayer;
(k) money, not exceeding $3,000 for each taxpayer, contributed to a family education savings program account established in accordance with [section 4];
(l) principal withdrawn from an account for qualified higher education expenses, as defined in [section 3], for a designated beneficiary of the taxpayer; and
(k)(m) the recovery during the tax year of any amount deducted in any prior tax year to the extent that the recovered
amount did not reduce the taxpayer's Montana income tax in the year deducted.
(3) A shareholder of a DISC that is exempt from the corporation license tax under 15-31-102(1)(l) shall include in the shareholder's adjusted gross income the earnings and profits of the DISC in the same manner as provided by section 995 of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 995, for all periods for which the DISC election is effective.
(4) A taxpayer who, in determining federal adjusted gross income, has reduced the taxpayer's business deductions by an
amount for wages and salaries for which a federal tax credit was elected under
section 44B sections 38 and 51(a) of the
Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as that section those sections may be labeled or amended, is allowed to deduct the amount
of the wages and salaries paid regardless of the credit taken. The deduction must be made in the year the wages and salaries
were used to compute the credit. In the case of a partnership or small business corporation, the deduction must be made to
determine the amount of income or loss of the partnership or small business corporation.
(5) Married taxpayers filing a joint federal return who are required to include part of their social security benefits or part of their tier 1 railroad retirement benefits in federal adjusted gross income may split the federal base used in calculation of federal taxable social security benefits or federal taxable tier 1 railroad retirement benefits when they file separate Montana income tax returns. The federal base must be split equally on the Montana return.
(6) A taxpayer receiving retirement disability benefits who has not attained age 65 by the end of the tax year and who has retired as permanently and totally disabled may exclude from adjusted gross income up to $100 per week received as wages or payments in lieu of wages for a period during which the employee is absent from work due to the disability. If the adjusted gross income before this exclusion and before application of the two-earner married couple deduction exceeds $15,000, the excess reduces the exclusion by an equal amount. This limitation affects the amount of exclusion, but not the taxpayer's eligibility for the exclusion. If eligible, married individuals shall apply the exclusion separately, but the limitation for income exceeding $15,000 is determined with respect to the spouses on their combined adjusted gross income. For the purpose of this subsection, permanently and totally disabled means unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determined physical or mental impairment lasting or expected to last at least 12 months. (Subsection (2)(f) terminates on occurrence of contingency--sec. 3, Ch. 634, L. 1983.)"
Section 13. Implementation of staggered terms. (1) To implement the staggered-term system provided for in [section 6], the first terms of the members are as follows:
(a) one member shall serve a 1-year term;
(b) two members shall serve 2-year terms;
(c) two members shall serve 3-year terms; and
(d) two members shall serve 4-year terms.
(2) Upon expiration of the terms provided for in subsection (1), each member shall serve a 4-year term.
Section 14. Codification instruction. (1) [Sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 15, and the provisions of Title 15 apply to [sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11].
(2) [Sections 6 and 7] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 20, chapter 25, and the provisions of Title 20, chapter 25, apply to [sections 6 and 7].
Section 15. Effective date. [This act] is effective July 1, 1997.