News From the Front, January 6
January 6, 2017
Does a healthy European Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) seen adjacent to the Capitol last September portend a fruitful Session? Maybe, maybe not. We’ve recently seen a lot of white. It’s nice to see something green.
The week according to Jeff
“There is nothing wrong in change, if it is in the right direction. To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” Winston Churchill, 23 June 1925
I like this quote because it has two important words – change and perfect. None of the bills we’ll see this Session will be perfect. There are humans involved, in this case many humans. The best we can hope for is a bill that is “less imperfect.”
Expect changes this Session. They might be in the form of operational money (a possibility depending on revenues), more responsibilities (aquatic invasive species), more to worry about (infrastructure funding), changes at the federal level (new Administration), or less time.
Elena and I were in the Capitol on Monday 2nd January and visited with Representative GERALDINE CUSTER (R) from Forsyth. Representative Custer is helping address the MACD resolution to seek funding for the coal bed methane program. She prepared the bill draft request to address this resolution and dropped it in the hopper while we were present. It is LC2366 but there is no content at this time.
We attended all of the initial committee meetings this week to introduce ourselves to committee members and tell them a little about Conservation Districts. There are ten key committees that we will float in and out of during the Session, many with meetings scheduled at the same time.
Here’s some good news we received on Tuesday from Senator Daines’ office in DC: “…Senator Daines yesterday was appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. This committee shares jurisdiction over forest management with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which (Senator Daines) will also continue to serve.
In addition to fighting for Montana’s agriculture priorities as Congress writes the new Farm Bill, Senator Daines will utilize the AG Committee slot to advance reforms that improve the management of National Forests and protect and grow Montana’s wood products workforce. He is very excited to have this platform, along with the Senate ENR and Senate Appropriations Committees, to advocate for and pass into law meaningful management reforms during this session of Congress.”
Note that Senator Jon Tester is also on the Senate Appropriations Committee, giving Montana two seats on that important committee.
At the Area Meetings I mentioned the group (Montana Infrastructure Coalition) that had formed to examine infrastructure needs and try to find a way forward to address them. We had hoped that the group would include irrigation needs in the mix. Here’s where they ended up as we enter the Session: “The Montana Infrastructure Coalition (Coalition) identified three critical local government infrastructure needs: drinking water systems, wastewater treatment, and transportation, including local, state, and interstate highways and bridges. While these three elements are only a few of the local infrastructure programs fundamental to support economically vibrant and healthy Montana communities, the Coalition chose to highlight these critical needs because they have not routinely received individual, focused consideration.” It appears that the irrigation needs identified in the MACD resolution will not be in this focus. However, there is a stand alone bill that is seeking funds for the St. Mary irrigation project. See LC2323
Don’t let the long list of bills we are monitoring cause alarm (Although it does to me every time I look at how long it is). I’ll refer to this list as a Watch List or MACD Tracker – see below. As it becomes clear that a bill on this list no longer pertains to Conservation Districts, we’ll remove it from the list. Don MacIntyre already found one and we eliminated it. Thanks, Don. This is a fluid list, as bills continue to be requested.
NB: MY INTENTION IS THAT THIS WILL BE THE LAST TIME I INCLUDE THE ENTIRE WATCH LIST. IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN SEEING IT MORE OFTEN, I’VE INCLUDED ACCESS DETAILS BELOW.
This is a very long report, but I offer no apologies. There is much going on at the Capitol and we wanted to be sure that you know how we are spending (y)our time.
Movers & Shakers
A hearing is scheduled on 6th January for the following bill. We’ll report on the hearing in the next edition. MACD will support this bill. It’s a cleanup bill requested by DNRC. Laurie Zeller went into the specifics of this bill at the Area Meetings and Convention.
|Current Bill Text:|
|Bill Type – Number:||SB 39|
|Short Title:||Repeal notification of county commission re: organization of conservation district|
|Primary Sponsor:||Tom Richmond (R) SD 28|
|Hearing Time:||3:00 PM|
|Committee:||(S) Local Government|
Remember that you are able to watch or listen to any hearing from your computer. Scroll through the Video and Audio – Session section at this link: http://leg.mt.gov/css/default.asp to find the appropriate committee. If it’s me testifying, I usually try to stand so the camera cannot see my bald spot. Let me know if it’s working.
What to watch next week or so…
Things will start cooking by the second week of the Session. We have interest in three bills that will be heard at the committee level. MACD will support all three of these bills.
|LC0474||HB 53||Repeal assessment computation statute for conservation districts. This is a clean up bill proposed by DNRC and explained by Laurie Zeller at the Area Meetings last Fall.|
|LC0326||HB 104||Statutory appropriation for Ground Water Investigation Program. A number of Conservation Districts use this program, but it has trouble finding funds every year. If passed, the bill would “On July 1 of each fiscal year, the state treasurer shall transfer $250,000 plus the inflation factor defined in 15-30-2101 from the general fund to the ground water investigation program account for the purpose of funding the ground water investigation program.”|
|LC0566||HB 107||Establish Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program. A Conservation District representative would be a member of the steering committee for this program if this bill passes.|
Legislative leadership wants to get through the budgets quickly this Session. Because it takes a lot of money to provide a wide variety of services to Montanans, the state’s budget is over $4 billion dollars. That’s too many dollars for one group to examine in detail. The budget is divided into several similarly related sections and each section is examined by 6-8 Legislators. These smaller committees are assigned to do the pick and shovel work to determine spending priorities.
CARDD DNRC’s budget hearing is tentatively scheduled for Friday, 13th January (Note the date has changed four times already). MACD will spend part of next week talking to the members of the committee that will hear this bill. We know most of the members on this committee. Here are the committee members:
(Joint)Natural Resources and Transportation — Appropriations Subcommittee
Rep. JANET ELLIS (D)
Rep. CARL GLIMM (R)–Chair
Rep. KENNETH HOLMLUND (R)
Rep. JIM KEANE (D)
Sen. DUANE ANKNEY (R)–Vice Chair
Sen. DOUG KARY (R)
Sen. MIKE PHILLIPS (D)
We’ve got our eyes on it
Here’s the list of bills we are currently tracking. Most of these will not see the light of day, and most will not pertain to Conservation Districts. However, we do not know which ones those are, so we have to keep them on the list for now. My intention is to not include the entire list in each News From the Front, but we’ll see what the demand is and listen to feedback on the amount of information.
Bills Currently in ‘MACD Tracker’ List
|LC Number||Bill Number||Short Title|
|LC0021||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0022||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0141||Generally revise invasive species laws|
|LC0142||Generally revise invasive species laws|
|LC0148||Revise natural resource laws|
|LC0217||Revise invasive species enforcement and penalty laws|
|LC0248||Revise oil and gas tax rates and provide funding to local governments|
|LC0421||Provide notification at certain dwellings for oil and gas operations. There was a MACD resolution a couple of years ago about notification.|
|LC0447||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0448||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0449||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0476||Revise conservation district term of office and vacancy timeline (This bill has been canceled)|
|LC0638||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0639||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0648||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC0658||Provide for a Montana Water Conservation Act|
|LC0736||Generally revise laws related to infrastructure funding programs. We do not yet know what will be in this bill. However, there is a MACD resolution about infrastructure and this may be one to keep our eyes on.|
|LC0811||Revise local government laws|
|LC0812||Revise local government laws|
|LC0870||Revise laws related to management of noxious and invasive weeds and aquatics|
|LC0900||Authorize local governments to adopt of clean energy programs and issue bonds|
|LC0925||Generally revise department of natural resources and conservation laws|
|LC0929||Generally revise department of natural resources and conservation laws|
|LC0933||Generally revise department of natural resources and conservation laws|
|LC1001||Generally revise natural resource laws|
|LC1007||Generally revise natural resource laws|
|LC1028||Generally revise laws related to sage grouse|
|LC1066||Generally revise laws related to agricultural hemp (Hemp was a topic of a MACD resolution – it failed to pass but I listed this as a matter of interest)|
|LC1121||Provide funding for sage grouse stewardship|
|LC1124||Revise laws related to conifer and sagebrush encroachment|
|LC1133||Generally revise conservation laws|
|LC1137||Interim study on the coal trust fund|
|LC1160||Generally revise floodplain laws|
|LC1211||Revise coal tax trust fund laws|
|LC1321||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC1322||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC1470||Recognizing source watersheds|
|LC1471||Revise natural resources laws|
|LC1490||Generally revise water laws|
|LC1524||Revise water laws|
|LC1553||Revise local government laws|
|LC1556||Revise laws related to special districts|
|LC1574||Infrastructure funding for oil/gas impacted local governments|
|LC1625||Generally revise laws on invasive species and vegetation|
|LC1635||Generally revise special district election laws|
|LC1663||Revise floodplain laws|
|LC1749||Revise laws related to water protection|
|LC1806||Require sage grouse population report|
|LC1823||Generally revise natural resource laws|
|LC1825||Generally revise natural resource laws|
|LC1830||Generally revise natural resources taxation|
|LC1833||Generally revise sage grouse laws|
|LC1847||Generally revise conservation laws|
|LC1881||Generally revise natural resource laws|
|LC1882||Revise laws related to predators in sage ground habitat|
|LC1916||Revise funding for growth through agriculture program. Conservation Districts share a funding source with this program.|
|LC1933||Revise DNRC laws|
|LC1951||Revise pipeline laws|
|LC1956||Referendum on local government laws|
|LC1969||Generally revise bison laws|
|LC2015||Revise natural resource laws|
|LC2029||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC2038||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC2053||Generally revise laws on land resources|
|LC2071||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC2072||Generally revise land resources and use laws|
|LC2094||Study the role and rights of tribes related to the management of bison|
|LC2107||Authorize local government to take action on wildfires|
|LC2119||Establish pilot program for energy production future & environmental stewardship. We’ve heard that Conservation Districts may be named as a player in this bill, but the details are not yet available.|
|LC2121||Generally revise laws related to aquatic invasive species|
|LC2146||Generally revise management of buffalo/bison|
|LC2162||Generally revise laws related to aquatic invasive species|
|LC2163||Generally revise aquatic invasive species|
|LC2164||Generally revise laws related to aquatic invasive species|
|LC2168||Generally revise aquatic invasive species laws|
|LC2203||Generally revise local government laws|
|LC2214||Generally revise laws related to local government|
|LC2219||Create FWP noxious weed management trust fund and grant program|
|LC2237||Provide for renewable resource grants.|
|LC2238||Provide for reclamation and development grants.|
|LC2250||Enact protections for Yellowstone River (MACD sent a separate note to Conservation District river councils to ask for their help to monitor this bill.)|
|LC2273||Develop noxious weed grant program|
|LC2284||Redirect fund distribution for milfoil mitigation|
|LC2317||Study bill regarding aluminum can recycling deposit and refund program (This is a follow up to a resolution from Yellowstone Conservation District several years ago.)|
|LC2323||Provide funding for the St. Mary irrigation rehabilitation project (This bill could be related to the MACD resolution that passed in 2016.)|
|LC0263||HB 2||General Appropriations Act|
|LC0268||HB 7||Reclamation and development grants|
|LC0474||HB 53||Repeal assessment computation statute for conservation districts (MACD supports this bill.)|
|LC0344||HB 103||Generally revise election laws – administrative cleanup|
|LC0326||HB 104||Statutory appropriation for Ground Water Investigation Program (MACD supports this bill.)|
|LC0566||HB 107||Establish Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program (MACD supports this bill.)|
|LC0475||SB 39||Repeal notification of county commission re: organization of conservation district (MACD supports this bill.)|
|LC0565||SB 48||Direct DEQ to assume dredge-and-fill permitting program (MACD has no position on this bill but will monitor.)|
Several bills have come to our attention since I “built” (copied and pasted) the above table and I’m not clever enough to add them in.
The next iteration will include HB 14 LC0318, which includes the Renewable Resources Grant and Loan Program (commonly referred to as the RRGL). It has 12 projects proposed by Conservation Districts, totaling $1,424,870. HB14 also includes the Reclamation and Development Grants Program (commonly referred to as the RDG Program). It has 12 projects proposed by Conservation Districts, totaling $1,578,004. The total funds requested are $3,002,874. That’s a lot of money. New Administrators with project ideas in their Districts and not familiar with these programs might want to contact Alice Stanley at DNRC firstname.lastname@example.org to get details. The Conservation Districts that have proposed these projects will appear in front of the committee reviewing them to state their case. MACD will be working behind the scenes to encourage serious consideration of each proposal.
Another draft bill that will be included is LC2323. This is a bill to provide funds for the St. Mary irrigation rehabilitation project and was mentioned earlier in this report.
Another draft bill that will be included is LC2366 This is a bill to revise funding for the Coal Bed Methane Protection Program and was mentioned earlier in this report.
Lend us a hand
As in past years, we’ve set up an account that will allow easy access to any of the bills we are tracking. Go to this link:
Preference Account Login (login to an already established preference account)
Our User Name is MACD2017 and our Password is Conservation17
Once you get there, click on MACD Tracker to see the list. The lengthy list of bills seen above but with more details may be seen at this link. Comments and ideas are welcome.
Here’s something you can do:
Invite your legislators to our Meet & Greet with the Conservation Community, at the Montana Club on January 24. More details here. Thank you to the Conservation Districts that have invited their Legislators.
If you’re a political junkie…
Here are two articles that may be of interest:
Here’s a high level, technical look at DNRC’s CARDD budget proposals:
Thanks to all of you who are reading this report. Contact me with comments or questions email@example.com or 406.465.8813. We appreciate your support in this endeavor, and for helping to keep Montana.