News From the Front, January 27
January 27, 2017
“It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” Calvin Coolidge
The week according to Jeff…
- Total number of Introduced Bills – 508
- Total number of Introduced and Unintroduced Bills – 2558
Those numbers are as of Thursday. That’s a load of bills. You and I could not sit for thirty-three days and name 2,558 things that we’d change about Montana. But the bill drafts are there. The number of new bills are slowing down to a trickle, as very soon no new bills will be allowed to be introduced except under unusual circumstances.
Movers & shakers this week
The news in this edition of NFTF begins with a report about the events occurring on Friday the 20th concerning HB 14 in front of the (H) Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation.
There are 19 separate projects proposed by Conservation Districts in HB 14, totaling more than $3 million worth of work. This amount includes both the RRGL and the RDG grant applications. Most of these 19 projects were not recommended for funding by the Executive.
Friday was dedicated to RRGL grant requests focused on irrigation needs. There were 5 grant requests from 4 Conservation Districts. All were invited to an early morning meeting at the MACD office for coffee and donuts and strategy. MACD was at the hearing all morning and provided support to the Districts.
On Monday, 23rd January, the RDG portion of HB 14 was heard in the (H) Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning committee. Those Districts sponsoring projects were invited to the MACD office early that morning for coffee and donuts and strategy. There are 19 projects listed under the RDG bill, and Conservation Districts requested 7 of them. The 7 RDG projects proposed by Conservation Districts total $1,578,004. MACD testified in support of a District’s proposal if a District was not able to do so.
I posted photographs on Facebook of the folks who made it into town to testify. A major THANK YOU goes out to the women and men who traveled to Helena on less than perfect winter roads to help highlight the work that Conservation Districts do for Montana. It is appreciated and it is valuable. The Committee took no action on this bill.
Executive action is scheduled for 8th and 9th of February, but those dates could change. Check their website for updates: http://leg.mt.gov/content/Publications/fiscal/subcommittees/2017-Subcommittee-Schedules/LongRangePlanning_Subcom_Schedule2017.pdf
The chairman of this committee is on the hunt for a few more dollars to fund additional projects. I think he has already been successful, as the staffer at the last meeting I attended said that there are additional funds available. An optimistic person would look for additional projects to be added to the “Go’ list.
There are new revenue estimates every month for the Legislature. Please click the following link…
State revenues up, but Montana officials don’t want to count the money yet, Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Then look at our neighbors in Wyoming…
HB 53 recently passed out of the (H) Natural Resources Committee on a 15-0 vote. On Monday this bill then passed the House floor on a 100-0 vote, and was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. No hearing date has been set yet. This is a clean up bill proposed by DNRC. It is “AN ACT CLARIFYING THE PROCEDURE FOR CALCULATING LEVIES FOR CONSERVATION DISTRICTS.” This bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed by the governor.
HB 83 passed out of the (H) State Administration Committee, cleared the floor of the House easily, and is on the way for consideration by the Senate. This is a clean up bill needed to address mistakes made in the 2015 Session’s giant election law revision that included Supervisor election changes. A hearing has been scheduled for 30th January in (S) State Administration. This bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed by the governor.
SB 39 is a cleanup bill: “AN ACT ELIMINATING NOTICE TO AND APPROVAL OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF CONSERVATION DISTRICT ORGANIZATION” It flew through the Senate and will move into the House soon and be assigned a committee. This bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed by the governor.
HJ 4 was heard in front of the House Taxation Committee on Wednesday morning. This bill would require a study of the Coal Tax Trust over the interim. As you know, we receive funds from this account, and want to be part of discussions if there is a study. MACD did not testify but will monitor this bill to see how it progresses. If this bill makes it out of committee and clears the floor, MACD will be at the next hearing.
HB 104 passed on the floor of the House and was re-referred to the full House Appropriations Committee for a hearing on Wednesday. It was sent to Approps because it asks for money, and all those types of bills have to go through this funnel. This bill is “AN ACT CREATING THE GROUND WATER INVESTIGATION PROGRAM SPECIAL REVENUE ACCOUNT; PROVIDING A STATUTORY APPROPRIATION.” Jane Holzer is the Conservation District representative for this program. MACD President Jeff Wivholm was in town for the Meet and Greet and spoke in favor of this bill. There were no opponents.The Committee took no action on this bill, and it may sit in this committee for some time until the budget is sorted out.
HB 107 passed on the floor of the House and was re-referred to the full House Appropriations Committee for a hearing on Wednesday. It was sent to Approps because it asks for money, and all those types of bills have to go through this funnel. This bill is “AN ACT CREATING A SURFACE WATER ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING PROGRAM; PROVIDING FOR A SURFACE WATER ASSESSMENT AND MONITORING PROGRAM SPECIAL REVENUE ACCOUNT; PROVIDING PROGRAM DUTIES; PROVIDING A STATUTORY APPROPRIATION.” MACD lobbied successfully earlier this year at the interim committee meetings to include a Conservation District representative on the steering committee of this program. If this bill passes, Conservation Districts will be asked to participate on the steering committee, and it’s not too early to start thinking about a name. MACD President Jeff Wivholm was in town for the Meet and Greet and spoke in favor of HB 107. There were no opponents. The Committee took no action on this bill, and it may sit in this committee for some time.
SB 93 (NO CHANGES FROM LAST NFTF) was heard in front of the (S) Energy and Telecommunications Committee. This bill provides for notification at certain dwellings for oil and gas operations. I believe it was in 2015 that the Conservation Districts passed a resolution pertaining to notification issues. Although this is a bit different from the resolution, it pertains to notification issues and may be of interest to a number of Conservation Districts. MACD did not attend this hearing, but we hear that it went well and this bill has a chance to advance. There has been no action on this bill.
SB 98 Establishes the Montana property fairness act. Immunities or liability waivers in Conservation District laws could be impacted by this bill. There are concerns about impacts to the 310 law. The hearing for this bill is scheduled on Friday, 27th January, and will be reported on in the next edition of NFTF.
There has been no action on SB 48 . It remains where it was heard in front of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. This bill directs DEQ to assume the 404 dredge-and-fill permitting program. There was one supporter and three opponents. MACD has no position on this bill but is monitoring. The sponsor of the bill will extend the effective date of the bill, making it effective two years down the road. There were a lot of questions in the hearing, and I can’t guess how it will end up.
A new bill that may impact Conservation Districts recently popped up, but inexplicably popped right back down. Laurie Zeller sent information to the 310 Committee about this bill.
|Bill Draft Number:||LC1749||Current Bill Text:|
|Bill Type – Number:||HB 281|
|Short Title:||Locate certain utilities over water|
|Primary Sponsor:||George G Kipp (D) HD 15|
This bill was scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday 25th January, but the sponsor withdrew the bill. I suspect it may be dead, but we will know in a week or so.
HB 228, a bill to provide funding for sage grouse stewardship, was heard in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. This bill would allow the unspent funds authorized at the 2015 Session for sage grouse to be carried forward for the next several years. MACD supported this program at the 2015 Session, and will continue to do so. There were many supporters and no opponents.
Remember that you are able to watch or listen to any hearing from your computer, either live hearings or hearings held days ago. Scroll through the Video and Audio – Session section at this link: http://leg.mt.gov/css/default.asp to find the appropriate committee.
In other news…
The Meet and Greet event went off well, even though we were (unintentionally) in competition with the Governor’s State of the State address. It worked out fine, with Legislators attending both before and after the address. We estimate that there were 170 attendees, including 49 Legislators. I posted a slew of photographs on the MACD Facebook page. Take a look to see if you recognize any faces. Thank you to the Conservation Districts that made contacts with their local Legislators to encourage attendance. It was valuable and appreciated.
On Wednesday MACD President Jeff Wivholm, Executive Director Elena Evans, and I met briefly with Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen to get the inside view of how he thinks the Session will proceed. He said that the budget will be balanced and that there will be resources devoted to addressing the aquatic invasive species problems that are impacting our state. He understands the value of Conservation Districts and supports our efforts to serve Montana.
I AM RUNNING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION FOR ONE ADDITIONAL NFTF IN CASE YOU DID NOT PICK IT UP IN THE 20TH JANUARY EDITION. Three people were appointed to senior natural resource management positions with the Executive Branch.
Ben Thomas will be the director of the Montana Department of Agriculture. You can find more about him here: Biography of Ben Thomas | USDA.
Martha Williams was appointed to head up the Montana Department of Fish. Wildlife and Parks. You can find more about her here: http://www.umt.edu/law/faculty/directory/default.php?ID=3225 Both of these appointments are subject to approval by the Montana State Senate. MACD is interested in testifying at both hearings but we’d like to hear thoughts from Conservation Districts, especially if you’ve had the chance to interact with either nominee.
In addition to the above, Patrick Holmes was appointed to be the Natural Resource Advisor to Governor Bullock. He replaces Tim Baker. You may see more about Patrick Holmes at http://www.triplepundit.com/podium/special-assistant-secretary-natural-resources-environment-usda-reflects-experience-kinship-conservation-fellows/ I am interested in his thoughts about public/private partnerships regarding the US National Forests, as there may be some common ground regarding Lake Conservation District’s Conservation Forest idea. We will see. Anyone from the Districts who knows Mr. Holmes is asked to brief us.
What to watch next week and beyond…
The pace of hearings will pick up steam again next week. Several have been scheduled, but there will be more as the days pass.
I am sure that there’ll be some more votes on bills that have already been through the hearing process. This is called “Executive Action,” and the fate of many bills depends on a positive vote. Look for any bills that get out of committees and contain expenditures to be held in the full Appropriations Committee until finances are more clear to the Legislature.
We’ve got our eyes on it…
If you wish to see our most current list of bills that we are monitoring, we’ve set up an account that will allow easy access to any of the bills we are tracking. There are more than 90 bills on this list. 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. Comments and ideas are welcome.
The details in that list change everyday.
Here are a few unintroduced bills that I highlighted, as they may be of interest to Conservation Districts. If details are available, you may find them with the MACD Tracker. I looked through these on Thursday morning and there were no changes from last week.
LC736- 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.
LC1066-Generally revise laws related to agricultural hemp. Hemp was a topic of a MACD resolution that did not pass. I listed it here as a matter of interest for those who voted in favor of the resolution.
LC1160 – Generally revise floodplain laws. This bill is a direct result of the MACD Resolution of the same topic. This draft is on hold.
LC1916- Revise funding for Growth Through Agriculture. Conservation Districts share a funding source with this program. If it’s changed, does it impact us? We have to keep watching.
LC2119- Establish a pilot program for energy production future and environmental stewardship. We’ve heard that Conservation Districts may be named a player in this bill, but the details are not yet available.
LC2250- Enact protections for Yellowstone River. MACD sent a separate note to the two river councils to ask for their help in monitoring this bill. We also visited with the sponsor at the Meet and Greet.
LC2317- Study bill regarding aluminum can recycling deposit and refund program. This might be of interest as a follow up from a MACD resolution several years ago brought forth by Yellowstone Conservation District.
LC2323- Provide funding for the St. Mary irrigation rehabilitation project. This bill could be related to the MACD infrastructure bill that passed in 2016.
LC2366- Revise funding for coal bed methane protection program. This draft bill is in direct response to the MACD resolution of the same topic.
You can look at each of these bills to see details on the MACD Tracker.
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.
Lend us a hand…
Talk to Legislators anytime you get a chance.
Thanks to all of you who are reading this report. Contact me with comments or questions firstname.lastname@example.org or 406.465.8813. We appreciate your support in this endeavor, and for helping to keep Montana.