News From the Front, March 3

“Quit now, you’ll never make it. If you disregard this advice, you’ll be halfway there.” David Zucker, of the 1980 movie AIRPLANE! fame.

The week according to Jeff…

Dear Readers:

We are halfway through the Session, and the Airplane! movie is so stupid that it was funny to me when I saw it in 1980. Who knows what I’d think if I saw it again?

The rumor we’ve heard is that Legislators want to save some days (of their 90 days allowed in a regular Session) so they can return to Helena later this year once Congress acts on the Affordable Care Act. They expect changes at the federal level that will impact health care, trickling down to the states to make adjustments. That means they may try to leave early if they can get through the thorny budget issues, always the last and most difficult stop for every Session. I should note that I seldom close to never hear these rumors from leadership. If it’s repeated in the hallways more than a couple of times, I figure it has some truth to it.

According to a recent article in the Helena Independent Record newspaper:Legislators have introduced 981 bills this session, the lowest that number has been in at least 16 years. By Saturday, the governor had signed 50, and 23 sit on his desk; two have been vetoed. There are still 322 in play in the House, and 182 of those are Senate bills, meaning they’ve already cleared their initial chamber. There’s (sic) 238 in the Senate, and 156 of those are House bills, meaning they’ve already cleared that chamber.”

The Senate finished their bills, or at least all the bills they wanted to finish, on Friday, 24th February, somewhere around 5:00 PM, and left town. That makes it a little more quiet in the Capitol.

The House continued their efforts and was on the floor on Saturday morning with a long list of bills to consider. They continued with mostly floor sessions early this week, got as far as they wanted to get, and left Helena on Wednesday. Both houses return to Helena on Monday, 6th March. Staff in the MACD offices will be scarce while the Legislators are gone, but back at it on the 6th.

 

Total number of Introduced Bills – 985

Total number of Introduced and Unintroduced Bills – 2580

 

Here is a quick summary: After the halfway mark, we’ll have at least 5 bills headed to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for hearings, at least 1 headed to House Natural Resources Committee for a hearing, and a number of other bills moving to other committees. In addition, there will be other bills that pop up that we will chase. Two bills directly related to Conservation Districts were passed by both houses and are in Governor Bullock’s hands.

This week I’ll simply highlight the bills that are still in the oven, and leave out the ones that are listed as “probably dead” on the Legislator’s website. If you want more details in this report, take a look at the 24th February version of NFTF. If you want more details, it means you are showing signs of being a political junky, and might want to plan a long Helena visit starting in January 2019. http://policy.macdnet.org/2017/02/24/news-from-the-front-february-24/

Let me know if there is a bill that you want me to include in NFTF. I’d be happy to do so.

HB 344 will likely be assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee and my guess is be heard the week of 6th March. HISTORY: HB 344 continues its miracle progress. This bill reminds me of the Olympic Jamaican Bobsled Team – improbable but moving fast. It passed out of the full Appropriations Committee on a 22-0 vote (!) on 22nd February. It was debated on the floor of the House on Thursday afternoon and passed quite easily, 97-2. It now moves to the Senate for consideration. Congratulations and thanks to Judi Knapp and Don Sasse, as well as the full CBM Committee, for their efforts to keep this moving. Special kudos goes to Representative Geraldine Custer for sponsoring the bill and providing expert guidance. The story behind this cat and dog** bill amazes me.  Remember Yogi, however. “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  Yogi Berra

HISTORY: HB 344 is picking up steam. It came out of committee on a 14-1 vote, and was debated on the floor of the House on Saturday, 18th February. It passed on a 97-3 vote, but was re-referred to the full House Appropriations Committee for review. The sponsor was concerned about this bill until the funding source changed. Now she is more optimistic. The fact remains that this bill has funds attached and any bills with dollars are under great scrutiny right now. We remain positive, however, as the sheer number of affirmative votes has meaning. Note that the source of funding has shifted to the ORPHAN SHARE STATE SPECIAL REVENUE ACCOUNT ESTABLISHED IN 75-10-743. That is better than seeking funds from the General Fund.  HISTORY: HB 344 is the number for the bill that would provide $190,000 of general fund dollars for the Coal Bed Methane Program over the next biennium, entitled: Revise funding for coal bed methane protection program. This bill is in direct response to the MACD resolution of the same topic. It was heard in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on Monday, 6th January. The Coal Bed Methane Protection Committee sent Don Sasse to testify on their behalf. MACD testified in support of this bill.  DNRC testified as an informational witness, no doubt because the funds requested in the bill are not in the Governor’s budget. There were many questions from the committee about the program. There were no opponents, but there were a few negative comments from members of the audience afterwards about our testimony.

**See http://leg.mt.gov/content/publications/fiscal/interim/financecmty_june2000/program_xfer_6_2000.pdf

 

SB 313: Contrary to what was initially reported on www.leg.mt.gov about this bill, and unfortunately repeated in NFTF, it was not approved by the Senate Natural Resources Committee at the end of their hearing. It appears there was an error reading the bill numbers and the vote was transposed. The bill was, however, amended to include a revenue component so that the transmittal deadline for general bills did not apply to it. The committee did this so that they may spend a bit of time on this bill to see if they can change it to make it better.  HISTORY: SB 313 is a bill to exempt stream restoration from floodplain permits. This bill is a direct result from a 2015 MACD resolution may be seen here. Here’s the meat of the bill:  “(3) The rules must include but are not limited to the establishment of: (a) an exemption for stream restoration projects up to 1,000 linear feet in size; (b) criteria for an exemption that includes a maximum size for a stream restoration project more than 1,000 linear feet based on the characteristics of the stream, including volume; and (c) a minimum distance a stream restoration project must be located from the nearest flood-insured property to be eligible for an exemption, based on the characteristics of the stream, the flood history of the stream, and the characteristics of the surrounding property.” This bill was heard in front of the Senate Natural Resource Committee on Wednesday, 22nd February. There were 5 proponents and 2 opponents, including DNRC. The sponsor, Senator Jon Sesso from Butte, is a floodplain coordinator in his “day job.” He did a very good job explaining the idea, with help from Conservation District Supervisors Jeff Ryan and John Moodry. My perception was that the committee generally supported what Senator Sesso wanted to do with this bill, and will seek ways to make it work.

 

HB 540 was amended to include a revenue component to allow the committee to continue to keep looking at it. HISTORY: HB 540 is a bill that addresses AIS oversight by creating management based on water basins. Conservation Districts have had an interest in AIS since 2009 (as seen in resolution 10-09) and would have a major role in this bill. Here’s a slice of the meat: “Water basin planning committees. (1) There is established a water basin planning committee for each of the following: (a) the Columbia River basin, encompassing the Lincoln, Flathead, Green Mountain, Eastern Sanders, Lake, Mineral, Missoula, Bitterroot, Deer Lodge, North Powell, and Granite conservation districts; (b) the upper Missouri River basin, encompassing the Beaverhead, Ruby Valley, Mile High, Jefferson Valley, Madison, Gallatin, Broadwater, Meagher, Lewis and Clark, Glacier, Toole, Liberty, Pondera, Cascade, Teton, and Chouteau conservation districts; (c) the lower Missouri River basin, encompassing the Hill, Big Sandy, Judith Basin, Upper Musselshell, Fergus, Blaine, Phillips, Petroleum, Lower Musselshell, Garfield, Valley, Daniels, Roosevelt, Sheridan, and McCone conservation districts; and (d) the Yellowstone River basin, encompassing the Richland, Dawson, Prairie, Wibaux, Custer, Little Beaver, Carter, Powder River, Rosebud, Treasure, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Carbon, Stillwater, Park, and Sweet Grass conservation districts.

    (2) Each of the water basin planning committees are composed of:

    (a) one supervisor elected from each conservation district included in the basin pursuant to subsection (1);” as well as others (please see the bill for details).

 

The hearing for this bill was in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, 22nd February. The meeting went well into the evening, with lots of debate. DNRC and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks testified against this bill, as did Yellowstone and Cascade conservation districts. MACD testified in favor of this bill. Here’s a highlight of the MACD testimony: “We understand that many people have been working hard on this issue since the natural resource emergency was declared. We applaud their efforts and the strides they have taken to address issues and increase the capacity of the state to address this issue. We understand that this work is still underway. Conservation Districts hope that the lessons learned from the Dust Bowl are applied in this natural disaster as well, and that conservation districts and their local knowledge are a part of the mussel response solution.”

MACD Vice President Mark Suta, who attended the hearing, observed that both the opponents and proponents are interested in doing the best thing to make the management of the AIS program successful. The committee took no action.

 

SB 151 passed the floor of the Senate on 24th February on a 38-12 vote. It’ll now move to the House Legislative Administration Committee for consideration. HISTORY: SB 151 is an “AN ACT REVISING INTERIM COMMITTEES and CREATING A LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE.” This bill came out of Senate Local Government Committee on a 7-0 vote, indicating bipartisan support. It was debated on the floor on 23rd February. It is not clear if Conservation Districts will be included in the affairs of this interim committee, since we fit in a couple of categories. However, this will be another committee that needs to be monitored during the interim. MACD will have to pay attention to the agendas and attend the interim committee meetings when something that may impact Conservation Districts is considered. Assuming this bill passes, this will be the fourth interim committee that MACD will be monitoring during the 18 months between Sessions.  

 

HB 368 was amended, came off the table on a 9-6 vote, and was debated on the floor of the House on 28th February. The House approved the bill on a 92-8 vote. It’ll pass third reading and will move to the Senate for consideration. HISTORY: HB 368 was tabled in committee. However, there is currently an effort to get it back off the table and in front of the members for reconsideration. Time is running out, however.  MACD will continue to monitor this bill. HISTORY:  HB 368 would establish setbacks between wells and lagoons. It’s titled: “AN ACT ESTABLISHING SETBACKS BETWEEN SEWAGE LAGOONS AND WATER WELLS; EXTENDING DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY RULEMAKING AUTHORITY; PROVIDING A RULEMAKING EXCEPTION; ELIMINATING THE PROHIBITION ON LOCATING SEWAGE LAGOONS WITHIN 500 FEET OF A WATER WELL.” The existing law prohibits having wells and lagoons closer than 500 feet from each other. This number was not based on science and does not fit all situations. The bill would allow DEQ to write administrative rules to better cover the varied situations that occur across Montana. A number of people, including our partners at NRCS, have had issues with the existing statute and lack of flexibility. MACD, as well as many other agricultural and natural resource groups, supported this bill at a hearing in front of the House Natural Resources Committee. The committee has taken no action.  

 

HBs 6, 7, & 14 remain parked in the full Appropriations Committee until the big funding picture is sorted out. HISTORY: These bills were referred to the full appropriations committee for their consideration. We understand that this committee has the intention of changing a significant fiscal approach proposed by the Executive. The Executive proposed to “swipe” or move a number of funding sources into the general fund, then fund programs previously funded by those sources with general fund dollars, but at a lesser amount. This includes funds associated with Conservation Districts. This will set the stage for a bit of a showdown between the two branches, but they’ll figure it out in the end. HISTORY: Executive action for HB 14, HB 6 (RRG planning grants, watershed grants, and other funding), and HB 7 (RDG planning grants and AIS funding), occurred on 9th of February. HBs 6&7 passed without amendments. HB 14 was amended, approved with one nay vote, but still has funds for five Conservation Districts(Sweet Grass, Beaverhead, Stillwater, Broadwater, and Pondera). The journey is a bit shorter to full approval, but getting these out of committee is a major step in the right direction. Note that the conflict between bonding to pay for projects and paying cash for projects is still front and center at the Legislature. That storm is still brewing and will have to be navigated to be successful.

 

HB 337 is flying. It passed second reading in the House 100-0, and will move to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration, likely after the transmittal date. HISTORY: HB 337 is a bill that would require DNRC to prepare a report in 2026 about water reservations. As you know, Conservation Districts have a number of water reservations for both the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. This report was prepared in 2016 by DNRC, and some of you will remember a bit of controversy that accompanied the report. Many of us will not be in the office when the 2026 report is prepared, but for those who plan to be please mark your calendars. Here is the meat of the requirement:  “…the department shall, at least once every 10 years, review existing state water reservations to ensure that the objectives of the reservations are being met.” May I humbly suggest that every Conservation District with a water reservation include this as a meeting topic on an annual basis? Maybe the January meeting? This bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on a 15-0 vote. We predict it will be passed by both houses and be signed by the governor.

 

HB 424 was amended and came out of committee on a 14-1 vote. The amendment included soil health as part of this bill: “(8) SOIL AND RANGE HEALTH PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN PROTECTING AND SUSTAINING MONTANA’S RENEWABLE NATURAL RESOURCES BY RETAINING WATER, SOIL, AND NUTRIENTS IN PLACE ON THE LANDSCAPE. ENHANCING SOIL AND RANGE HEALTH WILL PROVIDE LONG-TERM BENEFITS TO MONTANA’S WATER AND OTHER RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND TO THE USERS, WILDLIFE, AND ECONOMIES THEY SUPPORT.” The bill was debated on the floor of the House on 28th February, and passed 98-2. It’ll pass third reading and head to the Senate for their consideration. If this bill makes it through the process, it opens the door for soil health to play a more highlighted role in the grant program. This is a victory for farmers and ranchers and Conservation Districts. HISTORY: HB 424 was tabled, but there is much behind the scenes activity to get it back into consideration. MACD prepared and delivered to the sponsor amendments to HB 424 so that soil and range health were considered. It has to come off the table in the next few days to stay alive. HISTORY: MACD listened to the hearing on HB 424. There were 8 proponents and no opponents. The House Natural Resources Committee asked many questions, including how this would work when water rights were involved. The sponsor offered an amendment to include a definition of ”source watershed.”  HB 424 would recognize source watersheds and makes them eligible for the RENEWABLE RESOURCE GRANT AND LOAN PROGRAM. It gives priority to source watersheds (as well as a few other criteria) for funding. MACD currently has no position on this bill. The committee took no action. A fiscal note has been printed, indicating that there is no impact to the State of Montana.

 

MACD President Jeff Wivholm was in Helena and testified in support of the reappointment of DNRC Director John Tubbs to lead the agency. There were 8 supporters and no opponents. The committee took no action. HISTORY: SR 20 is the resolution to confirm John Tubbs as the Director of DNRC. MACD will be present to support Mr. Tubbs. The hearing is scheduled for 20th February.

 

MACD President Jeff Wivholm was in Helena and testified in support of the reappointment of DEQ Director Tom Livers to lead the agency. There were 3 supporters and no opponents. The committee took no action. HISTORY: SR 21 is the resolution to confirm Tom Livers as the Director of DEQ. MACD will be present to support Mr. Livers. The hearing is scheduled for 20th February.

SR 45 is the resolution to confirm Martha Williams as the Director of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. No hearing date has yet been set.

The Legislator’s website does not have the date nor the resolution number for consideration of Mr. Ben Thomas as the director of the Department of Agriculture.

MACD has intentions to be at the two director hearings or at least listen to them on the web. We were told that these hearings will be near the end of the Session.

 

SB 48 will likely not have a hearing in the House until after transmittal. HISTORY: SB 48 went through the Senate twice and is on the way to the House for consideration. It left the Senate on a 39-11 vote. This bill directs DEQ to assume the 404 dredge-and-fill permitting program. Conservation Districts are still not mentioned in this bill. MACD has no position on this bill but is monitoring.  HISTORY: SB 48 had been amended and passed on a 9-2 vote out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The Senate debated the bill, if one could call it that, with the sponsor of the bill opening the debate, a comment from another Senator who opposed the bill, followed by the closing by the sponsor. It was very short. The bill passed 29-20, but not strictly along party lines. It was referred to Senate Finance and Claims Committee for their consideration on 9th February. Note that the original fiscal note projected the cost to be $1.6 million per year. The revised fiscal note presented to the committee was $0 for the next biennium. The Senate Finance and Claims Committee passed the bill 15-0.

 

HB 53 was debated on the floor of the Senate on 16th February and passed on a 50-0 vote. Since it passed both houses quite easily, it has been transmitted to the Governor’s office for his consideration. HISTORY:  HB 53 previously passed the House floor on a 100-0 vote, and was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. They held a hearing on 6th February and MACD and DNRC testified in support of the bill. There were no opponents and no questions from the committee. 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, and cleared the floor of the House easily on a 71-25 vote. This is a clean up bill needed to address mistakes made in the 2015 Session’s giant election law revision that included Conservation District Supervisor election changes. A hearing was held on Monday 30th January in (S) State Administration. MACD supported this bill. There were no opponents. The committee took no action. This bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed by the governor.

 

SB 39 passed out of the House Local Government Committee on a 23-0 vote, and was debated on the floor of the House on 15th February. It passed second reading on a 99-1 vote. It’s off to the Governor’s office for consideration.  HISTORY:  SB 39 is a cleanup bill: “AN ACT ELIMINATING NOTICE TO AND APPROVAL OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF CONSERVATION DISTRICT ORGANIZATION” This bill flew through the Senate on a 50-0 vote and moved into the House and heard in front of the House Local Government Committee on 7th February. MACD and DNRC and the Montana Association of Counties supported this bill and there were no opponents. This bill is expected to pass both houses and be signed by the Governor.

 

The House Appropriations Committee heard HB 104 and subsequently tabled it on 30th January. MACD heard that it is being held until the new revenue estimates arrive and/or if there are any revenues left to include in this program.  HISTORY: HB 104  passed on the floor of the House 88-12 and was re-referred to the full House Appropriations Committee for a hearing. This bill 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 House Appropriations Committee heard HB 107 and subsequently tabled it on 30th January. MACD heard that it is being held until the new revenue estimates arrive and/or if there are any revenues left to include in this program. HISTORY:  HB 107 passed on the floor of the House 84-16 and was re-referred to the full House Appropriations Committee for a hearing. This bill 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.

 

HB 360 passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a 15-0 vote. On 21st February it passed the House on a 98-2 vote. It has been sent to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for their consideration. This bill has a good chance of passing, since it has no dollars attached to it. 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. HISTORY:  HB 360 is a new bill to establish a surface water assessment and watering program. HB 107 slipped on the ice and was injured (see above), and HB 360 was introduced to try and allow the idea to move forward. However, there are no funds in this bill, and the program would have to be supported with existing dollars. MACD testified in favor of HB 107, and we testified in support of HB 360. There were many supporters and no opponents. The committee asked several incisive questions, including a request for estimated costs to run the program as proposed under this bill.  

 

HB 228 passed the House with a 96-4 vote and is on its way to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration. HISTORY:  HB 228, a bill to provide funding for sage grouse stewardship, was heard in front of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill passed out of committee on a 13-2 vote, and passed on the House floor 88-12. It was immediately sent to the full Appropriations Committee, where it was heard on 15th February. Once again, MACD testified in support of this bill. A revised fiscal note has been requested.  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.

 

HB 370 is scheduled to be heard in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on 9th March. MACD does not have a position on this bill, although it will impact Conservation Districts. HISTORY: On 14th February HB 370 passed on the floor of the House on second reading on a 68-32 vote. It’s now headed to the Senate for consideration. HISTORY:  HB 370 appears to impact Conservation Districts. It is AN ACT PROHIBITING ANY PERSON FROM BEING EXCLUDED FROM AN OPEN MEETING; ALLOWING RECORDINGS OF PUBLIC MEETINGS BY ANY PERSON. Here is the complete text:     “2-3-211.  Recording. Accredited press representatives A person may not be excluded from any open meeting under this part and may not be prohibited from taking photographs photographing, televising, transmitting images or audio by electronic or digital means, or recording such open meetings. The presiding officer may assure ensure that such these activities do not interfere with the conduct of the meeting.” Conservation Districts host hundreds and hundreds of public meetings each year. If this bill passes District Administrators will need to be aware of these requirements. MACD will keep monitoring and informing you of any progress/changes. It passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by one vote.  

 

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.

 

IF YOU’D LIKE US TO TRACK A BILL THAT INTERESTS YOUR CONSERVATION DISTRICT, PLEASE SEND ME A NOTE AND I WILL INCLUDE IT IN THE NEXT EDITION. jtiberi@macdnet.org

In other news…

 

Ryan Zinke was confirmed Secretary of the Interior Department, making him the first Montanan to serve in the Cabinet. He made news his first day on the job by riding to work in DC on a horse, courtesy of the Park Service. He also issued two Secretarial Orders, the first repealing the ban on lead ammunition on federal land, and the second directing agencies in his dominion to look for places where access to recreation and fishing can be expanded.

What to watch next week and beyond…

Legislators will head back to Helena on Monday, 6th of March. Some will be rested, others will try to get out into their communities looking for feedback, others will be contacted by constituents about certain votes on certain bills. They usually have more resolve to get through the business at hand once they return, with the budget being first priority.  

 

We’ve got our eyes on it…

NOTE THE NEW SECRET CODE TO LOG IN TO THIS ACCOUNT!

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 Conservation2017​   

​Once you get there, click on MACD Tracker to see the list. ​Comments and ideas are welcome.

The details in that list change nearly everyday.

 

HJ 9  is a resolution supporting the release of certain wilderness study areas. Over the decades Conservation Districts have had resolutions about wilderness areas. If one of these Study Areas is in your Conservation District, I recommend that you read this resolution and let us know your thoughts.   “(1) West Pioneer Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 151,000 acres;

    (2) Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 61,000 acres;

    (3) Sapphire Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 94,000 acres;

    (4) Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 34,000 acres;

    (5) Middle Fork Judith Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 81,000 acres;

    (6) Big Snowies Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 91,000 acres; and

    (7) Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area comprising approximately 151,000 acres.”

HJ 9 passed on the floor of the House 55-44 on Tuesday, 28th February.

 

HJ 15 is a resolution urging the delisting of grizzly bears. I’ve heard from a number of Supervisors over the years about this issue, especially from those of you along the Rocky Mountain Front, and included this resolution as a FYI. HJ 15 passed on the House floor 63-37 on Tuesday, 28th February.

 

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, although I placed live links in two of them. The ones in red relate to a current or former MACD resolution. I’ve eliminated several of the bills, as there has been no action for weeks, and you may find them on the MACD Tracker.

 

LC006 – is a bill to revise laws related to closure of certain coal-fired generation. This bill may generate funds for the State of Montana. Some of the funds could be appropriated to Conservation Districts to carry out our responsibilities. There is no text available for this bill at this time, nor do we know when it will be introduced. Keep your eyes on this one.

 

LC1524  – A resolution supporting lower Yellowstone River fish bypass, was taken off hold by the sponsor on 8th February. It has started moving through the process. The wording of the bill is now available through the link. Expect this bill to be introduced soon. Here’s the beef:  “That the Montana Legislature supports the continued operation of the Lower Yellowstone Project, including a fish bypass and a fish-friendly weir with a fish notch at Intake Dam.”

 

LC1663 is another bill to revise floodplain laws, also, but this draft request is on hold. We do not know any details about this draft at this time. If this bill does not hit the floor this week, it is probably dead.

 

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. This bill is currently being drafted.

 

LC2323- Provide funding for the St. Mary irrigation rehabilitation project. This bill could be related to the MACD infrastructure bill that passed in 2016. This bill is being drafted.

 

You can look at each of these bills to see details on the MACD Tracker.

 

IF YOU’D LIKE US TO TRACK A BILL THAT INTERESTS YOUR CONSERVATION DISTRICT, PLEASE SEND ME A NOTE AND I WILL INCLUDE IT IN THE NEXT EDITION. jtiberi@macdnet.org

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. Your local contact makes a great difference in the Capitol.

Thanks to all of you who are reading this report. Contact me with comments or questions jtiberi@macdnet.org or 406.465.8813. We appreciate your support in this endeavor, and for helping to keep Montana.

Jeff

 

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