Legislative Update – January 21, 2019
January 18, 2019
An update on MACD’s Legislative activities.
The hearing for the DNRC Section C Budget is still scheduled to be heard on January 29th from 8:30 – Noon in room 317C at the Capitol by the Natural Resource and Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee is comprised of Rep. Ken Holmlund (Chair) from Miles City, Sen. Duane Ankney from Colstrip, Sen. Janet Ellis from Helena, Rep. Jim Keane from Butte, Rep. Joe Read from Ronan, and Sen. Jeff Welborn from Dillon.
MACD will be supporting the DNRC budget. More importantly we will be asking for an amendment to bolster the DNRC budget to help Conservation Districts because of past budget cuts. The amendment will have to be offered by a committee member in either the Natural Resources and Transportation Committee or Senate Finance and Claims. We are working to connect with each of the Natural Resource and Transportation Committee members to explain the funding need and discuss a potential amendment. If the amendment does not get introduced on the house side during committee executive action, we will have to work with Senate Finance and Claims when they hear the DNRC Section C budget.
The Legislative Brochure sent out electronically earlier will be posted to the MACD website (please review the brochure again). The brochure outlines the 3 areas where there is currently a shortfall: Operational funding, 310 funding, and emergency funds for additional 310 processing beyond the normal day-to-day activity. It is extremely important the legislators know that their local constituents support the DNRC budget and any amendments to support CD funding. They also need to hear the local story. There are 3 potential avenues of engagement with the Natural Resource and Transportation Committee:
- Attend the session in Helena on the 29th, if at all possible. If you plan to attend, please let Dan know in advance. We will meet at the MACD office at 7:00 am on the morning of the 29th to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- If you cannot attend and the committee members are from your area, please send them a letter or email telling your local story, that you support the DNRC budget, and the need for additional CD funding. The contact information for committee members is as follows:
- Ken Holmlund (chair) – Ken.Holmlund@mtleg.gov
- Duane Ankney – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Janet Ellis – Janet.Ellis@mtleg.gov
- Jim Keane – Primary ph: (406) 723-8378 (no email available)
- Joe Read – email@example.com
- Jeff Welborn – Jeff.Welborn@mtleg.go
- If you cannot attend the budget hearing and none of the committee members are from your area, please send the chair Rep. Ken Holmlund, Holmlund@mtleg.gov, a letter or email telling your local story, that you support the DNRC budget, and the need for additional CD funding.
- Please make sure you contact your local legislators, as well, to share your story. It is important that they know what the CDs need.
- The Conservation District Legislative Brochure has been distributed to all legislators.
- Dan has scheduled meeting with Senator Welborn, Senator Ankney Representative Keane, and Senator Ellis to begin discussion regarding the CD funding dilemma.
- The Legislative Brochure and CD funding has been discussed with Robert Miller – Legislative Fiscal Analyst.
- Meetings have been conducted with DNRC, Governor’s Natural Resource Policy Advisor, and the Governor’s Budget Office to discuss solutions for funding CDs when they are inundated with 310 permits due to an emergency or disaster. We hope to have a solution for this particular part of the CD funding issue before the DNRC Section C budget hearing.
SB 32 – Update
The only sticking point on this bill is the fiscal note. I am told the agency is working with the sponsor (Sen. Sesso) to find a solution.
Aquatic Invasive Species forum
The districts and panelists for the AIS forum did an excellent job of telling their story and how they support this effort. Representatives from PNWER also spoke and explained the complexity of the issue with regard to the Columbia River and any potential impact. Senator Ankney provided comments and thanked the Conservation Districts for their engagement.
HB 52 Update
Revise and make permanent funding for various economic development programs – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane. This bill shifts the coal tax trust fund money to Department of Commerce for economic development. The word on the bill is that there was a mistake in the drafting language and an amendment is being drafted. This bill is being monitored closely by MACD and DNRC.
HB 77 Update
Department of Agriculture accepting donations to help farmers and ranchers sponsored by Alan Redfield. The hearing was held on this bill and the Department of Agriculture is merely trying to set up a funding mechanism for money that is donated after an emergency or disaster. Dan spoke with Cort Jensen, DOAg attorney, and the Department will continue to work with Conservation Districts as they have in the past.
Revise County Weed Laws – sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier. The bill creates an Integrated Weed Management element with respect to current County Weed authority. The MACD Land and Soil Standing committee is meeting on this bill to provide a recommendation to the MACD Legislative Committee. This bill may be our opportunity to include both invasive and noxious weeds; the current statue only lists noxious weeds.
Revising laws related to common carrier pipelines sponsored by Sen. Frank Smith. This bill establishes some additional requirements for DEQ when processing a permit. The question has been posed regarding the potential to insert invasive or noxious weed language. Research indicates, however, that the weed issue may be able to be handled under the DEQ decision factors part of the MCA before issuing a permit. If the pipeline crosses Sage Grouse country, the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team initiative will definitely kick into gear. The MACD Land and Soil Standing Committee is discussing this issue to provide recommendation to the MACD Executive Committee.
MACD is currently monitoring 34 legislative issues; bills or LCs. As movement is made on each, updates will be provided.