LEGISLATIVE UPDATE 04/12/19

HB 2 – Governor’s Budget  The budget passed Senate Finance and Claims.  The Senate made some amendments to the bill during their floor session.  HB2 will now head back to the House for approval before moving onto the Governor for signature.  The conservation district funding remains intact.

HB 6 – Renewable Resource Grants: This bill is headed to enrolling.

HB 7 – Reclamation and Development Grants:  This bill is headed to enrolling.

HB 8 – Renewable Resource Bonds & Loans:  Waiting on Executive Action in Senate Finance and Claims subcommittee.

HB 11 – Treasure State Regional Water Program:  This bill passed and is headed to enrolling.

HB52 – Revise and Make Permanent Funding for Various Economic Programs – sponsored by Representative Jim Keane:  The original bill moves the Conservation District, State Library, and Agriculture funding from the Coal Tax Trust Fund to the Department of Commerce for economic development.  The sponsor offered a grey bill which included the amendment for the drafting error moving the coal tax trust money from CDs.  This bill was heard in Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs on 4/5/19, was concurred, and is headed to the Senate floor.

HB 56 – Revise and clarify voluntary clean-up laws – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane  The bill was a clarification piece extending the deadlines to allow for sufficient time to complete groundwater projects.  The Governor has signed this bill.

HB 132 – Clarify Definition of Bison – sponsored by Ken HolmlundRevised the definition of wild bison; qualifiers include: the animal has never been owned before, the animal has never been subjected to per capita tax, and the animals have never been in captivity.  The bill has been forwarded for the Governor’s signature.

HB 142 – Revise County Weed Laws – sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier:  This bill introduces the concept of integrated weed management.  The Governor signed this bill.

HB 229 – Clarify Dinosaur Bones and Fossils are Part of Surface Estate – sponsored by Rep. Bradley Hamlett:  This bill clarified that dinosaur fossils are not owned by the entity with the mineral rights; they are owned by the surface right owner.  The bill has been forwarded for the Governor’s signature.

HB 300 – State Sales Tax Bill – sponsored by Rep. Kerry White: The bill has been tabled by the Taxation Committee. There was an attempt to blast the bill from the table on 4/10/19, but it failed.

HB 328 – Exempting Conservation Districts from Certain Fees – sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield:  This bill exempts CDs from the DEQ 401 permit fee requirement.  This bill has been signed by the Speaker.

HB 383 – Extend Deadline for Appeal of a Stream Permit – sponsored by Rep. Kerry White:  This bill changes the appeal timeframe from 15 to 60 days.  The meeting with the sponsor went very well.  Rep. White agreed to accept a 30-day appeal timeline and the other timelines were aligned accordingly for an amendment.  The Governor signed this bill.

HB 402 – Revising Local Government Laws Related to Invasive Species – sponsored by Rep. Greg Hertz:  This bill authorizes invertebrate pest programs; authorizing a tax; and revising ordinances for adoption by counties located within the Columbia River Basin.  This bill was tabled in committee.

HB 411 – Revise Laws Related to AIS Expenditures and Funding – sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy:  This bill is the replacement for HB 32 amending the funding structure.  It has gone through several iterations of changes with regard to the funding to reach a compromise.  The bill has been concurred by Senate Natural Resources and has been referred to Senate Finance and Claims for consideration.

HJ 17 – Resolution Requesting AIS Funding from Congress – sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy:  This resolution requests funding from the federal government for the Montana AIS program.  MACD supported this effort.  This resolution has been forwarded for the Speaker’s signature.

HJ 28 – Joint Resolution Requesting Denial of American Prairie Reserve Grazing Permit – sponsored by Rep. Dan Bartel:  This resolution recommends to Congress that BLM not be able to approve the 18 grazing leases under consideration for the American Prairie Reserve initiative.  The MACD Resolution 09-07 directs the association to oppose such an initiative like APR without appropriate research and study.  MACD sent the sponsor and the committee chair letters for the hearing record.  This resolution has been forwarded for the Speaker’s signature.

NEW *** HJ 46 – Interim study on the coal trust fund – sponsored by Rep. Dave Fern:  The resolution advises setting up an interim study to explore the Coal Tax Trust Fund mechanisms for funding and improving the revenue for the fund.  MACD will support the hearing on 4/15/19 and help the committee understand the funding shortfalls for conservation districts; offering to be a partner at the table for the discussion.

ALIVE AGAIN *** SB 32 – Create Stream Gauge Oversight Work Group – sponsored by Sen. Jon Sesso:   This bill creates an oversight committee to gather data regarding stream gauge sights, ownership, and develop a coordinated system for managing those sites.  This bill was blasted from the table and amended.  The amendment moved the initiate to the Governor’s Water Policy and Drought Committee, deleted the fiscal note, and removed the membership required under the original bill.  The bill has been concurred by the House Natural Resources Committee and will move to the House floor.

SB 47 – Revise Laws Related to River Basin Councils – sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour:  The bill establishes the need for river basin councils to provide recommendations for development and implementation for the State Water Plan.  The plan is up for revision in 2035.  The bill also sunsets the Clark Fork and Kootenai river task force.  The bill was tabled by House Natural Resources.

 SB 176 – Establishment of a Hemp Plan and Program – sponsored by Sen. Tom Jacobson:  The bill provides authority for the Department of Agriculture to establish a Hemp plan and program in Montana.  The bill has been transmitted to the House and referred to the House Agriculture committee.  This bill has is scheduled for House 3rd reading.

 SB 247 – Revise FWP Authority for Instream Flows – sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour:  This bill attempts to replace the current June 30, 2019 sunset date with authority in perpetuity.  Confusion has arisen and tangled this proposal with the Army Core of Engineers current initiative regarding pallid sturgeon.  The two should not be confused.  This bill is scheduled for 3rd reading on the House floor with amendments.  The amendments appear to reinsert the stricken language regarding the Department ability for appropriations on the 12 stream reaches and the restriction for new leases after a certain date.

 SB 299 – Generally Revise Laws Related to Sage Grouse Conservation – sponsored by Sen. Mike Lang:  This bill proposes changes to the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team assessment of credits and considers various sector issues.  The House amended this bill and it is now headed to the Senate floor for consideration with the amendments.

SB 323 – Allow the Creation and Assessment of a Public Safety District – sponsored by Senator Roger Webb:  Non-profits are generally exempt from paying property taxes.  Property taxes pay for public safety service fees.  This bill establishes the authority to assess a public safety fee on non-profits.  The bill was tabled in committee.