Legislative Update – January 25, 2019

DNRC Section C Budget:  The portion of the DNRC budget holding the funds that help CDs.  The budget will be heard on Tuesday, the 29th, from 8:30 – Noon in Room 317C at the Capitol.  We will be approaching the committee to request and amendment for an additional 1.9 million dollars.  The funding will help acquire funds to help underfunded districts with their operational funding and capture funds to help pay for 310 permit processing across the state.  The request for funds is in addition to the Governor’s budget.  Funds can only be added if an amendment is offered by a committee member during executive action on the agency budget.  Dan has met with or spoken to each member of the committee to help them understand the Conservation District funding dilemma evidenced in the legislative brochure.  The legislative brochure was very helpful in portraying the CD landscape as several members did not understand the operational underfunding, the unfunded 310 permit situation, or the varying value of district mills.  Senator Ankney expressed his gratitude for the work conducted by the districts.

Thanks to all the districts that sent letters or emails to the committee.  Representative Richmond, committee chair, indicated that he has received several emails from CDs.  We are planning for a host of members to be in Helena on Tuesday morning to testify regarding the force multiplier effect CDs have as the focus of local working groups.

HB 300 – Sales Tax – sponsored by Representative White:  This document is a 425-page bill that will require study to see how it affects the CDs.  Rumors indicate the bill will not make it through the session, however, this is the second time such a bill has been introduced by Rep. White and it could pick up some steam.

HB 6 – Renewable Resource Grant Funding through DNRC – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane:  This bill includes funding for several conservation districts and local projects, such a dams and wastewater scenarios.  MACD will be testifying in support of this type of funding for CDs to complete their projects.

HB 7 – Reclamation and Development Grants through DNRC – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane:  This bill provides funding for several Reclamation and Development grants.  MACD will be testifying in support of this funding as several conservation districts are listed as recipients.

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 bill passed the committee.

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.  The bill is awaiting a fiscal note.

HB 80 – Revise water reservation process on Missouri and Little Missouri – sponsored by Willis Curdy:  The bill makes clarity changes and will not affect any water rights held by CDs.

HB 142 – Revise County Weed Laws – sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier.  Invasive weeds will not be introduced into the Integrated Weed Management plan concept of this bill.  The MACD Soil and Land Use Standing Committee felt it was more appropriate to work with the County Weed folks to accomplish the tenants of the resolution passed in 2018.  Dan has spoken with Montana Department of Agriculture and both agree that the MACD relationship needs to be strengthened and more coordination done with County Weed Boards.

HB 154 – Record Retention – sponsored by Katie Sullivan:  This bill allows a reproduction to be used for an original record and removed the need for the district court involvement.  The bill attempts to simply the record retention requirements and make it easier for local government.  No Executive Action has been completed on the bill.

HB 260 – Exempting contracts under the Montana Community Service Act – sponsored by Joshua Kassmier:  This bill would allow state agencies to directly contract with certain non-profits without exercising the state procurement process.  This bill could be beneficial, however, it will probably be rebuffed quite heavily by private industry.  It is not clear how DNRC is leaning on this bill.  MACD will monitor the bill.

SB 97 – Revising laws related to common carrier pipelines sponsored by Sen. Frank Smith.   After speaking to the bill carrier, it was determined this bill is strictly postured toward the pipeline on the Assiniboine Sioux reservation.  The MACD Soil and Land Use Standing Committee discussed the bill and felt it was not appropriate to introduce invasive or noxious weeds into the fray.  Dan discovered that invasive and noxious weed measures were within the prevue of DEQ when permitting.  The County Weed Board, however, will be an important part of monitoring after projects have been completed.

SB 129 – Revising procedures for State Water Projects – sponsored by Jill Cohenour:  The bill was tabled in committee and will move no further, unless brought off the table in a floor session (unlikely as it would require 58 votes).

MACD is currently monitoring 47 legislative issues; bills or LCs.   As movement is made on each, updates will be provided.

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