LEGISLATIVE UPDATE AS OF FEBRUARY 8, 2019
February 10, 2019
DNRC Section C Budget: DNRC asked for a full house and we packed the hearing room. Thanks to all of those who traveled to Helena to testify on behalf of the conservation district funding request. Our approach has definitely peeked the attention of the House Natural Resource and Transportation appropriations subcommittee. The members understand the true CD funding dilemma and some have expressed their need to find funding for the districts. We will keep working the issue to bolster the DNRC budget for CD funding. It will be interesting to see what happens during committee executive action.
HB 6 – Renewable Resource Grant Funding through DNRC – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane and
HB 7 – Reclamation and Development Grants through DNRC – sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane: MACD testified on behalf of the Conservation District projects. The committees will now move forward to executive action.
HB32 – Revise Laws Related to Aquatic Invasive Species – sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy: Many entities, along with MACD, testified in favor of the aquatic invasive species program. The opponents for the measure were not in agreement with regard to program funding. The Governor’s office is in opposition to using any General Fund money for the program and have offered HB 411 as an alternative funding solution. Representative Curdy is also carrying the Governor’s bill. It appears the funding relies on vehicles licenses, money for Tiber, and some special federal funding. The committee will have to come to agreement with regard to funding the program.
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 technical portion of the fiscal note signed by the sponsor and the Budget Director acknowledge there is a drafting error in the bill with regard to the CD, Library, and Agriculture funding. There is a proposed amendment that will have to be introduced during executive action on the measure. MACD will continue to monitor this bill closely.
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 House and has been transferred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
HB 77 – Allow Department of Ag to Handle Donations for Farmers and Ranchers – sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield: TABLED IN COMMITTEE
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. TABLED IN COMMITTEE
HB 132 – Clarify Definition of Bison – sponsored by Ken Holmlund: Revised 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 passed the second reading of the House and will go to 3rd reading.
HB 142 – Revise County Weed Laws – sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier. This bill establishes an integrated weed management concept. The bill passed the House and has been transferred to the Senate.
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. The bill passed the House and has been transferred to the Senate.
HB 193 – Establish a Carbon Tax and Distribute Revenue – sponsored by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell: TABLED IN COMMITTEE
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. The bill has been moved to 3rd reading in the House.
HB 300 – Sales Tax – sponsored by Representative White: MACD sttended the hearing on this bill. It is quite comprehensive. The bill introduces a 2.5% sales tax and does away with property taxe, thus eliminating the CD mill funding mechanism. The CDs will have to request funds from a Critical Needs Assessment Council. The council will make a priority recommendation to the legislature. The legislature will decide how the funds are disbursed. Some likened this to applying for grants. Representative White asked, “If not now, when?” and “If not this, what?” There was quite a bit of opposition to the bill including Montana Association of Counties, Montana Leagues of Cities and Towns, the Montana Taxpayers Association, and more. The opponents indicated that there needs to be an answer, but this was not the fix and are willing to work to develop the solution. The Conservation District part affected by the bill is not consistent. Three sections of Title 76 give County Commissioners the authority to request funds from a Critical Needs Assessment Council on behalf of the districts. Other sections give the authority to the districts. Committee members have been approached to make the request section consistent and leave the requests up to the conservation districts. The sponsor has indicated the drafter is working on our concerns. MACD will posture itself as if this bill is going to pass and not assume it is going to die a slow death. We want to stay ahead of the curve and not play catchup.
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. A request has gone out to the DNRC 310-permit committee, the MACD Water Committee, and all Administrators asking for comment by Monday 2/11/19. Dan, Laurie Zeller, and Mark Bostrom will be meeting with Rep. White on Monday evening to determine the reasoning for the request and discuss future action.
HB 399 – Revise Definition of Streambed Protection Laws – sponsored by Rep. Kerry White: This bill redefines a Natural Perennial Flowing Stream or Stream. The stream must flow continuously for 2 years in wet or dry years; exception is granted if the stream is dewatered due to irrigation diversion. DNRC Administrative Rule covers other situations the bill does not recognize. The issue has been distributed to the DNRC 310-permit committee and the MACD Water Committee for comment. Dan, Laurie Zeller, and Mark Bostrom are meeting with Rep. White Monday evening to determine his reasoning for the change and discuss future action.
SB 32 – Establish Stream Gage Oversight Work Group – sponsored by Sen. Jon Sesso: The fiscal note on this bill was the sticking point. Senator Sesso and DNRC reached agreement on the fiscal note. The bill has passed committee with the amended fiscal note and will move to the Senate floor for consideration.
SB 45 – Revise Certain Water Right Adjudication Processes – sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour: The bill has passed the Senate and transferred to the House.
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 committee passed the bill as amended and will move to the Senate floor.
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.
MACD is currently monitoring 43 legislative bill. As movement is made on each, updates will be provided.