FEBRUARY 15, 2019

DNRC Section C Budget:  Executive Action will be taken on the DNRC budget next week.  The action will let us know if our efforts to gain more funding for CDs has made any movement.

HB32 – Revise Laws Related to Aquatic Invasive Species – sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy:  No further action has occurred at this time and is not likely until consensus is reached for the funding mechanism.

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.  An amendment has been drafted reinstating the CD funding from the Coal Tax Trust Fund.  The amendment will need to be introduced by the sponsor during executive action.  The original bill will be heard on Tuesday (3/19).

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.  Senate Natural Resources will hear this bill on Monday (2/18).

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 was transmitted to the Senate and a Fiscal Note has been printed.

HB 142 – Revise County Weed Laws – sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier.  This bill establishes an integrated weed management concept.  The Senate hearing on this bill will be on Tuesday (2/19).

 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. This bill was heard in the Senate Local Government committee Friday (2.15)

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 transmitted to the Senate and referred to Senate State Administration.

HB 300 – Sales Tax – sponsored by Representative White:  MACD attended the hearing on this bill.  It is quite comprehensive.  The bill introduces a 2.5% sales tax and does away with property tax.  Representative White indicated the CDs will still receive their mill funding under this legislation.  The CDs will have to request any additional funds from a Critical Needs Assessment Council.  Two of the current sections indicated the CD Supervisors could submit the request and three sections indicated the CD would have to submit the request through the County Commission.  This inconsistency has been addressed with the sponsor and the CDs will need to make all requests to the County Commission for additional funding just as if they were requesting their mill funding.

 HB 328 – Exempting Conservation Districts from Certain Fees – sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield:  This bill exempts CDs from the DEQ permit fee requirement.  The bill was heard on Monday (2/11) in House Natural Resources Committee and executive action has not been considered.

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.  Since there was not consensus among the districts regarding the 60-appeal timeline or the amendment, it forced MACD to testify in opposition to the bill and the amendment.  Rep. Bob Brown asked for information regarding how many times the 15-day appeal deadline had caused a violation in the last 3 years.  An information request was submitted to the districts and 45% responded.  The bottom line is that none of the districts had ever had a problem with the 15-day appeal deadline; some went back as far as 20 and 34 years with no issues.  The information has been forwarded to the committee.  The test will be what happens during executive action on this bill.

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.  The meeting with Rep. White went well on this bill and he agreed to back off of changing the definition if the language included current CD rule language exempting ditches, intermittent streams, and wetlands.  Ephemeral steam was added to the exception.  The bill will be heard Monday (2/18) and MACD will have to testify as an opponent to the bill or amendment because the consensus of the districts is to leave the current language alone.

SB 32 – Establish Stream Gage Oversight Work Group – sponsored by Sen. Jon Sesso:  The principals have come to agreement on the fiscal note for this bill and it has passed Senate Finance and Claims Committee executive action as amended.

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.  This bill has been transmitted to the house and referred to 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 passed Senate Ag, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee executive action on 2/14 and now moves to the Senate Floor for consideration.


MACD is currently monitoring 43 legislative bill.   As movement is made on each, updates will be provided.