FEBRUARY 22, 2019

DNRC Section C Budget:  The committee appropriated $570,000 to the DNRC base budget.  This move basically captures all potential authority allowed under the funding source: Coal Tax Trust Fund.  The real test will be whether or not the actual cash revenue is received to support the appropriation.  The appropriation means there is a certain amount authorized for expenditure, however, the department can only spend as much cash as is available.  The cash available may not ever reach the level of the spending authority appropriated.

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 amendment correcting the drafting error was presented in a Grey Bill.  Since the amendment was presented, MACD did not rise in opposition to this bill.

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 is scheduled for 3rd reading on the Senate floor.

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.  This bill was heard in committee yesterday.  MACD testified as a proponent based on the amendments lining up with an association resolution adopted in 2013.

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 given a do-pass in Senate Local Government Committee executive action and will head to the Senate floor.

HB 300 – Sales Tax – sponsored by Representative White:  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.  The inconsistency addressed earlier will be corrected and all requests will need to go through the County.

 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 has been transmitted to the Senate for consideration.

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.  This bill passed committee executive action with amendment and is now scheduled for 3rd reading on the House floor.

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.  THIS BILL WAS TABLED IN COMMITTEE – good work by all the districts contacting their legislators.

HB 411 – Revise Laws Related to AIS Expenditure and Funding – sponsored by Rep. Willis Curdy:  This bill is being offered by the Governor’s office as a counterproposal to HB 32 funding for AIS.  The bill will be heard in the House Natural Resources Committee on 2/22.  MACD will support the AIS program; it is up to the legislature to figure out the funding.

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.  A hearing is scheduled in House Natural Resources on 2/22.  MACD support will depend on how the hearing evolves.

 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.  The bill has been transmitted to the House Natural Resources Committee.

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 received first reading in 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.

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.  MACD is working to provide additional information to districts before the 2/26/19 hearing in the Senate Fish and Game Committee.

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.  MACD will monitor this piece of legislation.

MACD is currently monitoring 51 legislative initiatives.   As movement is made on each, updates will be provided.