Legislative Update: Thursday, Jan. 19

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell speaks Thursday during a committee hearing on her bill that would raise taxes on new gas and oil wells.

Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell speaks Thursday during a committee hearing on her bill that would raise taxes on new gas and oil wells.

Higher taxes on gas, oil wells sought

By Freddy Monares

Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would put money back into the state’s main revenue fund by increasing taxes on new oil and gas wells.

House Bill 215 would remove what is called a tax holiday, which is a tax incentive for oil and gas companies during the first year of production.

“I consider this low-hanging fruit,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena.

The bill estimates that the measure would bring more than $600,000 into the state’s general fund over the next four years.

But Montana Petroleum Association lobbyist Jessica Sena had this caution: “Certainly prices may increase, we may be able to attract new investment back into Montana, but I would say that that’s a gamble to bet any increase on your general fund monies on these hypothetical situations.”

The current tax for the new wells is half of 1 percent of gas production; the bill would increase that to 4.5 percent.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

By Cole Grant

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police may not search the contents of a cell phone without a warrant.

State Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings is sponsoring a bill that would  extend that rule in Montana to any other device, like a laptop, iPad or smartwatch.

“Right now our devices store more personal information than our houses do,” he said. “And since the Fourth Amendment does not seem to protect electronic devices and electronic communications, that it is my job to ensure that these safeguards are in place.”

House Bill 147 will provide exceptions to the rule—if there were a life in danger, if the owner gave consent, or if the owner had disclosed the pertinent information publicly.

“The reason I want this in state code and state law is so people know what the process is,” Zolnikov said. “It just makes it a lot more transparent.”

The House Judiciary Committee will hear HB 147 Friday Morning.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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