Legislative Update: Friday, Feb. 17

Motl

Freddy Monares/UM Community News Service

Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, listens to testimony from Jonathan Motl during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on House Bill 406 on Friday.

Bills would dismantle office of political practices commissioner

By Freddy Monares

Montana Republicans are furthering their efforts to dismantle the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices with a bill that would prohibit past, present and future commissioners from doing any work for the office.

House Bill 340, which passed the House this week, would eliminate the office completely.

Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is the sponsor of House Bill 406, which would also prevent serving commissioners from calling past commissioners for clarification on issues.

“I’m just trying to keep the integrity of this office and take politics out of it. That’s the purpose of my bill,” Hertz said.

Current Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl opposes the bill.

“It is entirely possible, particularly depending on who is the commissioner, that I will find it necessary to appear as a witness on behalf of the office based on work that I have done as commissioner during this time,” Motl said.

Friday was the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing of the bill.

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.

 

Changes sought in wildfire response efforts

By Cole Grant

A bill entering the Montana House would allow counties to have the initial attack authority on wildfires if they believe they can move more quickly, or have more resources than whoever is in charge of the land.

Rep. Bob Brown, R-Thompson Falls, says he doesn’t want House Bill 481 to force counties to do anything, or interfere with any existing firefighting partnerships.

“This really is my attempt, I guess, to … try and get people moving quicker, or see how it is we can get things happening faster,” he said.

Under the bill, whatever agency is fighting the fire would be able to use any equipment or resources available to them.

Also under the bill, if the county moves in and begins suppression efforts, whoever is in charge of the area would be responsible for repaying the county for any costs. Brown says he’s considering amendments dealing with those costs, as well as liability concerns.

The House Natural Resource Committee will hear the bill Monday afternoon.

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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