Legislative Update: Wednesday, March 22

SF

Steve Fitzpatrick

Mail-in-ballot bill up for hearing in House

By Freddy Monares

A contentious bill that would allow counties to opt for mail-in ballots for the upcoming special election to fill now-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s vacated congressional seat is advancing in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 305 passed the Senate in February and gets its first hearing in the House on Thursday.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, said mail-in ballots could save counties up to $500,000.  During debate on the bill last month, recorded by the Legislature, he also said the percentage of people voting by mail ballot has skyrocketed.

“Most people vote by mail,” he said, “and we don’t have problems with fraud or any of these other things that people think they’re going to get from mail-in ballots.”

Republican House Speaker Austin Knudsen has been a vocal opponent of the bill. A spokesperson for Knudsen said in an email statement that the speaker has concerns about the process eliminating choice for some voters and that he questions the security of the ballots.

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.

 

Brewers back plan to raise production limits

By Cole Grant

Nearly a dozen brewers testified at the Montana Legislature Wednesday on a bill that would raise a small brewery’s production cap six-fold.

Matt Leow with the Montana Brewers Association said raising the 10,000-barrel limit for small operations to 60,000 barrels would unleash potential for Montana brewers.

“Wouldn’t that be great if instead of just seeing beer from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado on our shelves, that we were seeing Montana beer when we go visit places like Seattle?” he said.

John Iverson with the Montana Tavern Association saids he’d support House Bill 541 with a caveat: that the Legislature pass another bill that would allow certain beverage license holders to add a brewery or distillery operation to their business.

“We’re saying here’s something that you guys like, and here’s something that we like, let’s put them together and let this industry go for it,” Iverson said.

The bill passed the House 85-14 in February. It’s sponsored by two Republicans and a Democrat.

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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