Legislative Update: Monday, April 24

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Tom Richmond

Senate rejects changes to political practices bill

By Freddy Monares

The Senate rejected amendments to a bill Monday that would require the now-independent commissioner of political practices to report to the state’s attorney general and issue warnings to candidates before fining them for not complying with campaign laws.

Senate Bill 368 would increase the money candidates could raise, but when the House passed it last week, it also added the amendments the Senate rejected Monday.

Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings,is the sponsor of the bill. Richmond especially opposed the amendment about the shift of supervision.

“Which I think is a matter of policy that we didn’t choose to go down that path,” Richmond said.

Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock said he had only seen an early version of the bill.

“I don’t want it to impede the effectiveness and the abilities of the commissioner of political practices, but I’ll take a close look at it if it gets to my desk,” Bullock said.

The bill will now go to a conference committee, made up of members from the House and Senate, to resolve the disagreements.

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.

Bullock vetoes trespass bill

By Cole Grant

Gov. Steve Bullock has signed more than 200 bills into law so far this legislative session, and he’s vetoed 13. One of those recently vetoed bills would have updated the state’s trespass laws.

House Bill 231, among other things, would have required someone to have written permission or a valid rental agreement to be on residential property. If people didn’t have either of those, or weren’t invited, they could be removed from the property immediately.

In a hearing last month recorded by the Legislature, Great Falls landlord Chris Christiaens said it took him four months to get rid of an unwanted drug operation from a property he owned.

“By the time I got that apartment back in shape for renting,” he said, “it was $7,500. I don’t know how many landlords can afford to have that happen.”

In the veto letter, Bullock said the bill is un-neighborly and unconstitutionally vague. He also said expanding the criminal trespass definition this way won’t work for law enforcement.

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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