Legislative Update: Monday, March 20

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Jim Keane

Infrastructure projects proposed

By Cole Grant

Lawmakers heard proposals Monday for infrastructure projects across the state, from upgrades to university system buildings to wildlife habitat programs.

House Bill 5 allocates more than $50 million in federal and state money to infrastructure. The largest portion of that money would go to securing land for the Habitat Montana program, which, among other things, encourages wildlife conservation among landowners.

Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte, is carrying the bill.

“These are the vehicles that actually build things around the state of Montana,” he said.

Gov. Steve Bullock’s office proposed the list of projects last November. Bullock’s budget director, Dan Villa, said, “The cards are certainly in the Legislature’s hands, and we hope that you can come to a resolution for all Montana.”

The bill is in the full House Appropriations Committee, which did not take immediate action on the bill.

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.

 

Bill would promote treatment courts

By Freddy Monares

The Montana Supreme Court is requesting that the Legislature allow violent offenders to participate in drug and mental health court treatment.

The high court requested Senate Bill 45, which would allow the 25 treatment courts in the state to hear cases that involve violent offenders and recommend rehab when necessary. Treatment courts are alternatives to criminal courts meant to address issues offenders may be dealing with during the time they commit a crime.

Bill sponsor Sen. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, said friends and family members can benefit from this piece of legislation.

“Treatment courts help people address these issues in the community,” she said. “…They can keep their job, they can keep their family relationships and their support system. And that’s sometimes very helpful.”

The Senate passed the bill unanimously in February. The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the bill Tuesday.

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.

 

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