Montana Legislature

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Conservation Voters score Legislature

Montana Conservation Voters didn’t get much of what it wanted in the 2017 Legislature, but it managed to avoid the worst of what it did not want. MCV released its 2017 Montana Legislative Scorecard this week, detailing its positions on 12 bills, plus two resolutions, of concern to the state’s environmental interests. Seven of the bills made it through both houses of the Legislature but were vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock. The resolutions, both backed by MCV, failed, and none of the five bills MCV supported or the seven it opposed became law. “Special thanks should go to Governor Steve Bullock who stopped the terrible legislation that would have limited access to Montana’s public lands, put more money in the pockets of big polluters, and rolled back our clean energy economy,” Clayton Elliott, MCV’s executive director, said in a news release. Continue Reading →

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For conservationists, vetoes took sting out of dim session

NPRC

A legislative scorecard released this week by one of the state’s major conservation groups paints a stark picture of the partisan divide in Helena. The Northern Plains Resource Council, based in Billings, tallied votes on seven pieces of legislation considered important by its members. With the state House and Senate both controlled by Republican majorities during the recently concluded 2017 Legislature, it perhaps wasn’t surprising that the NPRC was on the losing side of all seven bills. (more…) Continue Reading →

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In Legislature’s aftermath, few answers for Colstrip

When Montana’s 2017 Legislature adjourned on April 28, Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, found himself in much the same position as when the session began. At the session’s beginning, he helped draw up several bills that would help his community, which is facing the impending closure of two out of four units at its massive coal-fired electrical plant. By the time lawmakers left the Capitol, many of the bills—aimed at easing impacts on jobs, tax revenues and real estate—were dead. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Montana Viewpoint: Despite all, legislators deserve thanks

Elliott

The 65th Montana legislative session is over and 150 citizen legislators will be returning to the life they had before the session began last January—sort of. It is “sort of” because, whatever they do in real life, they will be constantly thinking of issues they considered in the legislative session, and, one hopes, also continuously acting in the best interests of the people they represent. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 26

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Infrastructure-funding bill tweaked
By Cole Grant
The House Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to revive and tighten up a bill that would borrow money to pay for some infrastructure projects, like improvements to parks and public schools. Senate Bill 367, carried by Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, originally authorized for bonding up to $98 million, but that was whittled down to around $80 million. Among other things, the new amendments cut a little less than half of the funding for the quality-schools grant program. That would fund things like building repairs and fire system upgrades for public schools throughout the state. Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, whose infrastructure bill failed earlier this month, supported the bill. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Tuesday, April 25

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Legislature passes compromise bill on ‘Real ID’
By Freddy Monares
The Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that offers a compromise on the 2005 federal “Real ID Act,” which standardizes state identification cards. At the end of this year, a Montana driver’s license would not meet the federal standards to be used for air travel or access to federal facilities. Senate Bill 366 would give Montanans the option of paying a fee for a special license that complies with the federal guidelines. The bill was amended in a free conference committee to draw funds from a state special revenue account and borrow money for implementation. Some of the borrowing could be pushed back if the state receives an extension from the federal government to comply. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, April 24

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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. Continue Reading →

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As Legislature winds down, a look at a fairly civil session

Capitol

HELENA — After nearly five months of hearings, debates, floor action and votes, Montana’s 65th Legislative session is coming to a close. While lawmakers are constitutionally required only to draft and pass a two-year budget for the state’s numerous offices and programs—which they did last week—legislators from all walks of life address the concerns of their constituents, as well as their own ideas in the other bills they bring. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, April 21

Budget bill on the way to governor
By Cole Grant
It’s been a long, hard trek, but the $10.3 billion Montana state budget is now on its way to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is sponsoring House Bill 2. She said the budget cuts as deeply as it could without impacting essential services like education, healthcare and corrections. “Now, some say we didn’t spend enough, others are saying we didn’t cut enough,” she said. Bullock said he thinks there have been constructive conversations with both Democrats and Republicans about how to make a budget that funds essential services, doesn’t spend more than it brings in, “and leaves me with a degree of flexibility so I’m not picking up the pieces and calling them back into session.”

Bullock now has 10 days to review the bill. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Thursday, April 20

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House OKs Senate budget amendments
By Cole Grant
The Montana budget needs just one more vote to get to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. On Thursday, the Montana House of Representatives voted to agree with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2, or the state’s two-year budget. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, said communication with the Senate was key. “We met with the Senate prior to them taking up any amendments,” she said. “Made sure they understood that we believe that budget was as complete as we could get it, and asked them to keep it within the bounds that we had set in filling the major holes, and that is exactly what they did.”

Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, voted against the amendments. Continue Reading →

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