Montana Legislature

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Legislative Update: Tuesday, April 18

Keith

Senate nixes House change to tax bill
Freddy Monares
The Senate on Tuesday rejected a House amendment to a bill that would provide a tax exemption for property owners whose land value is at least double the value of the house or other property on the land. The House passed Senate Bill 94 earlier this month, but amended it to include income caps for a taxpayer to quality for the exemption. Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is the sponsor of the bill. He asked the Senate to reject the amendment because of the impact on the state’s general fund. “The House amendment raised the fiscal note 28 percent over the version that left this chamber,” Regier said. Continue Reading →

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3 bills aim at state control of health-care practices

Smith

HELENA — With the future of health care on the federal level still unclear, Republican lawmakers in Helena are pushing legislation that could reshape how Montanans access and pay for medical services. Three bills—House Bill 266 and Senate Bills 100 and 362—are based on the premise that individual states should be able to determine what health-care practices are best suited for their residents, and that costs should be lowered. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Well exemptions on land transfers prove contentious

MB

Matt and Jen Cottle, ranchers near Bigfork, want to build a house for their son but they have found themselves in the crossfire of a heated legislative debate over Montana water laws. In a letter addressed to Sen. Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, Matt Cottle explained that he and his wife want to take advantage of a provision in state law that allows them to transfer a piece of land they own to their son, who has autism, without going through the public review process. But, to make the new house practical, they also need water, so they had hoped to drill a well without having to get a state permit. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Thursday, April 13

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Ballot-collection bill debated
By Cole Grant
The Montana Legislature is taking a break this weekend after passing more than a dozen bills Thursday. Lawmakers tackled issues like giving loans to the owners of coal-fired power plants, raising production caps for small breweries, and asking voters if they want to limit who can collect ballots. In a debate on the bill about ballot collection in the House Wednesday, recorded by the Legislature, Rep. Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus said whether or not people believe voter fraud is happening, “We should still be trying to do everything we can to make sure there is no question that our election process is absolutely sacred.”

Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula says Senate Bill 352 aims at voter suppression. “This bill is about creating barriers where none are needed, or none need to exist, because our system works as it is,” he said. “This bill hurts voters.”

Since the referendum passed the House and Senate, it will now go to the secretary of state’s office, and will probably be on the 2018 ballot. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 12

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Abortion bill wins preliminary approval
By Freddy Monares
The Montana House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would make it unlawful for physicians to perform abortions after five months of pregnancy. Senate Bill 329 provides an exception for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother. Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, a supporter of the bill, said he says he takes great offense when someone says men don’t understand abortion. “As someone who was born to an unwed mother—11 years before Roe v. Wade—I know where I would be,” Lenz said. Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings, who opposes the bill, said it is the ultimate in government interference. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, April 10

Resolution calls for study of pot legalization
By Cole Grant
Montana lawmakers may have the opportunity to study the possibility of  legalizing recreational marijuana in the next year or so. Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, said that even if now isn’t the time to legalize, it may be the time for the state to look at the issue. “I’m not sure it’s the best thing for Montana,” she said. “I just feel it’s an opportunity. Given what’s going on all around us, it’s an opportunity to take a look at this.”

House Joint Resolution 35, heard Monday, would create a committee that would study how recreational legalization would be carried out in Montana. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers debate beer, insurance, student loans

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HELENA — The Montana Senate is considering a bill passed by the House 62-38 late last month that would provide partial forgiveness of student loans for farmers. Introduced by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, House Bill 631 would repay up to half of a farmer’s student loans if he or she commits to farming or ranching for a minimum of five years. “Student loan debt is a big issue facing our economy in general,” Brown said. “It’s holding back young professionals.”

Brown said the issue is particularly relevant to the agriculture industry, which he described as “aging.” According to the latest statistics from the USDA’s Ag Census, which is done every five years, the average age of the American farmer in 2012 was 58. That’s five years older than the average age in 1992. Continue Reading →

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Making sense of Legislature’s surviving tax proposals

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HELENA — When it comes to balancing the state budget, there are two schools of thought—raise taxes and generate revenue, or cut spending and save money. With the state facing a budget shortfall, that ideological difference has become all the more prominent throughout Montana’s 65th legislative session. Often, it defines party lines. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, April 7

Bullock

Bullock tries amending balloting bill
By Cole Grant
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock used his veto power Friday to amend a bill that landed on his desk to include a mail-in ballot option for Montana’s upcoming special congressional election. The amendatory veto comes after another bill died last month that would have allowed counties to opt in for mail ballots. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 5

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House hears two abortion bills
By Cole Grant
Montana lawmakers heard two bills Wednesday that would change when and how women can have abortions. The House of Representatives advanced Senate Bill 282, which would require, among other things, that if a fetus has more than a 50 percent chance of living outside the womb, a doctor would need to give it life-sustaining support. The bill needs one more vote to pass the House. Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, voted for the bill. “The pregnancy is terminated, which is the desire of the mom, but the life of the child is saved,” she said. Continue Reading →

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