UM Legislative News Service

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Legislative Update: Thursday, Jan. 19


Higher taxes on gas, oil wells sought
By Freddy Monares
Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would put money back into the state’s main revenue fund by increasing taxes on new oil and gas wells. House Bill 215 would remove what is called a tax holiday, which is a tax incentive for oil and gas companies during the first year of production. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, Jan. 18


Bed-tax diversion draws opposition
By Freddy Monares
A bill that would divert the state’s bed tax money to create a tourism and trade center in Canada is riling filmmakers. That’s because Senate Bill 75 would also cut the budget for promoting filmmaking in Montana from $1.1 million to about $200,000. Sean Becker, the administrator of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development, said, “The Department of Commerce is mandated, and I quote, ‘to use bed tax collections for tourism, promotion, promotion of the state as a location for the production of motion pictures and television commercials.’”

Montana Outfitters and Guides spokesperson Jean Johnson was the only supporter of the bill. “We think that $200,000 is not a big price to pay for a Canadian presence and all that it can lead to,” Johnson said. Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, said she has a bill in the hopper that would provide a tax incentive for filming in Montana. Continue Reading →

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Legislative update: Thursday, Jan. 12

Seat-belt law gets a hearing
By Cole Grant
Senate Bill 9 would create a primary seat belt law in Montana. That means authorities would be able to pull someone over solely for not wearing a seatbelt.

Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, is carrying the bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard the bill Thursday morning. “With primary enforcement, more Montanans will use seat belts, and fewer Montanans will die, or be seriously injured on our roads,” Barrett said. “That is what the statistics tell us.”

An opponent of the bill, Mark French, thinks Americans should have the freedom to make the choice themselves. Continue Reading →

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Legislative update: Monday, Jan. 9

Uncertainty on Medicaid
By Cole Grant
With all the uncertainty surrounding the federal Affordable Care Act, the future of Medicaid in Montana is shaping up to be a key topic this legislative session. At an initial budget hearing Monday morning at the Capitol, Montana State Medicaid Director Mary Dalton gave lawmakers an overview, saying Medicaid’s goal is to ensure all eligible Montanans have vital care available within available funds. “We always look for the way to spend the least amount of state general fund or state special revenue funds, and the most federal funds.”

In Montana, for every 35 cents the state receives, the federal government rounds it up to a full Medicaid dollar. Dalton urged lawmakers to be cautious about cutting optional services, like physical or speech therapy, because, she says, “You are disproportionately affecting people that have disabilities.”

This session, lawmakers are facing a tight budget. 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. Continue Reading →

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