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Legislative Watch Newsletter

Montana State Capitol

 

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Legislative Watch Newsletter #10

March 21, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion.

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Lots of the bad bills listed below are getting ready this week for their last vote on the floor of the House or the Senate.  For many of these bills, this is the last chance to defeat them.  Please make calls and send emails.

As discouraging as this list of horrible bills is, please don’t let it disempower you from taking what action you can!

Anti-Public Land Bills of Concern:

HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  It must be stopped, or our public lands are in danger!  (Passed House>now in S-Natural Resources)

SJ7 recommends removing protection for the Hidden Pasture Creek Wilderness Study Area.  The public deserves meaningful chances to provide input before these kinds of management recommendations are made.  This resolution deprives Montanans of these opportunities.  (Passed out of committee and going to House floor)

Anti-Clean Energy Bills of Concern:

SB 237 would eliminate the requirement that utilities purchase power from community renewable projects (H-Energy Committee/hearing 3/17)

HB 188 would drastically increase registration fees on electric vehicles; just wrong! We should be encouraging electric vehicles. (S-Highways & Transportation/hearing was on 3/16)

SB 84 would weaken the power of the Montana Consumer Council which protects ratepayers.  It eliminates conflict of interest requirements for those appointed to serve. (H-Energy Committee/hearing 3/15)

SB 201 would create barriers to renewable energy projects.  Northwestern Energy does not have to consider carbon costs and can pass costs onto customers (H-Energy/ hearing 3/17)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  This bill would overturn the people’s initiative that was passed in 1978 that would give the public a vote on new facilities. (S-Energy & Telecom/hearing on 3/25))

SB 265 would overturn long-standing Colstrip owners’ contract in favor of Northwest Energy (H-Energy/hearing 3/24)

HB 576 would repeal the renewable energy portfolio standard which would undermine the requirements for renewable energy by including sources that should not be considered under the definition of renewable (S-Energy & Telecom/hearing 3/23)

Anti-Good Government Bills of Concern:

SB 260 could bankrupt government agencies and chill government decisions to protect the public health and safety by creating unreasonable standards for paying for impacts on private property.  This is one of the most dangerous bills this session because it could cost the state millions of dollars.  The fiscal note on this bill is cursory with no dollar amount. (H-Business & Labor/hearing 3/16)

SB 323 would require the legislature to approve any state regulations that cost over $1 million.  With a legislature that only meets for 90 days every other year, this is absurd. This is a legislative power grab to prevent state agencies from implementing important environmental and public health programs. (S-Finance & Claims)/hearing was on 3/16)

SB 277 says that the state can decide not to follow federal orders; very dangerous and probably unconstitutional (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

HB 481 attacks free speech and free assembly by allowing criminal penalties for peacefully protesting infrastructure like pipelines; this is a political bill to go after environmentalists (S-Judiciary)

SB 215 establishes the “religious freedom restoration act”, potentially allowing religion as an excuse to discriminate against others. (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

Anti- Public Education Bills of Concern:

HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  (S-Finance & Claims)

Anti-Clean Water Bills of Concern:

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (H-Natural Resources/ hearing 3/19)

SB 231 would weaken water protections and create loophole in subdivision law for “family transfers” (H-Natural Resources/hearing 3/12)

SB 352 would reduce water quality protections (H-Natural Resource/hearing 3/24)

SB 358 would eliminate water quality regulations for nutrients (H-Natural Resources/hearing on 3/29)

Tax Bills of Concern:

SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (H-Taxation/ hearing 3/10)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (S-Finance & Claims/hearing 3/16)

Anti-Local Government Bills of Concern:

HB 407 would prohibit local governments from regulating food packaging not even with a voter referendum (S-Business & Labor/ hearing on 3-23)

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  (S-Business & Labor/hearing 3/19)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (S-Judiciary/hearing 3/22)

SB 257 would prohibit local governments from establishing green tariffs and clean energy plans. (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

HB 527 would make it impossible for communities to form citizen-initiated zoning districts to mitigate impacts to private property and health; rural Montana needs this tool (S-Local Government/hearing on 3/17)

Pro-Developer Bills of Concern:

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

SB 174 would restrict local government’s ability to mitigate subdivision impacts; makes it easier to subdivide property (H-Local Gov/hearing 3/11)

SB 211 would revise local subdivision review criteria regarding agriculture soils; very poor practice (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

Anti-Voting Rights Bills of Concern:

HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  This would overturn the will of the people who passed same-day voter registration in a state referendum.  (S-State Administration Committee/Hearing was held on 2-15-21)

SB 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain groups to vote. (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

Anti-Human Service Bills of Concern:

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (H-Human Services hearing 3/30)

Anti-Wildlife Bills of Concern:

SB 267 would reimburse individuals for their expenses for killing wolves.  This bill essentially re-establishes a bounty system that led to the extinction of wolves in the past.  (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

HB 224 would allow the snaring of wolves which causes slow strangulation (Passed both Houses>goes to the Governor)

HB 225 would extend the wolves hunting and trapping season.  This should be left up to FWP rather than the legislature. (Passed in Senate>Returned to the House)

HB 318 changes the legal definition of wild buffalo or bison – redefining the wild, migratory Yellowstone bison herds as domestic or feral.  HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.  (Passed out of committee>goes to Senate floor)

SB 314 allows baiting of wolves and hunting at night with spotlights; allows reducing Montana’s wolf population by 80% by any means necessary (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

SB 98 gives landowners authority to kill grizzly bears if they perceive that it is “threatening” livestock (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

SB 337 bars Montana FWP from relocating grizzly bears to promote grizzly bear recovery. (Passed out of committee>goes to House floor)

 

Bills to Support:

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. (Passed in Senate>now in H-Taxation)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (H-Energy/hearing 3/12)

HB 448 would increase the cap on non-residential rooftop solar (S-Energy & Telecom/ hearing 3/16)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

If you know others who would like to receive this newsletter, forward it to them.  They can subscribe by sending their email address to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Legislative Watch” in the subject line.

 

 

 

Legislative Watch Newsletter #9

March 14, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion.

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Now that we are past ‘Transmittal,” we have one last chance to stop bad bills from becoming law.  This is the time to stop them in the second house!

As discouraging as this list of horrible bills is, please don’t let it disempower you from taking what action you can!

Anti-Public Land Bills of Concern:

 HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  It must be stopped, or our public lands are in danger!  (Passed House>now in S-Natural Resources)

SJ7 recommends removing protection for the Hidden Pasture Creek Wilderness Study Area.  The public deserves meaningful chances to provide input before these kinds of management recommendations are made.  This resolution deprives Montanans of these opportunities.  (H-Natural Resources/hearing 3/15)

VICTORY!  HB 418 (also called the “Hoax Highways Bill) failed on the House floor with a 50/50 vote.

 Anti-Clean Energy Bills of Concern:

SB 237 would eliminate the requirement that utilities purchase power from community renewable projects (H-Energy Committee/hearing 3/17)

HB 188 would drastically increase registration fees on electric vehicles; just wrong! We should be encouraging electric vehicles. (S-Highways & Transportation)

SB 84 would weaken the power of the Montana Consumer Council which protects ratepayers.  It eliminates conflict of interest requirements for those appointed to serve. (H-Energy Committee/hearing 3/15)

SB 201 would create barriers to renewable energy projects.  Northwestern Energy does not have to consider carbon costs and can pass costs onto customers (H-Energy/ hearing 3/17)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  This bill would overturn the people’s initiative that was passed in 1978 that would give the public a vote on new facilities. (Passed the House> transmitted to the Senate)

SB 265 would overturn long-standing Colstrip owners’ contract in favor of Northwest Energy (Passed Senate> Transmitted to House)

HB 576 would repeal the renewable energy portfolio standard which would undermine the requirements for renewable energy by including sources that should not be considered under the definition of renewable (S-Energy & Telecom)

Anti-Independent Judiciary Bills of Concern:

SB 140 would eliminate the independent Judicial Nominations Commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process by allowing the Governor to appoint ideological and/or unqualified judges.  (Passed both House & Senate and goes to the Governor—call the Governor’s Office!)

Anti-Good Government Bills of Concern:

SB 260 could bankrupt government agencies and chill government decisions to protect the public health and safety by creating unreasonable standards for paying for impacts on private property.  This is one of the most dangerous bills this session because it could cost the state millions of dollars.  The fiscal note on this bill is cursory with no dollar amount. (H-Business & Labor/hearing 3/16)

SB 227 would strip agency authority to promulgate regulations; allows legislature to pass a resolution and overturn a regulation which means that a regulation can be overturned by pressure from a lobbyist (Passed Senate>transmitted to H- State Administration>Yikes!  What a bad bill)….call the Governor!

SB 323 would require the legislature to approve any state regulations that cost over $1 million.  With a legislature that only meets for 90 days every other year, this is absurd. This is a legislative power grab to prevent state agencies from implementing important environmental and public health programs. (S-Finance & Claims)

SB 277 says that the state can decide not to follow federal orders; very dangerous and probably unconstitutional (H-Judiciary/hearing 3/12)

HB 481 attacks free speech and free assembly by allowing criminal penalties for peacefully protesting infrastructure like pipelines; this is a political bill to go after environmentalists (S-Judiciary)

SB 215 establishes the “religious freedom restoration act”, potentially allowing religion as an excuse to discriminate against others. (H-Judiciary/hearing 3/11)

Anti- Public Education Bills of Concern:

 HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  (Re-referred to S-Finance & Claims)

Anti-Labor Bills of Concern:

VICTORY!  Both SB 89 and HB 251 were defeated!!!  Thanks to many labor union folks who called, wrote, and showed up at the Capitol.  This is an example of how we can make a difference!

Anti-Clean Water Bills of Concern:

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (H-Natural Resources/ hearing 3/22)

SB 231 would weaken water protections and create loophole in subdivision law for “family transfers” (H-Natural Resources/hearing 3/12)

SB 352 would reduce water quality protections (H-Natural Resource/hearing 3/24)

SB 358 would eliminate water quality regulations for nutrients (H-Natural Resources/hearing on 3/26)

Tax Bills of Concern:

SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (H-Taxation/ hearing 3/10)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (Re-referred to S-Finance & Claims)

Anti-Local Government Bills of Concern:

HB 407 would prohibit local governments from regulating food packaging not even with a voter referendum (S-Business & Labor/ hearing on 3-23

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  (S-Business & Labor)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (Passed in House >transmitted to Senate)

SB 257 would prohibit local governments from establishing green tariffs and clean energy plans. (Passed in Senate>Passed in H-Taxation>goes to House floor)

HB 527 would make it impossible for communities to form citizen-initiated zoning districts to mitigate impacts to private property and health; rural Montana needs this tool (S-Local Government/hearing on 3/17)

Pro-Developer Bills of Concern:

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (H-Local Gov/ hearing 3/9)

SB 174 would restrict local government’s ability to mitigate subdivision impacts; makes it easier to subdivide property (H-Local Gov/hearing 3/11)

SB 211 would revise local subdivision review criteria regarding agriculture soils; very poor practice (H-Local Gov/ hearing 3/11)

Anti-Voting Rights Bills of Concern:

HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  This would overturn the will of the people who passed same-day voter registration in a state referendum.  (S-State Administration Committee/Hearing was held on 2-15-21)

SB 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain groups to vote. (H-State Administration/hearing 2/19)

Anti-Human Service Bills of Concern:

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (H-Human Services hearing 3/22)

Anti-Wildlife Bills of Concern:

SB 267 would reimburse individuals for their expenses for killing wolves.  This bill essentially re-establishes a bounty system that led to the extinction of wolves in the past.  (H-FWP Committee/hearing 3/16)

HB 224 would allow the snaring of wolves which causes slow strangulation (Passed S-Fish & Game>goes to Senate floor)

HB 225 would extend the wolves hunting and trapping season.  This should be left up to FWP rather than the legislature. (Passed S-Fish & Game)>goes to Senate floor)

HB 318 changes the legal definition of wild buffalo or bison – redefining the wild, migratory Yellowstone bison herds as domestic or feral.  HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.  (S-Agriculture, Livestock, Irrigation)

Bills to Support:

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. (Passed in Senate>now in H-Taxation)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (H-Energy/hearing 3/12)

HB 448 would increase the cap on non-residential rooftop solar (S-Energy & Telecom/ hearing 3/16)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

If you know others who would like to receive this newsletter, forward it to them.  They can subscribe by sending their email address to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Legislative Watch” in the subject line.

 

Legislative Watch Newsletter #8

March 7, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion.

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You will notice that the list of bills is shorter.  Last week was “Transmittal” meaning that all bills needed to progress to the second house or be dead.  The dead bills have been dropped from this newsletter.  We had a few victories, but many bad bills progressed to the next house.  There is still time to stop them….may common sense prevail!

As discouraging as this list of horrible bills is, please don’t let it disempower you from taking what action you can!

Anti-Public Land Bills of Concern:

 HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  It must be stopped, or our public lands are in danger!  (Passed House>now in S-Natural Resources)

HB 418 (also called the “Hoax Highways Bill) would allow the state to take steps toward opening roads on federal public land by designating historical rights-of-way as public “highways.”  These are not actually roads—overgrown cowpaths, forgotten two-tracks, long-disused paths.  This bill is not good for protection of our public land.  (This bill was classified as an appropriations bill which has a later transmittal date, so we still need to fight this one.)

Anti-Clean Energy Bills of Concern:

SB 237 would eliminate the requirement that utilities purchase power from community renewable projects (Passed Senate and transmitted to H-Energy Committee)

HB 188 would drastically increase registration fees on electric vehicles; just wrong! We should be encouraging electric vehicles. (Passed House>now in S-Highways & Transportation)

SB 84 would weaken the power of the Montana Consumer Council which protects ratepayers.  It eliminates conflict of interest requirements for those appointed to serve. (Passed the Senate >now in H-Energy Committee)

SB 201 would create barriers to renewable energy projects.  Northwestern Energy does not have to consider carbon costs and can pass costs onto customers (Passed the Senate>transmitted to House)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  This bill would overturn the people’s initiative that was passed in 1978 that would give the public a vote on new facilities. (Passed the House> transmitted to the Senate)

SB 265 would overturn long-standing Colstrip owners’ contract in favor of Northwest Energy (Passed Senate> Transmitted to House)

HB 576 would repeal the renewable energy portfolio standard which would undermine the requirements for renewable energy by including sources that should not be considered under the definition of renewable (Passed House>transmitted to Senate)

Anti-Independent Judiciary Bills of Concern:

SB 140 would eliminate the independent Judicial Nominations Commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process by allowing the Governor to appoint ideological and/or unqualified judges.  (Passed both House & Senate and goes to the Governor)

Anti-Good Government Bills of Concern:

SB 227 would strip agency authority to promulgate regulations; allows legislature to pass a resolution and overturn a regulation which means that a regulation can be overturned by pressure from a lobbyist (Passed Senate>transmitted to H- State Administration>Yikes!  What a bad bill)….call the Governor!

SB 277 says that the state can decide not to follow federal orders; very dangerous and probably unconstitutional (Passed Senate>transmitted to H-Judiciary)

HB 481 attacks free speech and free assembly by allowing criminal penalties for peacefully protesting infrastructure like pipelines; this is a political bill to go after environmentalists (Passed House>transmitted to Senate)

SB 215 establishes the “religious freedom restoration act”, potentially allowing religion as an excuse to discriminate against others. (Passed in the Senate>transmitted to H-Judiciary)

SB 260 could bankrupt government agencies and chill government decisions to protect the public health and safety by creating unreasonable standards for paying for impacts on private property.  (Passed Senate>transmitted to H-Business & Labor)

Anti- Public Education Bills of Concern:

 HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  (Passed the House/ Passed in S-Taxation Committee/now goes to Senate floor)

Anti-Labor Bills of Concern:

VICTORY!  Both SB 89 and HB 251 were defeated!!!  Thanks to many labor union folks who called, wrote, and showed up at the Capitol.  This is an example of how we can make a difference!

Anti-Clean Water Bills of Concern:

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (Passed in the Senate> now in H-Natural Resources)

SB 231 would weaken water protections and create loophole in subdivision law for “family transfers” (Passed in Senate> now in H-Natural Resources)

Tax Bills of Concern:

 SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (Passed in Senate> transmitted to H-Taxation)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (Passed in House/Passed in S-Taxation/ Goes to Senate floor)

Anti-Local Government Bills of Concern:

 HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  (Passed in House>transmitted to Senate)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (Passed in House >transmitted to Senate)

SB 257 would prohibit local governments from establishing green tariffs and clean energy plans. (Passed in Senate>transmitted to H-Taxation)

Pro-Developer Bills of Concern:

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (Passed Senate> now in H-Local Gov)

SB 174 would restrict local government’s ability to mitigate subdivision impacts; makes it easier to subdivide property (Passed Senate>now in H-Local Gov)

SB 211 would revise local subdivision review criteria regarding agriculture soils; very poor practice (Passed Senate> now in H-Local Gov)

Anti-Voting Rights Bills of Concern:

 HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  This would overturn the will of the people who passed same-day voter registration in a state referendum.  (Passed in House; now in S-State Administration Committee/Hearing was held on 2-15-21)

SB 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain groups to vote. (Passed the Senate> now in H-State Administration)

Anti-Human Service Bills of Concern:

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (Passed in Senate> transmitted to H-Human Services)

Anti-Wildlife Bills of Concern:

SB 267 would reimburse individuals for their expenses for killing wolves.  This bill essentially re-establishes a bounty system that led to the extinction of wolves in the past.  (Passed in Senate>transmitted to H-FWP Committee)

HB 224 would allow the snaring of wolves which causes slow strangulation (Passed the House>now in S-Fish & Game)

HB 225 would extend the wolves hunting and trapping season.  This should be left up to FWP rather than the legislature. (Passed the House>now in S-Fish & Game)

HB 318 changes the legal definition of wild buffalo or bison – redefining the wild, migratory Yellowstone bison herds as domestic or feral.  HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.  (Passed the House> now in S-Agriculture, Livestock, Irrigation)

Bills to Support:

Note:  Many good bills are being tabled in committee (in essence, they were killed).  Here are a few that have survived so far:

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. (Passed in Senate>now in H-Taxation)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (Passed in the Senate> now in H-Energy)

HB 448 would increase the cap on non-residential rooftop solar (Passed in House>transmitted to Senate)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

If you know others who would like to receive this newsletter, forward it to them.  They can subscribe by sending their email address to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Legislative Watch” in the subject line.

 

 

Legislative Watch Newsletter #7

February 28, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion. You can address more than one bill on the same phone call.

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Wednesday is Transmittal meaning that all bills need to progress to the second house by Wednesday or be dead.  Bad bills have progressed this past week and only a few have been defeated (and dropped from this list).  It’s not too late to make a difference.

As discouraging as this list of horrible bills is, please don’t let it disempower you from taking what action you can!

Anti-Public Land Bills of Concern:

 HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  (Passed House>now in S-Natural Resources)

HB 418 (also called the “Hoax Highways Bill) would allow the state to take steps toward opening roads on federal public land by designating historical rights-of-way as public “highways.”  These are not actually roads—overgrown cowpaths, forgotten two-tracks, long-disused paths.  This bill is not good for protection of our public land.  (Passed out of H-Natural Resources)

Anti-Clean Energy Bills of Concern:

SB 237 would eliminate the requirement that utilities purchase power from community renewable projects (Passed out of S-Energy)

HB 188 would drastically increase registration fees on electric vehicles; just wrong! We should be encouraging electric vehicles. (Passed House>now in S-Highways & Transportation)

SB 84 would weaken the power of the Montana Consumer Council which protects ratepayers.  It eliminates conflict of interest requirements for those appointed to serve. (Passed the Senate >now in H-Energy Committee)

SB 201 would create barriers to renewable energy projects.  Northwestern Energy does not have to consider carbon costs and can pass costs onto customers (Passed out of H-Business & Labor; Scheduled for 3rdreading on Senate floor on 3/1/21)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  This bill would overturn the people’s initiative that was passed in 1978 that would give the public a vote on new facilities. (Passed the House> transmitted to the Senate)

HB 170 would dramatically lower the tax rate for gas plants that use a tiny percentage of green hydrogen. facilities that use green hydrogen.  The bill needs to be amended to give the tax break to only the hydrogen portion of a plant. (Passed out of H-Taxation Committee)

SB 176 would keep Colstrip open as long as Northwestern Energy desires it (Passed out of S-Energy & Telecommunications>Scheduled for 2nd reading on Senate floor 3/1/21)

SB 265 would overturn long-standing Colstrip owners’ contract in favor of Northwest Energy (Passed Senate> Transmitted to House)

HB 576 would repeal the renewable energy portfolio standard which would undermine the requirements for renewable energy by including sources that should not be considered under the definition of renewable (Scheduled for 2nd reading in the House 3/1/21)

Anti-Independent Judiciary Bills of Concern:

SB 140 would eliminate the independent Judicial Nominations Commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process by allowing the Governor to appoint ideological and/or unqualified judges.  (Passed the Senate>Scheduled for 3rd reading on House floor 3/1/21)

SB 252 would make it easier to impeach a judge for rulings that the legislature doesn’t like; probably unconstitutional (Passed out of S-Judiciary)

Anti-Good Government Bills of Concern:

SB 227 would strip agency authority to promulgate regulations; allows legislature to pass a resolution and overturn a regulation which means that a regulation can be overturned by pressure from a lobbyist (Passed out of S-State Administration)

SB 277 says that the state can decide not to follow federal orders; very dangerous and probably unconstitutional (Scheduled for 3rd reading on Senate floor 3/1/21)

HB 481 attacks free speech and free assembly by allowing criminal penalties for peacefully protesting infrastructure like pipelines; this is a political bill to go after environmentalists (Passed out of H-Judiciary)

SB 323 is a legislative power grab over agency rule-making (S-Business, Labor, & Economic Affairs)

HB 570 would allow a new state commission to override federal law; probably unconstitutional (Passed out of H-Energy)

SB 215 establishes the “religious freedom restoration act”, potentially allowing religion as an excuse to discriminate against others. (Scheduled for 3rd reading in the Senate 3/1/21)

SB 260 could bankrupt government agencies and chill government decisions to protect the public health and safety by creating unreasonable standards for paying for impacts on private property.  (Scheduled for 3rdreading in the Senate 3/1/21)

Anti- Public Education Bills of Concern:

 HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  (Passed the House: Passed in S-Taxation Committee)

HB 279 would allow any taxpayers (including corporations) to receive a tax credit of up to $200,000 for contributions to private school scholarship organizations with no accountability standards for the school.  Taxpayers who funnel money to these scholarship organizations are allowed to meet their TOTAL Montana income tax obligation through these donations. This bill encourages the privatization of schools. (H-Education Committee; hearing was held on 2/10/21)

HB 329 provides any special education student in Montana with a publicly funded “savings account” to attend a private school, again anywhere in the world, utilizing local school district and state funding.   Students would still be classified as students of their home public school district, creating potential liability and expense for Montana school districts.  (Passed out of H-Education Committee)

Anti-Labor Bills of Concern:

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction thus crippling public employee unions. (Passed out of S-State Administration Committee)

HB 251 is a so-called “right to work” bill that creates an existential threat to organized labor in Montana.  In states where this legislation has passed, workers have experienced huge decreases in wages and increases in workplace injuries.  This bill takes away workers’ (such as nurses, educators, police, state troopers) fundamental right to advocate for fair wages and working conditions. (Passed out of H-Business & Labor/Hearing)

Anti-Clean Water Bills of Concern:

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (Passed in the Senate> now in H-Natural Resources)

SB 231 would weaken water protections and create loophole in subdivision law for “family transfers” (Passed in Senate> now in H-Natural Resources)

Tax Bills of Concern:

 SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (Passed in Senate> transmitted to House)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (Passed in House; Passed in S-Taxation))

Anti-Local Government Bills of Concern:

 HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  (Scheduled for 3rd reading on House floor 3/1/21)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (Passed in House >transmitted to Senate)

SB 257 would prohibit local governments from establishing green tariffs and clean energy plans. (Passed in S-Local Gov)

Pro-Developer Bills of Concern:

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (Passed Senate> now in H-Local Gov)

SB 174 would restrict local government’s ability to mitigate subdivision impacts; makes it easier to subdivide property (Passed Senate>now in H-Local Gov)

SB 211 would revise local subdivision review criteria regarding agriculture soils; very poor practice (Passed Senate> now in H-Local Gov)

Anti-Voting Rights Bills of Concern:

 HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  This would overturn the will of the people who passed same-day voter registration in a state referendum.  (Passed in House; now in S-State Administration Committee/Hearing was held on 2-15-21)

SB 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain groups to vote. (Passed the Senate> now in H-State Administration)

Anti-Human Service Bills of Concern:

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (Passed in Senate> transmitted to House)

Anti-Wildlife Bills of Concern:

SB 267 would reimburse individuals for their expenses for killing wolves.  This bill essentially re-establishes a bounty system that led to the extinction of wolves in the past.  (Passed out of S-Fish & Game)

HB 224 would allow the snaring of wolves which causes slow strangulation (Passed the House>now in S-Fish & Game)

HB 225 would extend the wolves hunting and trapping season.  This should be left up to FWP rather than the legislature. (Passed the House>now in S-Fish & Game)

 HB 318 changes the legal definition of wild buffalo or bison – redefining the wild, migratory Yellowstone bison herds as domestic or feral.  HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.  (Passed the House> now in S-Agriculture, Livestock, Irrigation)

HB 302 interferes with Montanan’s constitutional right to participate in decisions to reintroduce wild buffalo (our National Mammal) by giving a board of county commissioners veto authority over the state’s decision.  (Passed out of H-Agriculture Committee)

Bills to Support:

Note:  Many good bills are being tabled in committee (in essence, they were killed).  Here are a few that have survived so far:

HB 235 would create a nutrition incentive program that helps food-insecure Montanans afford more local fruits & vegetables, while directly supporting MT farmers. For every SNAP dollar spent at participating sites in MT, SNAP customers receive an extra Double SNAP Dollar to spend on fresh produce up to $20 per day. (Passed out of H-Human Services Committee)

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. (Passed in Senate>now in H-Taxation)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (Passed in the Senate> now in H-Energy)

SB 147 would authorize commercial energy efficiency program (Passed Senate >now in H-Energy)

HB 448 would increase the cap on non-residential rooftop solar (Scheduled for 3rd reading on House floor 3/1/21)

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Representative Braxton Mitchell voted for an anti-Public Lands bill on the House floor despite campaigning as a champion of public lands.  He voted yes on HB 320 on 2/22/21.  Please let Rep Mitchell know how disappointed you are with his vote.

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What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

If you know others who would like to receive this newsletter, forward it to them.  They can subscribe by sending their email address to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Legislative Watch” in the subject line.

When I am full of despair about these times, this poem by Wyndell Berry helps:

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

 

Legislative Watch Newsletter #6

February 21, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion. You can address more than one bill on the same phone call.

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The list of horrible bills just keeps getting longer.  This is one of the worst Montana Legislatures in decades.  What will Montana look like if all of these bad bills get passed?

As discouraging as this list of horrible bills is, please don’t let it disempower you from taking what action you can!

Anti-Public Land Bills of Concern:

 HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  (Scheduled for 3rdreading on House floor on 2/22/21)

Anti-Clean Energy Bills of Concern:

HB 359 would gut rooftop solar in Montana through radically decreasing net-metering credits; this is horrible for the solar energy industry in Montana and is a job-killer. (H-Energy, Technology; hearing was on 2/19/21)

SB 237 would eliminate the requirement that utilities purchase power from community renewable projects (S-Energy; hearing was held 2/18/21)

HB 188 would drastically increase registration fees on electric vehicles; just wrong! (H-Appropriations; hearing 2/22/21)

SB 84 would weaken the power of the Montana Consumer Council which protects ratepayers.  It eliminates conflict of interest requirements for those appointed to serve. (Passed the Senate and onto the House)

SB 201 would create barriers to renewable energy projects.  Northwestern Energy does not have to consider carbon costs and can pass costs onto customers (Passed out of H-Business & Labor)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  This bill would overturn the people’s initiative that was passed in 1978 that would give the public a vote on new facilities. (Passed the House and on to the Senate)

HB 170 would dramatically lower the tax rate for gas plants that use a tiny percentage of green hydrogen. facilities that use green hydrogen.  The bill needs to be amended to give the tax break to only the hydrogen portion of a plant. (Passed out of H-Taxation Committee)

SB 176 would keep Colstrip open as long as Northwestern Energy desires it (Passed out of S-Energy & Telecommunications)

Anti-Independent Judiciary Bills of Concern:

SB 140 would eliminate the independent Judicial Nominations Commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process by allowing the Governor to appoint ideological and/or unqualified judges. (Passed the Senate, now in H–Judiciary)

SB 252 would make it easier to impeach a judge for rulings that the legislature doesn’t like; probably unconstitutional (S-Judiciary; hearing on 2/23/21)

HB 342 would make judicial races partisan when Montanans have shown that they want non-partisan judges. (Passed out of House Judiciary)

Anti-Good Government Bills of Concern:

SB 227 would strip agency authority to promulgate regulations; allows legislature to pass a resolution and overturn a regulation which means that a regulation can be overturned by pressure from a lobbyist (S-State Administration; hearing was held 2/19/21)

SB 277 says that the state can decide not to follow federal orders; very dangerous and probably unconstitutional (S-Judiciary; hearing 2-25-21)

HB 481 attacks free speech and free assembly by allowing criminal penalties for peacefully protesting infrastructure like pipelines; this is a political bill to go after environmentalists (H-Judiciary; hearing 2/24/21)

Anti- Public Education Bills of Concern:

 HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  (Passed the House: now in S-Taxation Committee)

HB 279 would allow any taxpayers (including corporations) to receive a tax credit of up to $200,000 for contributions to private school scholarship organizations with no accountability standards for the school.  Taxpayers who funnel money to these scholarship organizations are allowed to meet their TOTAL Montana income tax obligation through these donations. This bill encourages the privatization of schools. (H-Education Committee; hearing was held on 2/10/21)

HB 329 provides any special education student in Montana with a publicly funded “savings account” to attend a private school, again anywhere in the world, utilizing local school district and state funding.   Students would still be classified as students of their home public school district, creating potential liability and expense for Montana school districts.  (H-Education Committee; hearing was held on 2/15/21)

Anti-Labor Bills of Concern:

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction thus crippling public employee unions. (Passed out of S-State Administration Committee)

HB 251 is a so-called “right to work” bill that creates an existential threat to organized labor in Montana.  In states where this legislation has passed, workers have experienced huge decreases in wages and increases in workplace injuries.  This bill takes away workers’ (such as nurses, educators, police, state troopers) fundamental right to advocate for fair wages and working conditions. (H-Business & Labor/Hearing was held on 2/16/21)

Anti-Clean Water Bills of Concern:

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (Passed in the Senate onto the House)

SB 231 would weaken water protections and create loophole in subdivision law for “family transfers” (Passed out of S-Local Gov)

Tax Bills of Concern:

 SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (Passed out of S-Taxation Committee)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (Passed out of H-Taxation Committee)

Anti-Local Government Bills of Concern:

 HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  Passed out of H-Local Government Committee and referred to H-Business & Labor Committee; hearing on 2/22/21)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (Passed in House and onto the Senate)

SB 257 would prohibit local governments from establishing green tariffs and clean energy plans. (S-Local Gov; hearing 2/24/21)

Pro-Developer Bills of Concern:

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (Passed Senate, now in H-Local Gov)

SB 174 would restrict local government’s ability to mitigate subdivision impacts; makes it easier to subdivide property (Passed out of S-Local Gov)

SB 211 would revise local subdivision review criteria regarding agriculture soils; very poor practice (Passed out of S-Local Gov)

Anti-Voting Rights Bills of Concern:

 HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  This would overturn the will of the people who passed same-day voter registration in a state referendum.  (Passed in House; now in S-State Administration Committee/Hearing was held on 2-15-21)

SB 169 would change ID requirements for voting to make it harder for certain groups to vote. (Passed the Senate/H-State Administration; hearing was held 2/19/21)

Anti-Human Service Bills of Concern:

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (S-Public Health, Welfare, & Safety committee/Hearing was 1/20/21)

Anti-Wildlife Bills of Concern:

HB 224 would allow the snaring of wolves which causes slow strangulation (Passed the House/now in S-Fish & Game/hearing was held on 2/18/21)

HB 225 would extend the wolves hunting and trapping season.  This should be left up to FWP rather than the legislature. (Passed the House/ now in S-Fish & Game/hearing was held on 2/18/21)

 HB 318 changes the legal definition of wild buffalo or bison – redefining the wild, migratory Yellowstone bison herds as domestic or feral.  HB 318 disregards the distinction of wild buffalo held in public trust as wildlife, from domestic bison (livestock) owned as private property.  (H-Agriculture Committee/hearing was held on 2/16/21)

HB 302 interferes with Montanan’s constitutional right to participate in decisions to reintroduce wild buffalo (our National Mammal) by giving a board of county commissioners veto authority over the state’s decision.  (Passed out of H-Agriculture Committee)

Bills to Support:

Note:  Many good bills are being tabled in committee (in essence, they were killed).  Here are a few that have survived so far:

HB 235 would create a nutrition incentive program that helps food-insecure Montanans afford more local fruits & vegetables, while directly supporting MT farmers. For every SNAP dollar spent at participating sites in MT, SNAP customers receive an extra Double SNAP Dollar to spend on fresh produce up to $20 per day. (Passed out of H-Human Services Committee)

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. (Scheduled for 3rd reading in the Senate on 2/22/21)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (Passed in the Senate and onto the House)

SB 197 would improve requirements for Community Renewable Energy Projects. (S-Energy; hearing was 2/16/21)

SB 147 would authorize commercial energy efficiency program (Passed Senate and onto the House)

HB 448 would increase the cap on non-residential rooftop solar (H-Energy; hearing 2/22/21)

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Representative Braxton Mitchell’s work in the Montana Legislature has been less than stellar.  Not only has he voted for some of the most egregious bills before the legislature, but he sponsored two bad bills that luckily have gone nowhere.

Rep Mitchell’s Joint Resolution 11 was a resolution to designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization in Montana.  After its hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on 2/16/21 where he was chastised by the committee chair for his flippant attitude, thirty-three Republican legislators deleted their names from the list of sponsors.

Rep Michell’s HB 314 would force all customers of a utility to pay increased utility bills to keep obsolete coal fired power plants open in order to artificially prop up the towns where the power plants are located.  We need to help workers displaced by the transition to clean energy, but not by prolonging the life of a dying industry.  (Tabled in H-Energy Committee after hearing)

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What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

If you know others who would like to receive this newsletter, forward it to them.  They can subscribe by sending their email address to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Legislative Watch” in the subject line.

 

 

 

Newsletter #5>sent February 13, 2021

You can make a difference in the Montana Legislature!  Print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion. You can address more than one bill on the same phone call.

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A bill sponsored by Representative Braxton Mitchell in House District 3:

HB314 would force all customers of a utility to pay increased utility bills to keep obsolete coal fired power plants open in order to artificially prop up the towns where the power plants are located.  Although we need to help workers displaced by the transition to clean energy, we do not need to prolong the life of a dying industry on the backs of electricity customers.  This bill has a hearing in the H-Energy, Technology, & Federal Relations Committee on Monday 2/15/21 at 3:00.

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While Governor Gianforte pushed for tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens this past week, many bills moved through committees and onto the floor of both chambers.  Here is where we are at this point:

Bills of concern that have passed both the House and Senate:

HB102 allows concealed-carry weapons on college campuses, state buildings, and banks with No Permit and No Training.  Sent to Governor Gianforte.

Bills of concern that are moving to the House Floor:

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  Currently the public votes on this. (Passed out of H-Energy, Technology, & Fed Relations Committee)

Bills of Concern that are moving to Senate Floor:

SB 140 would eliminate the independent Judicial Nominations Commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process.  (Passed out of S-Judiciary Committee)

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction thus crippling public employee unions. (Passed out of S-State Administration Committee)

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (Passed out of S-Local Government Committee)

House Bills 136, 140, 167 and 171 would restrict abortion and penalize medical providers in a variety of ways.  These bills passed the House in party-line votes and was passed out of the S-Judiciary Committee.

Bills of Concern in Committee:

SB 159 would lower state income taxes for the top tax bracket and help the wealthiest Montanans while doing nothing for those who are struggling financially. (S-Taxation Committee)

HB 303 would exempt big businesses from paying the state business equipment tax while doing nothing for small businesses. (H-Taxation Committee)

HB 251 is a so-called “right to work” bill that creates an existential threat to organized labor in Montana.  In states where this legislation has passed, workers have experienced huge decreases in wages and increases in workplace injuries.  This bill takes away workers’ (such as nurses, educators, police, state troopers) fundamental right to advocate for fair wages and working conditions. (H-Business & Labor/Hearing on 2/16/21)

HB 320 sets the stage for the state to sell and transfer federal public lands in the future although the bill is written to sound like it will protect public lands. This is a sneaky anti-public lands bill.  (H-Natural Resources Committee/Hearing was on 2/8/21)

HB 359 is a very bad bill that undermines net-metering and would destroy rooftop solar energy on residences and businesses.   (H-Energy Committee)

HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  (Passed in House on party-line vote 64-34.  Rep Mitchell voted for this bill. Now in S-State Administration Committee/Hearing on 2-15-21)

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (S-Local Government Committee; hearing was held 2/3/21)

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  Passed out of H-Local Government Committee and referred to H-Business & Labor Committee)

HB 170 would dramatically lower the tax rate for facilities that use green hydrogen.  Although this could be a good bill with amendments, currently as written it would allow an electrical generating plant that burns 92% gas and only 8% hydrogen to receive a massive tax break.  The bill needs to be amended to give the tax break to only the hydrogen portion of a plant. (H-Taxation Committee)

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (H-Judiciary Committee/Hearing was held 2/2/21)

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (S-Public Health, Welfare, & Safety committee/Hearing was 1/20/21)

Anti-Public School Bills:

HB 129 undermines public education by allowing tax deductible contributions to private schools with no accountability requirements for those schools.  This bill has already passed the House (Rep Mitchell voted for this bill) and is now in S-Taxation Committee.

HB 279 would allow any taxpayers (including corporations) to receive a tax credit of up to $200,000 for contributions to private school scholarship organizations with no accountability standards for the school.  Taxpayers who funnel money to these scholarship organizations are allowed to meet their TOTAL Montana income tax obligation through these donations. This bill encourages privatization of schools. (H-Education Committee)

HB 329 provides any special education student in Montana with a publicly funded “savings account” to attend a private school, again anywhere in the world, utilizing local school district and state funding.   Students would still be classified as students of their home public school district, creating potential liability and expense for Montana school districts.  (H-Education Committee)

Bills to Support:

Note:  Many good bills are being tabled in committee (in essence, they were killed).  Here are a few that have survived so far:

SB 187 would increase the minimum wage from the current $6.15 an hour to $10 an hour in 2022, increasing by $1 each year until 2024, when it would hit $12 an hour.  Following 2024, the minimum wage would continue to increase based on inflation.  (S-Business & Labor Committee/Hearing was 2/12/21)

HB 235 would create a nutrition incentive program that helps food-insecure Montanans afford more local fruits & vegetables, while directly supporting MT farmers. For every SNAP dollar spent at participating sites in MT, SNAP customers receive an extra Double SNAP Dollar to spend on fresh produce up to $20 per day. (H-Human Services Committee/had hearing on 2/3/21)

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. Passed out of S-Taxation Committee)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (Passed out of S-Energy & Telecommunications Committee)

HB 228 would establish family and medical leave for Montana families (H-Business and Labor Committee/hearing 2/10/21)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

**********************************************************************************************

Newsletter #4>sent February 8, 2021

The number of bills being introduced in the Legislature is overwhelming!   We are getting a clearer picture of what it means to have total Republican control in state government—we are losing ground in areas of local control, individual freedoms, clean water, independent judiciary, and important elements of our social safety net.  The number of bad bills is truly disappointing, but there are some good bills too.  Here is where we are:

Bills that have passed both the House and Senate:

HB102 allows concealed-carry weapons on college campuses, state buildings, and banks with No Permit and No Training.  This bill passed the House.  Then, passed the Senate with amendments, so it went back to the House for final approval.

Bills that passed the House and have moved to the Senate:

HB 72 will fund retirement for our State Troopers in the Highway Patrol.  The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 80-20.  Rep. Mitchell voted against this bill.  Now in H-Appropriations Committee.

HB136, HB 171, HB 140, and HB 167 are anti-choice bills that passed the House on straight party-line votes.  Rep. Mitchell voted for all of these bills.  (S-Judiciary Committee)

HB 112 requires that transgender individuals compete in sports with the gender of their birth.  This is a discriminatory bill which conflicts with federal law and is probably unconstitutional. Some Republicans voted with Democrats against this bill, but it still passed the House and has gone to the Senate.  Rep. Mitchell voted for this bill.

HB 220 would prohibit sanctuary cities in Montana.  This bill passed the House in a party-line vote 66-34.  Rep Mitchell voted for this bill.

Bills of Concern:

HB 251 is a so-called “right to work” bill that creates an existential threat to organized labor in Montana.  In states where this legislation has passed, workers have experienced huge decreases in wages and increases in workplace injuries.  This bill takes away workers’ (such as nurses, educators, police, state troopers) fundamental right to advocate for fair wages and working conditions. (H-Business & Labor)

SB 140 would eliminate the judicial nominations commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process.  (S-Judiciary Committee>scheduled for hearing on 2/9/21)

HB 278 would roll back Montana’s hard-won requirements to disclose dark money in political campaigns.  (H-State Administration Committee/Hearing is scheduled for 2/5/21)

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction thus crippling public employee unions. Passed out of State Administration Committee and will go to floor of Senate.

HB 176 would end same day voter registration in Montana voters. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  Passed with amendments out of H-State Administration Committee.

SB 164 is an anti-clean water bill that would lower nitrate standards and would not be good for our rivers and streams. (S-Natural Resources Committee/had hearing on 2/3/21)

SB 165 would reduce water quality protections for subdivisions.  If Montana is going to grow, we need to do it right and not jeopardize our clean water.  (S-Local Government Committee; hearing was held 2/3/21)

SB 161 would allow a land subdivider to bypass important environmental review processes. (S-Local Government Committee; hearing was held on 2/3/21)

HB122 would allow the legislature to intervene if the Governor makes an emergency declaration.  For instance, in the COVID crisis. (Was passed out of H-State Administration Committee on 1-20-21)

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  Passed out of H-Local Government Committee as amended.

HB 170 would dramatically lower the tax rate for facilities that use green hydrogen.  Although this could be a good bill with amendments, currently as written it would allow an electrical generating plant that burns 92% gas and only 8% hydrogen to receive a massive tax break.  The bill needs to be amended to give the tax break to only the hydrogen portion of a plant. (H-Taxation Committee)

SB 130 would limit the ability of the Commissioner of Political Practices (CoPP) to pursue investigations into campaign finance complaints.  Passed out of S-State Administration Committee as amended.

HB 257 would prohibit local governments from having anti-discrimination ordinances. (H-Judiciary Committee/Hearing was held 2/2/21)

SB 138 would repeal tribal property tax exemption (S-Taxation Committee)

SB 100 would place extra requirements (costing about $2.8 million) on state agencies who administer aid to the poor despite the fact that there is very little evidence of fraud. (S-Public Health, Welfare, & Safety committee)

HR 273 would eliminate the public’s say in nuclear facilities.  Currently the public votes on this. (H-Energy, Technology, Fed Relations; hearing on 2/8/21)

Bills to Support:

HB 99 would prevent fast-track approval of fossil fuel plants.  (H-Energy Committee/Hearing happened on 2/3/21.)

HB 235 would create a nutrition incentive program that helps food-insecure Montanans afford more local fruits & vegetables, while directly supporting MT farmers. For every SNAP dollar spent at participating sites in MT, SNAP customers receive an extra Double SNAP Dollar to spend on fresh produce up to $20 per day. (H-Human Services Committee/had hearing on 2/3/21)

SB 7 would expand tax incentives for clean energy and encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation. Passed out of S-Taxation Committee.

SB 124 would give employers a tax incentive to reimburse up to $5000 of an employee’s student loan debt. (S-Taxation Committee)

SB 147 would be good for small businesses and residential owners by offering property owners financing for energy conservation projects on their buildings. (S-Energy & Telecommunications Committee; hearing was held 2/2/21)

HB 228 would establish family and medical leave for Montana families (H-Business and Labor Committee/hearing 2/10/21)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

I encourage you to print out this newsletter, circle the bills that concern you, and call 406/444-4800 to register your opinion.  You can make a difference!

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Note:  It is impossible to cover all of the important bills being considered by the Legislature.  This newsletter will highlight some.

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Newsletter #3>sent January 29, 2021

Bills are moving through committees and some have already received votes on the floor.  Here is where we are:

Bills that have been voted on in the House:

HB 72 will fund retirement for our State Troopers in the Highway Patrol.  The bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 80-20.  Representative Braxton Mitchell did not stand with our State Troopers.

HB102 allows concealed-carry weapons on college campuses, state buildings, and banks with No Permit and No Training.  This bill passed the House on a straight party-line vote. It will be considered by the Senate. Rep Mitchell voted for this bill.

HB136, HB 171, HB 140, and HB 167 are anti-choice bills that passed the House on straight party-line votes.  Rep Mitchell voted for all four bills.

HB 112 requires that transgender individuals compete in sports with the gender of their birth.  This is a discriminatory bill which conflicts with federal law and is probably unconstitutional. Some Republicans voted with Democrats against this bill, but it still passed the House and will go to the Senate. Rep Mitchell voted for this bill.

HB 113 would have prohibited medical providers from conducting any life-changing or life-saving measures for transgender people under 18.  This bill narrowly failed in the House with enough Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat it.  Rep Mitchell voted for this bill.

HB 36 will establish missing persons response team training grant program.  Passed in the House unanimously and bill was sent to the Senate.  Rep Mitchell voted for this bill.

Bills of Concern:

SB 85 would raise taxes on wind energy thus hurting wind energy development in Montana.  (S-Taxation Committee)

SB 140 would eliminate the judicial nominations commission which ensures that nominees are competent and qualified before appointment by the Governor.  This bill would devalue the independent judiciary and politicize the process.  (S-Judiciary Committee)

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction thus crippling public employee unions. (S-State Administration Committee)

HB 176 would end same day voter registration by closing late registration for Montana voters at 5 p.m. the Friday before an election. Under current law, the registration period remains open until polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.  (H-State Administration Committee)

SB 164 is an anti-clean water bill that would lower nitrate standards and would not be good for our rivers and streams. (S-Natural Resources Committee)

HB145 would decrease the power of local health boards.  Under this law, they would be able to make recommendations, but could not order any actions or behaviors.  (H-Local Government Committee)

HB122 would allow the legislature to intervene if the Governor makes an emergency declaration.  For instance, in the COVID crisis. (Was passed out of H-State Administration Committee on 1-20-21)

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.  (H-Local Government Committee)

HB 170 would dramatically lower the tax rate for facilities that use green hydrogen.  Although this could be a good bill with amendments, currently as written it would allow an electrical generating plant that burns 92% gas and only 8% hydrogen to receive a massive tax break.  The bill needs to be amended to give the tax break to only the hydrogen portion of a plant. (H-Taxation Committee)

SB 130 would limit the ability of the Commissioner of Political Practices (CoPP) to pursue investigations into campaign finance complaints.  [Note: Clearly an attempt to get away with mischief.] (S-State Administration Committee)

Bills to Support:

HB 235 would create a nutrition incentive program that helps food-insecure Montanans afford more local fruits & vegetables, while directly supporting MT farmers. For every SNAP dollar spent at participating sites in MT, SNAP customers receive an extra Double SNAP Dollar to spend on fresh produce up to $20 per day. (H-Human Services Committee)

HB 98 and HB 35 would increase resources for dealing with Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women. (H-Judiciary Committee)

SB 2 builds on a bill from last session that prevents the use of exact-location GPS wildlife trackers for hunting, making the practice a prosecutable offense. (Tabled in S-Fish & Game Committee)

SB7 would encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation through incentive programs. (S-Taxation Committee)

SB 124 would give employers a tax incentive to reimburse up to $5000 of an employee’s student loan debt. (S-Taxation Committee)

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

Newsletter #2>sent January 21, 2021

In the first few weeks of the Montana Legislature, bills started lining up and hearings have been conducted.  Already a radical Republican agenda is emerging, such as the party-line vote in the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee to cut $1 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services.  Some bills, if passed, will allow guns on campuses, decrease the power of local health boards, limit the Governor’s emergency power in a crisis, destroy public employee unions, eliminate some transgender rights.

On the other side, there are three bills concerning Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, extension of tax credits for wind energy development, and a climate change carbon tax.

Bills of Concern:

HB102 would allow concealed-carry weapons on college campuses, state buildings, and banks with No Permit and No Training.  This bill has already passed the House and has moved to the Senate.

HB145 would decrease the power of local health boards.  Under this law, they would be able to make recommendations, but could not order any actions or behaviors.

HB122 would allow the legislature to intervene if the Governor makes an emergency declaration.  For instance, in the COVID crisis.

HB121 would allow elected officials to strike down or approve directives sent by local public health officials thus subjecting the scientific field to political pressures.

HB 112 would require that transgender individuals compete in sports with the gender of their birth which is not consistent with NCAA policy.

HB 113 would prohibit medical providers from conducting any life-changing or life-saving measures for transgender people under 18.

SB 89 would outlaw an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction (thus crippling public employee unions).

Bills to Support:

HB 98, HB 36, HB 35 would increase resources for dealing with Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.

HB 150 would require large sources of greenhouse gases (i.e., coal-fired power plants and natural gas plants) to pay $10 per ton of greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere. It will also require the state to develop and implement a modest plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 25% by 2035 and 50% by 2050.  [I testified on this bill in the House Taxation Committee this morning.]

SB 2 builds on a bill from last session that prevents the use of exact-location GPS wildlife trackers for hunting, making the practice a prosecutable offense.

SB7 would encourage the use of renewable energy and energy conservation through incentive programs.

What you can do:

You can express your opinion on any bills by calling 406/444-4800.  A note will be sent to every member of the committee who is hearing the bill.  You can address more than one bill on a single phone call.

If you would like to testify, you can register at www.leg.mt.gov  You need to register by noon the day before the hearing.

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Newsletter #1> sent January 11, 2021

The 2021 Montana Legislature began on Monday, January 4.  In the next few months, the legislature will be working on hundreds of bills on many topics.  The priority for this newsletter will be to follow those bills of greatest concern.  This newsletter will also let you know how you can make your thoughts known to legislators.  Your comments can make a difference in how legislators vote!

The new representative from House District 3, Braxton Mitchell, was sworn in last Monday.  He will be on the Education Committee and the Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP) Committee.  This newsletter will follow his actions and votes in those committees, as well as his votes on the House floor.

The website for the Montana Legislature at www.leg.mt.gov is filled with good information about bills and committee meetings and how you can testify in committees remotely.

Thanks for signing up for this newsletter.  If you decide that you no longer wish to receive it, just send an email to powersforthepeoplehd3@gmail.com and put “Discontinue Newsletter” in the subject line.

Thanks for your continued interest in what happens in the Montana Legislature.  The work that they do will affect all of us. Together, we can make a difference!