News From the Front, April 3

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“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you. ” ― Pericles

Someone asked us to provide more background information on who these people are that are quoted in NFTF. Just as we look to Supervisors who have lived on the land for decades, we also look further back, actually much further back, to wisdom from the ages. This week we quote Pericles, who lived a short 66 years more than 2,500 years ago, but did enough memorable things in his life that he will be remembered forever. Here are a few details about Pericles:

But you likely want to know what happened this week in the Capitol…

Total number of Introduced Bills – 1166; total number of Introduced and Unintroduced Bills – 2465.

1. We started off thinking that most of our issues were moving along and looking positive. The giant funding bill for most of state government, HB 2, is making its last few stops before it goes to the Conference Committee for finalization and then to the Governor for consideration. The stop this week on 31st March was the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, where MACD testified in support of the bill. Jane Holzer from the Montana Salinity Control Association and Jeff Ryan, a Supervisor from Lewis and Clark Conservation District, were also there, but Supervisor Ryan had to leave before he could testify because the hearing took so long. MACD asked a number of Districts to telephone or write in to support this bill.

The committee discussion centered around the DNRC building, and little mention was made of Districts. Executive Action (the actual committee vote) on the bill occurred on Wednesday, 1st April. Several amendments were adopted and they will impact the Districts. We do not know the extent of the impacts yet. We will be working to mitigate any impacts and will keep you posted as to our progress. This bill will move to the floor of the Senate now.

2. Spending time in the hallways of the Capitol always seems to pay off for us. One of our partners asked if we had seen HB 368 , a bill to sunset voter approved property tax levies after a certain period of time. This bill is picking up steam, and Library lobbyists found it and already included an amendment to exempt themselves from this bill. Unfortunately, the bill did not show up on our radar until this week. We are working with the Senate Taxation Committee to amend this bill to exempt Districts.  This bill would have a serious impact on Districts, obviously, and MACD may need to call on Districts for help.

3. HB 6 (RRG) passed the House and was referred to Senate Finance and Claims and will be heard next week. Seven District projects are below the funding line currently in this bill. MACD will work to try to include those Districts’ projects as this bill moves the the Senate.

4. HB 7 (RDG) passed the House and was referred to Senate Finance and Claims and will be heard next week. We will be tracking this bill closely, as it contains two projects we have an interest in.

5. HB 40, the bill to revise the Board of Adjustments for Conservation Districts, was sent to the Governor on 30th March for his consideration.

6. The Governor signed HB 194, the bison bill. It is now state law since it became effective upon passage.

7. HB 553 is a bill revising laws related to aquatic invasive species, revising departmental duties, allowing other entities to operate check stations, and providing enforcement. MACD supports this bill. It passed out of Senate Natural Resources Committee on a close 6-5 vote. It is scheduled for second reading on the floor of the Senate on 7th April.

8. MACD supported SJ 2 , a resolution prepared at the request of the Environmental Quality Council. The resolution passed all hurdles and there will  be a study in the interim to look at the pros and cons of the State of Montana assuming the 404 permit system currently administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Your District may want to think about including this idea in your deliberations and possibly your resolution process.

9. The feral hog bill, SB 100, was amended and passed out of House Ag Committee on 31st March. It will be debated on the floor of the House soon, perhaps next week.

10. SB 176 is  a bill  to add a state soil as a new state symbol. It will be debated on the floor of the House soon, likely within two weeks. If it passes there, and we assume it will, it will be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

11. SB 247 is a bill to ban hunting sage grouse until 2021 to help the species recover. It was tabled in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee on 26th March.

12.   SB 261 is the Sage Grouse bill. It passed the full House 78-22 on 31st March. Because it has funds in the bill, it was re-referred to House Appropriations where there will be a hearing on 8th April.

13. SB 284 would would give authority to County Commissioners to regulate bison issues in their county. This bill was amended and passed out of House Ag Committee 13-9 on 31st March.  It will be debated on the floor of the House in the near future.

At any time we encourage you to contact us if you see a bill in NFTF that you have questions about. We will be happy to provide the details of our thinking.

Note to the Districts: We remember that we work for you and ask you to let us know at anytime what is on your minds.

Please look at the MACD Facebook page for other pictures and short comments about the Legislature.

*This name was suggested to Ann McCauley as a potential  name for her child.