The six Appropriations Sub-Committees presented budget recommendations to the full House Appropriations Committee this week, as part of the session- long effort to adopt and pass a budget (HB 2) acceptable to the Legislature and the Governor. The Appropriations Committee conducted executive action on HB 2 on March 9th and 10th. HB 2 will be on the floor of the House on March 15th and 16th. The HB 2 general fund budget as proposed by the Executive is just over $4 billion, a decrease of about 0.5% from the 2017 biennium appropriation.
As of today, 1020 bills have been introduced of the 2586 bill draft requests. For this Report, in addition to the budget, the following topics and bills are highlighted:
Local Government Optional Tax Authority:SB 331, sponsored by Sen. Mike Phillips, would grant authority to cities and counties to adopt a local option luxury tax upon voter approval.This Bill will be heard in Senate Taxation on March 16th.If adopted, the revenue must be used for “critical infrastructure projects” and must include property tax relief.A very similar local option tax authority bill, HB 577, sponsored by Rep. Dave Fern, was introduced this week, and will be heard March 14th in the House Taxation Committee.
Infrastructure Funding:1. The Governor’s budget includes $292 million for identified projects, including the Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, Romney Hall on the MSU campus, and a veteran’s home and care facility in Butte.2. HB 473, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, would raise the statewide gasoline tax by 8 cents per gallon.The increase is estimated to provide about $35 million in new revenue for State highways and about $24 million in new revenue for local governments.A 20% match would be required for the local government share. The Bill was heard in House Transportation Committee.Commissioner John Ostlund testified for MACO and Yellowstone County. 3.The Billings Area Legislative Delegation is unanimously supporting an additional $5 million for the MSUB Science Building.This funding is expected to be included in HB 5 or some other infrastructure bill under consideration by the Legislature.
Daily Detention Center Rates:HB 230, sponsored by Rep. Don Jones, would have set reimbursement rates for detention centers at “actual” costs.The Bill was tabled on Feb. 8th and missed the transmittal deadline.
SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Pat Connell, would clarify when a gathering of a quorum of county commissioners does not constitute a public meeting of the commissioners.The Bill passed the Senate and will be heard in the House on 2nd Reading on March 13th.
SB 72, sponsored by Sen. Pat Connell, is a firefighter presumptive illness bill. Unlike presumptive illness bills considered in previous Legislative Sessions, this Bill restricts the covered diseases and is funded by the State instead of the workers’ compensation system.The Bill passed the Senate and was heard in House Business & Labor Committee on March 8th.
SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney, would allow certain K-12 school district expansions.It would permit Lockwood and East Helena to include a high school in their districts.The Bill passed the Senate on Feb. 18th.
SB 151, sponsored by Sen. Dee Brown, would add a new legislative interim committee for local government topics.These matters are now part of the combined Education & Local Government Interim Committee.This Bill passed the Senate and will be heard in House Legislative Administration on March 14th.
SB 231, sponsored by Sen. Roger Webb, would designate Airport Road in Billings from Main Street to the Airport as the “Senator Conrad Burns Memorial Highway”.Commissioner Pitman supported this Bill in Committee.It passed the Senate and was heard on March 8th in House Transportation Committee.
SB 305, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, provides that the special election to fill the vacancy in the office of US Representative may be conducted by mail ballot.The Bill passed the Senate on Feb. 24th and will be heard in House Judiciary Committee on March 23rd.
HB 44, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Essmann, has been amended to add three, instead of five, new State District Judges in Montana (2 in Yellowstone County, and one in Missoula County).The Bill passed the House, and will be heard in Senate Judiciary on March 14th.
HB 61, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, would revise the allocation of 9-1-1 fees and provide for Next-Generation 9-1-1 services.HB 61 has passed the House, and will be heard in Senate Energy & Transportation on March 14th.
HB 83, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Bennett, revises, corrects and modifies election laws passed in the 2015 Session.It passed the House, and was “concurred in as amended” in the Senate Committee on March 10th.
HB226, sponsored by Rep. Zac Perry, would allow an increase of the amount of the property tax abatement for new or expanding industry. The Bill passed the House, but failed in Senate Taxation Committee on March 10th.
HB 287, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Bennett, would make the voter absentee roster permanent.It has passed the House, and will be heard in Senate State Administration on March 13th.
HB 442, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Court, would have provided a tax exemption for public parks operated by not for profit organizations.It was tabled in House Taxation on Feb. 23rd, but was removed from the table and passed as amended on March 10th.
HB 509, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patelis, would designate 6 miles of Interstate 90 between mile 445 and mile 451 in Yellowstone County as the “Deputy Sheriff David L. Briese, Jr. Memorial Highway”.The Bill passed the House, and will be heard in Senate Highways & Transportation on March 14th.