Yellowstone County 14th Montana Legislative Report

April 10, 2017



by: Ed Bartlett, Yellowstone County Lobbyist

Syndicated by: Montana News

The Senate passed HB 2 on April 4th by a vote of 29 to 20, as part of the session-long effort to adopt and pass a budget (HB 2) acceptable to the Governor and the Legislature.  The Senate approved an additional $57 million to the budget passed by the House.


 Those additions increased the appropriations for most State agencies by relatively small amounts.  HB 2 will return to the House to consider the Senate amendments.  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. 


The House approved the general fund budget of $4.02 billion contained in HB 2 on a party-line vote of 59 to 41 on March 16th.  HB 2 is slightly more than the 2017 biennium appropriation with different allocations than the proposed Executive budget, and includes an ending fund balance of $200 million (the Governor’s ending fund balance would be $300 million).


This week, the Senate Finance Committee heard several infrastructure bills.  The House had passed these bills last week, including HB 5 (long-range building), HB 6 (renewable resource grants), HB 7 (reclamation and development grants), HB 9 (cultural and aesthetic grants), and HB 11 (treasure state endowment program).  The appropriations under these bills would pay for about $213 million in infrastructure projects.     


As of today, 1179 bills have been introduced, of the 2608 filed 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 have granted authority to cities and counties to adopt a local option luxury tax upon voter approval.This Bill was tabled in Senate Taxation Committee.A very similar local option tax authority bill, HB 577, sponsored by Rep. Dave Fern, was tabled in the House Taxation Committee.

  • Infrastructure Funding:1) The Governor’s budget includes $292 million for identified projects.2)HB 473, sponsored by Rep. Frank Garner, passed the House on March 29th, by a vote of 56 to 44.It was heard in the Senate Finance Committee on April 7th.The Bill would increase the statewide gasoline tax by 8 cents per gallon, providing about $35 million in new revenue for State highways and about $24 million in new revenue for local government streets and roads.3) In addition, the Billings Area Legislative Delegation is unanimously supporting an additional $5 million for the MSUB Science Building.This funding is included in SB 367, sponsored by Sen. Eric Moore, and in HB 645, sponsored by Rep. Mike Cuffe.SB 367 provides for $93 million in statewide infrastructure projects.SB 367 passed the Senate on March 30th.The other infrastructure bonding bill, HB 645, failed on 3rd Reading in the House on April 6th.

  • 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 has passed the Legislature, and has been signed by the Governor.

  • 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, but was tabled in House Business & Labor Committee.

  • 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 has passed the Legislature.

  • 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 has passed the Legislature and has been transmitted to the Governor.

  • 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”.It has passed the Legislature, and is scheduled to be signed by the Governor on April 13th.

  • 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, but was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee on March 29th.

  • SB 366, sponsored by Sen. Jill Cohenour, would provide for a new driver’s license to comply with the Federal Real ID Act.It was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on April 7th.

  • 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 passed as amended in the Senate.

  • 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 was concurred as amended in the Senate Energy & Transportation Committee. It passed the Senate on April 6th.

  • HB 83, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Bennett, revises, corrects and modifies election laws passed in the 2015 Session.It passed the Legislature as amended in the Senate.However, on April 7th, the Governor amended the Bill by including mail ballot provisions of SB 305 in HB 83.The Bill will be returned to the Legislature to consider these amendments.

  • HB 133, sponsored by Rep. Nate McConnell, to de-criminalize a number of criminal offenses and penalties was heard in Senate Judiciary Committee on April 6th.The Yellowstone County Attorney testified against this Bill.

  • HB 287, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Bennett, would make the voter absentee roster permanent.It passed the House, but was tabled in Senate State Administration.It was removed to the Senate on a “blast” motion, and passed the Senate on April 7th.

  • HB 442, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Court, would provide a tax exemption for public parks operated by not for profit organizations.It was tabled in House Taxation, but was reconsidered, and then passed the House.It was concurred as amended in Senate Taxation on April 6th.

  • 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 was signed by the Governor on March 31st.

  • HB 481, sponsored by Rep. Bob Brown, would allow counties to authorize the county to act on wildfires on all lands within the county when fire danger is immediate.The Bill passed the House, but was tabled in Senate Natural Resources Committee on April 7th.Commissioner Pitman opposed this Bill in the Senate Committee.

  • HB 586, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Lenz, would grant $2.5 million to the City of Laurel for its Yellowstone River water intake project.The Bill passed the House, and was heard in Senate Finance Committee on March 31st.



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