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!ACTION NEEDED! - HB 218 Veto Override - Contact Your Senators & Representatives NOW

Posted Date: 
May 15, 2013
Harold Blattie, Executive Director, Montana Association of Counties

Read the Bill:  HTML  |  PDF  |  Fiscal Note  |  Veto Letter  |  Additional Information

Attention Montana Elected Officials:  Please contact your Senators and Representatives IMMEDIATELY regarding House Bill 218 and urge them to vote yes on the veto override ballot and return it as soon as possible. In the links above you will find the bill, fiscal note, and the Governor’s veto letter.

HB 218 creates a new program to be administered by the Department of Commerce to provide grants to local governments for oil and gas impact projects including, but not limited to the following:

  • fire and emergency services
  • law enforcement
  • projects related to public health and public welfare, including educational or counseling programs related to sex trafficking and criminal solicitation issues, especially concerning youth (in each year, up to $50,000 may be used for projects related to grants for public health and public welfare as previously described).
  • wastewater treatment
  • drinking water systems
  • sanitary or storm water
  • sewer systems
  • solid waste disposal
  • roads and bridges
  • infrastructure expansion
  • other services

It is important to note that HB 218 does not specify projects—and therefore has a broader scope of eligibility.  It is specifically designed to address local government impacts explicitly resulting from a direct consequence of an increase in oil and gas development activity.  The Governor’s veto letter conveys that the reasoning behind the veto is the passage of the following bills:

  • HB 11, Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP)
    • TSEP has a limited purpose, directed toward infrastructure maintenance projects that must be planned at least two years in advance, and it is allocated statewide.
      • Example: A county bridge project would take about 2.5 years, at best, if all application deadlines are met.  Often these simple projects take about 4 years, once the repair or replacement need has been clearly identified and the necessary 50% matching local funds have been secured.
    • HB 218 allows local government entities impacted by oil and gas development the option to apply for grants to aid them in matters that are not planned, such as social issues having to do with a rapid influx of people moving into the city/county and an overwhelming number of people in the jails.’
    • Half of the TSEP appropriation is granted to local government entities in Montana’s oil and gas producing areas; however, there are 56 counties, and about 30+ are affected by oil and gas development.  HB 218 will help these affected counties, and the funds will be directed specifically for projects having to do with effects of oil and gas development.
  • HB 8, Renewable resource bonds and loans
    • HB 8 aids only two regional water system projects in oil and gas producing cities and counties; and both projects predate the current oil and gas development impacts:  Dry Prairie received congressional approval in 2000 and North Central in 2002.  (HB 8 is an appropriation toward Montana’s share of these water projects.)
    • HB 218, again, allows cities/counties the ability to acquire relief for problems that are not planned and that exist outside the realm of water projects, such as fire and emergency services.
  • SB 175, Generally revise public education funding (the school funding bill)
    • SB 175 is directed specifically towards schools, and it will provide some relief to schools near development-impacted areas; however, this bill is also a statewide step toward improving base funding for K-12 education and has much broader implications.  Overall, it is not designed for the sole purpose of impact mitigation.
    • HB 218, again, has a broader scope of eligibilty.

HB 218 would provide a one-time-only general fund appropriation of $15 million, to get money on the ground immediately for local government entities that need help now. To maintain the account, 25% or $10 million, whichever is greater, of the total U.S. mineral leasing funds will be appropriated for deposit in the new oil and gas impact account beginning FY 2014 (July).

HB 218 had overwhelming support throughout the 63rd Legislative Session.  After it was amended in its Free Conference Committee, the House passed HB 218 on second reading 98-2 and third reading 93-6 (click on the links to view the vote tabulations); and the Senate passed it 50-0 on second reading and  48-2 on third reading (click on the links to view the vote tabulations).

The Montana Association of Counties has a policy statement that supports HB 218“MACo supports legislation that will provide counties and municipalities with adequate, upfront, impact funding to alleviate the demands on county and municipal services intensified by oil activity that precedes any revenue generated and alleviate their needs throughout the exploration and tax holiday timeframe, so already stressed taxpayers will not suffer loss of services. MACo believes that the source of funding for this effort should not affect the current severance payments made to producing counties.” (Quoted from the 2013-2015 MACo Policy Booklet)

Veto Override Process:  The Secretary of State issued the ballot to Legislators on May 10.  The Legislators then have 30 days to return the ballot (poll closes on June 10). Failure to return the ballot results in an automatic “no” vote; therefore, it is often difficult to override a veto in this manner, as legislators are at home after a strenuous session—they also have jobs, vacations, and lives outside of the Capitol.  This makes it all the more important that you contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to vote “yes” on the veto override ballot and return it as soon as possible.  If two-thirds or more of the members of each house vote to override the veto, the bill becomes law.

Action:  We think that direct phone calls to your legislators would be most effective; however, if you choose to contact your legislators via mail/email, we have attached a letter to get you started—please feel free to add important points from this email and put it all on your county’s letterhead (do not simply forward this email).  Also, please copy us with your responses or let us know who you call, so we can keep track of the progress being made.

Additional Information: 
Harold Blattie | | 406.449.4360