Volume 26, Issue 11
Published March 21, 2021

Beauty & The Two Beasts

Thoughts Provided by Shantil Siaperas, MACo Communications Director & Unofficial (Yet Still Official) Editor of MACo’s Legislative Update

(If you’re not interested in the meandering thoughts of a rambling lobbyist
and just want to check out the next issue of MACo’s Legislative update, I sympathize.
Click the button below for instant access to our latest issue.)

Access Latest Legislative Update Here

Last week’s meanderings had so many true facts it didn’t feel like the legislative session. So, this week, we’ll be bringing ourselves back into Legislative Land and focusing on some real (interesting) full-blown legislative updates . . . I apologize in advance for how dry things are about to become . . . get a glass of water (wine or whiskey), because you’re in for one un-wild ride . . .

A Big Beautiful . . . Budget Bill Update

If you think that a COVID-induced quarantine feels long, you just wait until tomorrow. House Bill 2 (the state’s budget bill) hits the House Floor at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 22nd. And those poor souls will go all the live long day, just amending and not amending and then amending and not amending again, section after section, motion after motion until finally all the amendments are motioned and the bill can finally be acted on as a whole.

House Bill 2 Resources

If you would like to follow HB 2 tomorrow, you’re gonna need some help to follow along, or you’ll feel like Pinocchio lost at sea right before the whale swallows him (it can be overwhelming). Below are some handy dandy links to help you semi understand what the heck is going on:

What Happens Next?

Companion Bills, That’s What

Companion bills have grown tiny little legs and are scurrying through the process—they are all drafted and progressing at various stages. What is a “companion bill?” It’s a little buddy bill for HB 2, and each section (A thru E) has one. In HB 2 legislators can place restrictions and conditions on the use of funds; however, they cannot amend statute. That’s where the little buddy bills (i.e. “companion bills”) come in. Below are the bills to watch:

  • Section A (General Government): LC0658
  • Section B (Public Health & Human Services): LC1790
  • Section C (Transportation & Natural Resources): LC0660
  • Section D (Judicial, Law Enforcement & Justice): LC2621
  • Section E (Education): LC1812
 Can’t Forget the Long Range Planning Bills

This week, after HB2 is done on the floor, the “Long Range Planning” bills will begin begging for attention. They’ve been sitting patiently in the House Approps Committee, quietly awaiting their day in the EA (Executive Action) sun, and that day is nigh. Below are the bills to watch:

  • HB 5, Long-Range Building Appropriations – Llew Jones
  • HB 6, Renewable Resource Grants – Mike Hopkins
  • HB 7, Reclamation and Development Grants -Mike Hopkins
  • HB 8, Renewable Resources Bonds and Loans -Mike Hopkins
  • HB 9, Cultural and Aesthetic Grants – Mike Hopkins
  • HB 11, Treasure State Endowment Program – Wendy McKamey
  • HB 12, Historic Preservation Grants – Mike Hopkins (Already moving – Amended and moved out of Committee on Friday, March 19th)
  • HB 14, Long-Range Building Bonding Program – Mike Hopkins

That brings us to the Beast . .  .

What? Yes. The Tale of the Beast & The Baby Beast

Pro Tip:  Refill that Drink . . .

We just talked about the big beautiful budget bill going to the Floor, so now we’ll turn our focus to the Beast and the Baby Beast, i.e. HB 632 and HB 630.

The $461 Million Baby Beast

HB 630 (i.e. the $461 Million Baby Beast) belongs to Representative Dave Bedey. This legislation deals primarily with silo’d funds, which come with little discretion. It provides federal appropriations to state agencies for funds received from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (also called the Coronavirus Response Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021).

HB 630 allows for the use of CARES and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to cover COVID-related enrollment changes in the next fiscal year (apparently there is some uncertainty in the projections and the return of the students). It also appropriates CARES Act II funds that were not appropriated in HB 3 (Supplemental Appropriations Bill) to the Office of Public Instruction, Department of Commerce, Department of Public Health & Human Services, Department of Labor & Industry, and the Department of Transportation.

Lastly, HB 630 provides one General Fund supplemental appropriation to the Office of Public Defender (OPD) to the tune of $350,000 for capital (death penalty) cases, which will allow OPD to complete the current fiscal year in the black. [(Nodding) Seems like a good place for that.]

NOTE: OPD usually receives a supplemental, but the Section D Subcommittee (on Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement & Justice) decided not to include it this year. Apparently, there was some confusion, and the Executive requested the supplemental in HB 630. To be clear, I’m only talking about OPD because it’s in the bill, which is the topic at hand, and not for any other reason at all. AT. ALL. And if anyone asks, I never mentioned it and will deny it entirely, because I don’t care, you don’t care, we don’t care . . . no one cares . . . Moving on . . .

What’s the status of HB 630? It’s soaring through the process. It was heard in the House Approps Committee last week, passed out of committee amended, flew through second reading on a 97-3 vote, and is scheduled for third reading tomorrow, Monday, March 22nd.

The $3 Billion Beast

HB 632 (i.e. the $3 Billion Beast) is the vehicle (more like monster truck) to appropriate the ARPA Funds, which is being carried by Representative Frank Garner. (Pro Tip: We added a new place on our website to add ARPA and HB 632 information. Check it out here.)

What is Happening With the ARPA Funds & HB 632?

HB 632’s Joint Subcommittees met last week for what were repeatedly called “work sessions.” The idea for each Joint Sub was to gather information and put together some ideas to present to the Select Committee on HB 632, the Legislative Fiscal Division, and the sponsor. There was no official action required on anything.

The subs worked from their “guiding principles,” which included using the most restrictive silo’d funds first and working their way to the least restrictive—sounds like a respectable plan. A couple of common themes were broadband as well as extending dollars through matching funds. Below are all recommendations that came to fruition:

Now that the Subs have completed their work on the House side, the sponsor—Representative Garner—is tasked with assembling a bill. He won’t be doing this on his own: LFD will be by his side, and I’d also say a few of his friends—Jones and Osmundson—from the Select Committee will be more than happy to assist. But I don’t know much; I just wear a pretty little tinfoil hat (fully equipped with functioning radio antennae).  As soon as they, ahem, I mean “he” . . . As soon as HE has a bill put together, the Beast will be brought before the Appropriations Committee, where the members will have the opportunity to amend it.

In Conclusion (Yes. The End. You’re Welcome.)

To summarize, the subcommittees worked diligently on the initial ARPA appropriations—if you know any legislative staffers, call and make sure they’re still breathing and offer to send supplies. Having said that, there is still a sh*t ton (that’s a scientific measurement for A LOT) of work to do; however, much is currently unknown, and we are all still waiting for Treasury to enlighten us with their many issuances of guidance.

Tomorrow is Legislative Day (LD) 56. We have 3 billion dollars to appropriate, approximately 4 billion ideas to choose from, and less than 3 weeks for this Beast to grow some legs and crawl itself over to the Senate by LD 67 to make the “Appropriation & Revenue Bill” transmittal deadline . . .

Tick. Tock. Goes the Legislative Clock.

Advil anyone?

And Remember . . .

If you find yourself on uneven footing during the legislative session at any time, no worries. We’re here to help keep you apprised of what’s happening on the hill. Every week until Sine Die during these trying and perplexing times, we’ll be releasing a new issue of the MACo Legislative Update (linked below and above).

Each issue always has an up-to-date session calendar, an easy-to-print bill hearings schedule for the upcoming week, and the status of bills we’re watching or in which we’re actively involved. Pro Tip: Our website’s hearing schedule will be updated daily as the week progresses and new hearings are added, so be sure to check that out. It also has links to testify remotely and/or submit written public comment.

Don’t forget to check out the bills section, where you’ll be able to follow the status of MACo’s legislation, as well as track the growing list of bills in which we are monitoring and/or actively participating.

Click the button below to check out the new issue.

For other pertinent information regarding the legislative session, visit the policy section of our website.

See you either virtually via the internet highway or in the halls!

PS: 35 legislative days remaining

(The Legislative Update is linked below.)
Questions? We Got you!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Eric Bryson, MACo Executive Director:  406-461-2084, ebryson@mtcounties.org

Jason Rittal, MACo Deputy Director:  406- 698-3255, jrittal@mtcounties.org

Shantil Siaperas, MACo Communications Director:  406-925-1134, shantil@mtcounties.org