Volume 26, Issue 10
Published March 14, 2021

Just When You Think You’re Out, They Pull You Back In . . .

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

Welcome to this week’s legislative meanderings and Legislative Update, both of which are entirely based on true facts. Several of them. It might sound boring, but I assure you . . . it might be. HOWEVER, there is a touch of mystery stirred in there as well . . . maybe . . . Guess we’ll jump right in, shall we?!

True Fact #1: Wednesday is St. Patrick’s Day.

Yep. I know. Crazy. Time to celebrate. Don’t forget to wear your green, eat a reuben, grab a green beer, shoot some Irish whiskey, or hey! Drink Irish coffee all day! (Pro Tip: Wearing a mask helps hide your “coffee breath.”) It doesn’t really matter what you do—the important thing is do something and get your mind off of legislation and the legislature.

Speaking of the legislature . . .

True Fact #2: A freshly updated legislative calendar has been adopted by leadership.

And it’s going to make you cry. “Why?” you ask?  Because it pushes Sine Die out to MAY ELEVENTH (spelled out in bold for emphasis). I’d dab your tears, but I’m speaking to you from a digital device right now, sooooo grab a tissue. You got this. I got this. We got this. It’s all good.

A quick prayer for good measure, just in case we don’t “got this:” God, have mercy on all our souls. Leadership knows not what they do unto others nor unto themselves. Give us the strength to maintain a somewhat professional filter that keeps dreadful things from flying out of our exhausted and frail mouths during this extended and likely contentious time. Amen.

So why in the name of sweet baby (insert your deity here) would they do this to themselves and others? Well, that brings me to . . .

True Fact #3:  The American Rescue Plan (ARP) was signed into law last week.

What is ARP? Unofficially, in my language, it’s direct funding to counties to help pull together the broken pieces from the impacts of the last year, amongst many other things. Officially, it’s the latest COVID-19 relief package providing $1.9 trillion in mandatory funding, program changes and tax policies aimed at mitigating the continuing effects of the pandemic. It provides $362 billion to help states, counties, cities and tribal governments cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue, and mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a nutshell, a sh*t ton of cash is headed this way, and the Legislature is going to appropriate it. From what I can tell, and I’m no math wizard—my good friend Google is—the entire State of Montana has around $1.369 to $1.659 billion coming its way. And Montana’s counties are receiving approximately $207 million in DIRECT funding. No ifs, ands, or buts folks. WHAAAAAAAAT?! I know, my brain broke just typing all that. (Pro Tip: Read more about ARP and county-by-county estimated allocations on our website here.)

True Fact #4:  HB 632 just fell out of the sky and needs some tending to.

Representative Frank Garner is carrying the vehicle (i.e. the legislation, not a car) to appropriate the ARP funds: HB 632, Implement receipt of and appropriate federal stimulus and COVID recovery funds.

You’ll also want to pay attention to Representative Dave Bedey’s HB 630, a bill titled “Appropriate CARES II funds, supplemental, and temporarily revise ed funding,” which was HB 632’s skydiving buddy that dropped at the same time.

True Fact #5: HB 632 will be handled much like HB 2 (state budget bill).

The House Appropriations Committee passed HB 2 (General Appropriations Act) out of committee on Friday. It will be heard on the House Floor on March 22nd. (Keep your eyes peeled for companion bills.)

That means all the Appropriations Committee members are free to roam, right? Nope. They are being corralled back into their joint subcommittees to begin work on HB 632, except THIS time, they are JOINT Joint Subcommittees. Confused? I got you.

They are simply a combining of the Joint Subcommittees: two subcommittees = 1 joint subcommittee, but because the original subcommittees are already “joint subcommittees,” the joining of them into these new subcommittees makes them JOINT Joint Subcommittees . . . Okay. Not Helpful. I see that now.

Below is a list of three JOINT Joint Subcommittees (with slightly more friendly verbiage):

  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #1: Joint Subcommittee on General Government Subcommittee (Section A) + Joint Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning (Section F)
  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #2: Joint Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (Section B) + Joint Subcommittee on Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement & Justice (Section D)
  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #3: Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources & Transportation (Section C) + Joint Subcommittee on Education (Section E)

And last, but certainly not least, we have the “Select Committee on HB 632,” which does not have committee member assignments as of yet, but Representative Llew Jones is the assigned Chair, with Senator Ryan Osmundson assigned as Vice Chair. It could be as simple as combining Approps and Finance & Claims, but we don’t know for sure. Stay tuned and keep that tinfoil hat on standby.

When the subs finish their work, HB 632 will go back to the full Appropriations Committee, where I imagine it will continue to be treated like HB 2, with a section-by-section review followed by executive action on each section. The committee will then conduct executive action on the bill as whole. HB 632 will then hit the House Floor and head to the Senate.

Interested in How the State Plans on Spending These Buckets of Duckets?

Pay close attention to the schedule. It all begins tomorrow, Monday, March 15th at 8 a.m. with a convening of both the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance & Claims Committee in room 303 of the Capitol Building. The intent is to review the initial information available on ARP with the understanding that the situation is still evolving.

Upon adjournment of the Joint Committee (estimated to last about two hours), they will break into their subcommittees to begin appropriating the bazillion dollars coming to Montana (hyperbole is fun, who knew?).

HB 632 Hearings Scheduled This Week (Watch Online Here)

  • (H) Select Committee on HB 632
    • Monday, March 15th at 10 a.m.
    • Tuesday, March 16th thru Friday, March 19th at 8 a.m.
  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #1 MEETINGS (Joint Subcommittee on General Government Subcommittee AND Joint Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning)
    • Monday, March 15th at 10 a.m. in Room 317
    • Tuesday, March 16th thru Friday, March 19th at 8 a.m. in Room 317
  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #2 MEETINGS (Joint Subcommittee on Health and Human Services AND Joint Subcommittee on Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement & Justice)
    • Monday, March 15th at 10 a.m. in Room 102
    • Tuesday, March 16th thru Friday, March 19th at 8 a.m. in Room 102
  • COMBINED JOINT SUB #3 MEETINGS (Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources & Transportation AND Joint Subcommittee on Education)
    • Monday, March 15th at 10 a.m. in Room 472
    • Tuesday, March 16th and Wednesday, March 17th at 8 a.m. in Room 472

In Conclusion (‘Bout Time, I Know)

Let me quickly adjust my tinfoil hat after all those true facts I just threw at you.  It appears as though the Legislature is buying time so they can figure out exactly how to appropriate the money coming from the ARP funding. They therefore struck Saturday floor sessions from the Legislative Schedule, which bumped  forward the “appropriations and revenue bill transmittal” deadline.  The deadline was previously scheduled for April 1st, and now it’s April 8th. That’s one whole week, which in LD’s (Legislative Days) is two days short of a year. Seriously though, it’s more like two weeks, because those are gonna be some LONG days—hence double time, hence two weeks. You get it. Hence, we are moving on.

I have deduced—using my superior detective-like skills—that the only reason to push Sine Die out to MAY ELEVENTH (again, emphasis) is a ginormous chunk of money. So, although the light at the end of the tunnel has gotten a bit dimmer, the gold at the end of the rainbow may certainly make it worthwhile.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day Week!

(Where’s my coffee . . .)

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: 40 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