A timely (and hopefully entertaining) update (and unsolicited perspectives) provided by Shantil Siaperas–MACo Communications Director & Editor of MACo’s Legislative Update–to keep you apprised of what’s happening on the Hill during the 2023 Legislative Session.
An Update & Unsolicited Perspectives Provided by Shantil Siaperas, MACo Communications Director & Editor of MACo’s Legislative Update
MACo's Legislative Update
Volume 27, Issue 10
Published March 26, 2023
Published March 26, 2023
Volume 27, Issue 10
(If you’re not interested in the meandering thoughts of a rambling lobbyist and just want to checkout MACo’s Legislative Update, I sympathize. Click the button below for instant access to our first issue of the session.)
Nope. Nope. Nope.
Well, hey there MACo Folks!
How are you? Doing well? Have a nice weekend? Did ya get outside and enjoy all the…outside? I can’t really remember what’s out there…but I hear it was…weathery? With…lots of…weather? Maybe? (K. You caught me. I haven’t looked out a window recently. Since Friday. My computer provides enough light.)
Anyway, I sincerely hope the last couple of days were great…best ever…the kind you digitally capture and immediately throw on Facebook KNOWING it’ll make everyone green with the envies…Really. Good. Times.
Now, hug a loved one, grab a drink, and take a seat…because I’m about to ruin your week (and not with my super sic almost-rhymes…those are purely for your pleasure—you’re welcome).
We’re headed into another transmittal week, except this one doesn’t conclude with a lovely sabbatical. Next Monday, April 3rd, is the deadline for revenue bills, bills with appropriations, and bills proposing referenda to transfer to the other chamber, i.e. “money bill transmittal” (MBT).
And while MBT is not quite as “big” as GBT (general bill transmittal)—fewer bills—it’s still significantly significant. But before we get into this week, let’s quickly review last week…
Budget bill passes
No surprise here that House Bill 2 sauntered and swayed its big ol’ surplussed budget self on through its first Floor Session, EXACTLY as expected. (It’s like I can see the future.) The bill has since been transmitted to the Senate and referred to the Finance & Claims Committee where it awaits its final hearing after which it may continue to mosey smoothly along through the process (unless they amend it, and the House doesn’t concur, and it goes to a free conference committee, which is the thing nightmares are made of).
Representatives from near and far went section after section explaining for hours on end what every (significant) part of the bill encompassed. Many-a-motion were indeed made and failed and made and failed…and made and failed, again and again and AGAIN, until finally, all the amendments that could be motioned had been moved…all of which died. Every. Single. One. Dead. (I pretty much just cut/pasted most of that from the last update. Boom. Clairvoyant. Told ya so.)
What Happens Next? (Budget-wise)
Companion bills, that’s what
Companion bills are growing tiny little legs and beginning to scurry through the process.
What is a “companion bill?”
It’s a little buddy bill for HB 2, and each section usually has one (section F is a wildcard). You see, within HB 2, legislators can place restrictions and conditions on the use of funds; however, they aren’t able to amend statute. That’s where the little buddy bills come into play.
Fun Fact: All bills appropriating funds must start in the House.
(Not really a “fun” fact… but a fact nonetheless!)
Companion bills to watch…
Section A (General Government): HB 864 – Authorize transfers and other necessary measures to implement HB 2-Section A
Section B (Public Health & Human Services): HB 917 – Authorize transfers and other necessary measures to implement HB 2-Section B
Section C (Transportation & Natural Resources): HB 868 – Authorize transfers and other necessary measures to implement HB 2-Section C
Section D (Judicial, Law Enforcement & Justice): HB 916 – Authorize transfers and other necessary measures to implement HB 2-Section D
Section E (Education): Not introduced yet – It will be carried by Representative Dave Bedey when it pops – likely LC0124.
Section F (Long Range Planning): Not introduced yet – It will be carried by Representative Mike Hopkins if it pops – maybe LC0127.
Keep at least one eye on these bills at all times. A couple of them often find themselves in free conference committees with little-to-no notice, where they can be amended without public participation.
What else happened last week?
- One of the property tax bills that will significantly impact local government was heard in Senate Tax: SB 511. (Watch the hearing here at timestamp 10:12:15 – click “Agenda” and then choose SB 511.)
- The Joint Select Committee on Election Security wrapped up their work with the creation of a final bill regarding enforcement. The proposed legislation hasn’t been introduced yet, but you can follow it here: LC4635.
- The House convened on Saturday…for 21 minutes to complete a short agenda. The Senate beat their time the previous week at 15 minutes. It appears they’re taking turns burning up days…
- The House Judiciary Committee met on Saturday for executive action.
- The House Local Government Committee convened on Saturday to hear six bills and subsequently conduct some executive action, two of which were on MACo bills:
– SB 143 – Allow for a referendum to terminate citizen initiated zoning district (MACo Resolution 2022-11)
– SB 173 – Revise county road abandonment process laws (MACo Resolution 2022-10)
– View our Legislative Update for other MACo Bill statuses.
Nope. No thank you.
As mentioned previously, this week leads us to money bill transmittal on April 3rd (6 legislative days away). This means bills are being introduced quickly, heard quickly, and acted upon quickly…it’s like ground hog day, except with money and statutes…so maybe a little more substantial…and painful.
There IS one small sliver of good news: money bills (and bills proposing referenda) can only be introduced through March 28th, which is Tuesday. Therefore, Tuesday is a good day. Why? Because by the end of Tuesday, we’ll know just about everything—bill-wise—that’s in play.
But we’re not there yet. Tuesday has to get bad before it gets good…
What you need to know, NOW
While there are MANY noteworthy bills being heard—and acted upon—this week, we want you to be more than aware of the bills below (the full schedule of bills can be viewed on our website).
Hearing on SB 519 – Revise laws related to maximum mill levies
Hearing on HB 865 – Provide for a local government expenditure limitation & penalties
Hearing on HB 890 – Require certain govt boards to provide audio/video recordings of public meetings
- Look familiar? This is a Zombie bill. It was previously a general bill (HB 328) that died because it was tabled and didn’t meet the transmittal deadline. Now, it has risen from the grave…How? Well, they tied on a dollar of course! Look at the final page of the bill and you’ll notice there is a $5,000 appropriation for the purpose of creating rules and guidance, which therefore made this new bill an appropriations bill—there are some other differences, but the primary objective is the same. #frankenstein)
SOME TIME THIS WEEK…
Hearing on SB 542 – Constitutional amendment to limit property values and property taxes
Executive Action on SB 511 – Revise government entity limitations on property tax increases
We encourage you to review the bills above, and as always, either come to Helena and physically participate or sign up for Zoom to provide virtual testimony. It’s important to let folks know how each bill impacts your county—examples and specifics work best.
!!! If you participate via Zoom…
- You MUST register by 5 p.m. the day prior.
- You MUST choose the option at the bottom of the form saying “yes” you want to testify before the committee via Zoom.
- Sign up for Zoom here: https://leg.mt.gov/public-testimony/
- Additional information on testifying virtually: https://leg.mt.gov/session/have-your-say/
- Look up legislators’ contact info here.
Wrap it up already!
We’re in the last month of the 68th Legislative Session, and it’s full of fast-flying deadlines. And with these deadlines comes longer days and tougher conversations. It’s going to feel awful and hard, because it IS awful and hard—the hardest I’ve seen in all my sessions since 2011. But no worries. We’ll all get through it. One. Bill. At. A. Time. (At least that’s been my mantra…thus far.)
So. Since things are about to become an inevitable and veritable poop shoot (trying to cut back on my cursing…bear with me), I’ll let you take your leave from this oh-so-sad update, dab your tears, and get back to whatever it is that you were doing today.
Me? I prefer denial. I’m gonna grab a big ol’ drink, look this week straight in its ugly face, and politely say, “no thank you.”
PS – 29 Legislative Days remaining…
PSS – I’ll actually be sipping decaf tea and working on few emails while looking at amendments…but that doesn’t sound as cool…
Below is a list or resources, some of which were mentioned in this update.
And Don’t Forget…
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 (i.e., the Legislative Session), 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 all the bills we’re currently watching as well as those in which we’re actively involved. Click the button below to check out the new issue.
Pro Tip: Our website’s hearing schedule is updated daily, with new hearings added as the week progresses, so be sure to check it out! It also has links to testify remotely and/or submit written public comment as well as watch legislative bill hearings.
For other pertinent information regarding the legislative session, visit the policy section of our website.
That’s all for now! See you either virtually via the internet highway or in the halls!
(the end…of the update, not the session, obvi)