The 2017 Legislature will be starting then, and it’ll go until the end of April.
Laws will be passed and people’s lives could change because of that.
Sometimes common people will be helped, other times it’ll be the rich helping themselves.
Most of the 150 legislators that will gather for those 4 months will be old, retired, property owners.
Very few will be young, still working, or low-income.
Some voices will be heard, others will not.
Each of those voices will seek to further their agenda…whatever that may be.
One way to discern that agenda is by looking at the bills put forth, bills that hope to see the governor’s pen in a positive light, thus becoming law.
So what are these bills…and what is the 2017 Montana Legislature’s overall agenda?
When you type in “Montana 2017 legislature” into Google you don’t get a whole lot of results.
There’s the usual .gov pages, a bit from Wikipedia, and then my January post on 20 bills needed for the 2017 Legislature, as well as who’s running.
I’m very good at getting obscure and not-yet-talked-about Montana political stories onto the first page of Google.
Besides that I see the Montana Dental Association had a post up in July talking about their plans to require third-party reimbursement for services delivered by tele-dentistry.
We also have a 2015 post from the National Federation of Independent Businesses talking about the business equipment tax exemption, income tax reform, stopping local-option sales taxes, stopping minimum wage increases, and stopping paid leave proposals.
The real meat and potatoes, however, are the 610 bills that have been drafted. Some are ready to go, others have been cancelled and some are on hold.
Who’s putting these bills forth? Tons of people and quite a few state agencies.
- Ed Buttrey of SD 11 has at least 15 bill drafts, most dealing with liquor and gaming and local government laws. He also put forth one to create offenses “related to assault on healthcare and emergency providers,” something I also recommended in my January post.
- Diane Sands of SD 49 has 7 bill drafts, most dealing with revising our medical marijuana laws, removing the 3-patient limit, removing marijuana from schedule 1 in Montana, and creating a regulatory system for medical marijuana.
- Pat Connell of SD 43 has lots of bill drafts, most dealing with revisions to our water laws.
- Kris Hansen of SD 14 has at least 20 bill drafts, most dealing with tax laws. She also wants “deferred maintenance for state parks” and revisions for “campus sexual assault” and “victim’s rights.” She also aims to “eliminate income tax on social security income.”
- Mary Caferro of SD 41 has 6 draft bills alone that are generally revising insurance laws. She also put forth more “generally revise” medical marijuana bills, 5 months after Diane Sands did so. Caferro also wants to “revise child protective service laws.”
- Tom Facey of SD 50 has a few bill drafts out there, including one to “revise laws governing MUS board of regents acceptance of naming of buildings.”
- Jill Cohenour of SD 42 has 6 draft bills, most dealing with milk and livestock laws.
- Bryce Bennett of HD 91 has a few draft bills, one of them requiring “a fee for presidential candidates to file for office” and another to “change name of absentee ballots to mail ballots.”
- Bob Keenan of SD 5 has a few bill drafts, one of them revising laws “related to the protection of freedom of speech.”
- Bridget Smith of HD 31 has a bill to change the name of the Columbus Day holiday.
- Jim Keane of HD 73 has a ton of bill drafts, most with energy laws, environmental laws, labor laws, resource laws, worker’s comp laws and a few more. He also wants to keep the Department of Natural Resource damage program in Deer Lodge.
- Moffie Funk of HD 82 has a bill draft to “authorize automatic voter registration.”
- Tom Jacobson of HD 21 has too many bill drafts to count. One is to “revise the definition of ‘elder abuse’” and “prohibit marketing of payday loans.” He has another to “prohibit outfitting on state lands inaccessible to the public” and another to “require roads to remain open during a dispute over legal access.” Jacobson also wants to “create an office position of philanthropy under the governor” and “revise personal income tax bracket laws.”
- Mike Phillips of SD 31 has lots of bill drafts, many dealing with net metering laws, increasing the cap on net metering, as well as revising oil and gas tax rates to “provide funding to local governments.”
- Llew Jones of SD 9 has tons of bill drafts, most dealing with tax laws, school funding, and banking issues.
- Dee Brown of SD 2 has a few draft bills, one to “establish a Montana trade center in Calgary” and another to revise laws dealing with “certain chemical de-icers on Montana roads.”
We’re just scratching the surface here, folks.
I haven’t even listed any of the agency draft bills, nor have I focused on the work done by the interim committees.
We also haven’t discussed Bullock or Gianforte or which one of them will be driving the 2017 legislative agenda.
What we do know is that many senators are currently safe, not looking at elections, while many in the House can say the same, either because they have no opponent or their opponent isn’t viable.
So they’ll get in, and that’s who we’re getting most of our draft legislation from.
As you can see, I highlighted the agendas of just 16 legislators.
Clearly these folks are the most knowledgeable as they’ve put their agenda forth first, thus paving the way.
Besides that though…what are the major issues that’ll be shaping the conversation in Montana for the first 4 months of 2017?
When it comes to infrastructure I see that SD 9’s Llew Jones has LC 357 to “general revise Montana infrastructure investment laws.” Kris Hansen has a bill to “provide for transportation infrastructure.” Eric Moore of SD 19 wants to “generally revise infrastructure funding laws.”
When it comes to refugee resettlement I see that David Howard of SD 29 has a bill forth to “prohibit local governments from enacting sanctuary policies” while Bob Keenan of SD 5 wants to “revise laws related to refugee resettlement support for local governments.”
When it comes to children’s rights I see that Eric Moore of SD 19 wants to “revise laws regarding law enforcement’s role in child removal situations.” The Supreme Court by Law and Justice Interim Committee wants to “revise child abuse diversion project laws.” Tom Jacobson of HD 21 wants to “establish third party parenting rights and child support requirements.” Mary Caferro of SD 41 wants to “revise child protective service laws.” There’s also legislation for when parents rape children.
When it comes to sales taxes I see nothing, not even local-option sales taxes. That can be deceiving, however, as Ed Buttrey has several bills drafted to “generally revise local government laws,” which could be a way to slap sales taxes on certain communities, or at least give those communities the ability to put ballot language forth to do that. Pat Connell of SD 43 is trying to do the same thing.
When it comes to water rights we have lots of bills from Pat Connell, one from Jim Keane, and some from DNRC to “generally revise water laws.” I also see that attempts are being made to “clarify water commissioner appointments” while requiring an “education program for water commissioners.”
When it comes to wages we have just one bill forth, Eric Moore’s LC 69 to “generally revise laws related to prevailing wage.” The state VA is trying to shore-up “fire relief association disability and pension funding requirements” as well.
When it comes to Social Security I see that 4 legislators have draft bills put forth to get rid of income taxes on that.
Well, that’s about it.
This is a brief glimpse at what the news media and the politicians will be talking about after the election.
Please remember, one of the most important things we’ll be waiting to see is who’s on the Committee on Committees.
That will tell us what the Democratic and Republican make-up is, and whether legislation will even get out of committee or not.
I have a feeling most committees will be controlled by the GOP with more hardliners in charge than moderates.
This was the case with the Committee on Committees in the week after the 2014 Election.
Alright, that’s it for me this week.
Have fun watching the scrambling-for-votes news during this final week of Election 2016!