John Sinrud’s memory is failing….

by jhwygirl

I don’t know if it really is the real John Sinrud posting comments in Rebecca’s recent Republicans vs. Reality, but if it is it only illustrates/affirms the hypocrisy that is prevalent in Montana’s Republican party.

In Rebecca’s post, Mr. Sinrud posted this:

why can’t one build in the wui but be required to have a defendable area around the house/buildings which will reduce the amount of time that fireman will have to defend the structure and put more people on the lines to contain the wild/forest fire. These are just a few items that need to be looked at. People like Sirota and others just want to demonize others that think differently than them.

SB 51 was proposed to address a good bit of what Mr. Sinrud speaks about in that comment, yet Mr. Sinrud voted against it. Here’s its synopsis:

AN ACT REVISING GROWTH POLICY AND SUBDIVISION LAWS; REQUIRING GROWTH POLICIES TO EVALUATE THE POTENTIAL FOR FIRE AND WILDLAND FIRE; INCLUDING FIRE AND WILDLAND FIRE AMONG THE NATURAL HAZARDS THAT LOCAL SUBDIVISION REGULATIONS ARE REQUIRED TO REASONABLY ADDRESS; REQUIRING SUBDIVISION REGULATIONS TO IDENTIFY AREAS UNSUITABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT UNLESS CERTAIN MITIGATION MEASURES ARE TAKEN, INCLUDING USE OF CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES PROVIDED IN DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY ADMINISTRATIVE RULES; PROHIBITING A GOVERNING BODY FROM INCLUDING CERTAIN BUILDING REGULATIONS IN SUBDIVISION REGULATIONS; REQUIRING THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY TO ADOPT RULES THAT IDENTIFY CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES TO MITIGATE FIRE HAZARDS; REQUIRING THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION TO ADOPT RULES TO ADDRESS DEVELOPMENT IN THE WILDLAND-URBAN INTERFACE; AMENDING SECTIONS 76-1-601, 76-3-501, 76-3-504, AND 76-13-109, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.

SB 51 passed, despite his vote, and was signed into law this past May.

So now local governments are required to have growth policies address wildland urban interface (WUI) issues. They are also required to have subdivision regulations that identify areas unsuitable for development without certain mitigation measures implemented. It will require, by nature of requiring those regulations, to have local governments enforce those mitigative measures. It further requires the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to adopt rules to address development in the WUI.

Mr. Sinrud also voted against another wui bill – SB 167, which required counties that don’t adopt wui regulations to reimburse the state or any general fund appropriation expenditure made by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for wildland fire suppression within the county’s geographic area.

That one also passed despite his efforts.

So one bill requires counties to regulate development in the wui by requiring mitigative measures, and the other bill says that if you don’t do it, the state isn’t picking up the tab.

In fact, both SB 51 and SB 167 is practically a role-call list of 23 (and 25 for SB167) Republicans in the House who voted against these common-sense bills.

Keep that in mind when you read this other comment of Mr. Sinrud:

Another point: this is what is wrong with politics why can’t people in all areas sit down and work for a positive change in our world.

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  1. My one concern with these bills lies in county enforcement and/or county reimbursement. A lot of our counties are either cash-strapped (Mineral, Lincoln) or just have so much trouble with citizens who continually vote “no” on any and all mill levies (Ravalli). I’m afraid homeowners would either get the proverbial slap on the wrist or the county would be unable to pay back state government in a reasonable amount of time.

    Still, John, you should have known better. We can look your voting record up on the Internet. How are we all supposed to sit down at the table together when you’re trying to whip the tablecloth out from underneath the place settings?

  2. The bills, Rebecca, required the counties to regulate. Enforcement is part of the zoning responsibilities – they’re already doing it.

    And regulations don’t require taxes, but you know that.

    The bills, thoughtfully and probably intentionally, didn’t require enforcement. That would/will come much much later – once there was a major fire where regulations weren’t enforced – and the state was stuck with bills that it couldn’t collect on because the law only required regulations.

    In other words, there wasn’t any penalty for not enforcing the regulations, only a penalty if there weren’t regulations in place.

    All levels of government do this all the time – write regulations but don’t write enforcement language into it. I can cite one huge example of it – the Missoula (both city and county) zoning regs. I call it harass-until-you-comply enforcement. If you hold out long enough, they (the city or the county) usually goes away.

  3. Maybe I shouldn’t argue this, but what’s the good of passing a law with no teeth to bite offenders? I think regulations do require taxes to a certain extent–a tax base is needed to fund law enforcement entities to find and punish those who violate the regulations.

    Think of Animal Control and those super scary illegal urban chickens.

  4. I don’t agree with it either – my philosophy is either have a law and enforce it or don’t have it at all.

    Think about taxes – there is a law that requires taxes be paid, even by out-of-state people. Yet it isn’t enforced.

    And an attempt in this past legislature to have enforcing regulations added failed.

    Hmm. Wonder who voted against that?

    Maybe Sinrud should watch out for cannibalistic chickens. I know someone who knows someone and I can make arrangements.

  5. He sleeps with the eggs?

  6. ochenski

    Laws without money are meaningless.

    Rebecca is not wrong to question who will pay for the enforcement by the counties. In the vernacular of DC and Helena, this is generally called an “unfunded mandate” against which virtually all politicians rail.

    A good example from my own personal experience was passing the Mini-Superfund bill in 1985 for Montana to clean up the more than 300 haz waste sites around the state that aren’t big enough to make the fed superfund list. We passed the law, but Gov Schwinden never did anything about the cleanups. So when I asked him why, he said “you didn’t give us any new money.” The next session we came back, tagged 12% of the Resource Indemnity Trust interest and dumped it into a new fund we named the Environmental Quality Protection Fund (so future legislatures would have a tough time ripping it off), and suddenly we had a law that worked.

    The real problem here is that getting appropriations are a lot tougher than passing laws. Moreover, the general tendency among many legislators is that a new law requires a new source of funding — which you can read as “more taxes” (or fees). But in fact, the job of the legislature (and Congress) should be to RE-PRIORITIZE existing revenues to address the ever-changing needs of society — that’s why they meet, after all, to dole out our money to meet our needs.

    Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bureaucratic momentum to overcome when you try to move any money from existing uses to more important needs, hence, the “new taxes” logic.

    Simply telling counties to go enforce some new law without providing a funding source will most likely result in the new law being totally worthless. Time will tell, but that’s usually the way it shakes out.

  7. Politicians might rail against unfunded mandates, but they sure are quick to pass ’em.

  8. Well I ponder, then, the solution?

    Counties towns and cities are the ones with the authority over subdivisions and development, and by nature of their authority over regulating new development, they’ve contributed immensely to the rising cost of fighting fires over the last decade or so.

    Isn’t it the local municipality’s responsibility to provide fire protection?

    Don’t the local municipalities gain new tax base with new development? (that’s a little bit of snark if you’ve read my other stuff.)

    Should counties like Petroleum, Musselshell, Fergus and Sheridan have their tax dollars go toward fire protection for counties like Missoula, Ravalli, Granite, Madison and Gallatin? When those county’s development pace have greatly increased the cost of firefighting?

    The cost of fighting fires increases exponentially when structures are involved. Both in lives and $. It’d be one thing if the woods were filled with trees – but now we got 5 acre private inholding ranchettes surrounded by National Forest.

    The National Forests (i.e., the Federal Government) has said quite clearly that their responsibilities now lie with protecting the forest – not the homes that are encroaching ever so closely to it’s borders.

    Who’s responsibility is it to regulate this?

    How much to people in cities, towns and counties want the State telling them what to do and how to do it?

    Big government isn’t the answer – but when local government won’t step in, it is big government’s responsibility to say “look -you guys ain’t doing you job – so we are going to make you do it.”

    With new development, these counties should be allotting the increased tax revenue accordingly.

    Further, no politician wants to raise taxes – including local government – but for some reason, everyone seems to think it is the State’s responsibility to subsidize local governmental control situations – like Development.

    Frankly, this only goes to reiterate one of most common things I’ve said 100 different ways – Development Does Not Pay For Itself. Period. Remember that -repeat it often.

    But local governments are wont to increase taxes, while they are foolhardy in increasing the burden by approving more and more development.

    And No – I’m not anti-development – I’m pro Smart Development – and there is a big difference there. Smart development would include practices that take care to ensure that new development does not additionally tax burden existing development.

    I’m not sure that it is fair to take State tax dollars in inordinate amounts towards counties in the west and southwest while counties in the east and northeastern part of the states sit not-so-happily by.

    Missoula’s fires alone have a state tax bill of what is probably more than $50,000,000 – that’s the State’s share, not what the Fed’s will contribute because of the FEMA declaration.

    And Missoula is a huge county – with most of it unzoned and little regulated. I’ll give them some credit for recently requiring building permits county-wide. But getting a building permit to build wherever is completely different from having zoning regulations that require certain building materials, sprinkles, fire hydrants, defensible space, etc.




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