2009 Legislative Session: Week 5 (Part I)

by jhwygirl

Note: Well, I’m realizing I screwed up here…this is the Wednesday through Friday schedule folks. With apologies and the appropriate corrections:

I didn’t count ’em, but just as every other week, there’s a long list of committee hearings this week.

I’ll remind: I only quickly point out the stuff that I’m noticing. If there’s something I’m missing, feel free to add it in the comments or shoot me an email (contact info over there on the right under PAGES.)

On Wednesday we’ve got Sen. Christine Kaufman’s bill that will simplify calculations for certain property tax assistance programs. This clarifies the income levels for married couples, and – importantly – helps out homeowners who are veterans. SB115 has cleared the senate with a unanimous vote. Let’s hope the house is as generous. This is in the House Taxation – Jeff Martin the staffer, jmartin@mt.gov

Also in House Taxation is Missoula Rep. Dave McAlpin’s bill to revise tax code with a new top marginal rate for income tax. HB395 would raise the maximum rate to 7.9% for anyone making more than $250,000. That’s a 1% increase for what was previously a ceiling of $13,900. Seems to me not many Montanans incomes would be affected by this one, considering the median income for a Montana family of 4 is $55,641. Give this bill some love, folks, and contact Jeff Martin the staffer, jmartin@mt.gov

Another veteran friendly bill is Rep. Cynthia Hiner’s proposal to streamline law enforcement certification for veterans that have taken federal and military course equivalents. This one would be a big help to local agencies, and to veterans by lowering training costs while getting veterans back to work quick. Win-win for everyone as I see it. HB293 is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

Rep. Robin Hamilton, of Missoula, has an education friendly bill that would help funnel more money to local districts for capital facilities funding by using certain revenues from timber harvest, mineral royalties and power site rental payments. HB152 is in House Education. This seems like a no-brainer, folks – and alleviates the chance of levys being passed on to Montanans, who (to repeat myself) don’t make much money. Money would not come from the general fund – it’d come from trust land revenues. Very supportable. Jeremy Gersovitz the staffer, jgersovitz@mt.gov

In the senate – still on Wednesday, folks – Sen. David Wanzenried has SB236 which would abolish the death penalty. This one is in Senate Judiciary, Valencia Lane the staffer – vlane@mt.gov

In Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs Sen. Ryan Zinke has proposed a bill, SB192 that would provide unemployment insurance relief for small businesses with 20 or fewer employees. This bill, according to the fiscal note, would have significant local government and long term fiscal impacts. If your concerned about your taxes – local and state – better buck up with an email or phone call on this one. Pat Murdo the staffer pmurdo@mt.gov

Finally hitting to Thursday folks! First off, in the house, we’ve got HB348, proposed by Billings Rep. Dennis Himmelberger which would remove certain exemptions to state law for the registration requirement for lobbyist. I say “GO” on this one. It’s in House State Administration, Sheri Heffelfinger the staffer sheffelfinger@mt.gov

This one’s been talked about quite a bit: Sen. Christine Kaufmann has proposed SB278 which would prohibit use of cell phones. This is in Senate Highways & Tranportation, Tami McGill the staffer tmcgill@mt.gov

Now to Friday: I’ll be interesting to see where HB398 goes – it would increase the authority for the commissioner of political practices. Proposed by Rep. Janna Taylor. This is in House State Administration, Sheri Heffelfinger the staffer sheffelfinger@mt.gov

Another timely one is Rep. Dan Villa’s bill that would revise animal cruelty laws. How many of these are going on? Billings has 2 in the news right now – Butte/Anaconda just finished one, and so did Ravalli. HB349 is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

You mean these guys aren’t regulated?! Rep. Deborah Kottel has proposed HB318 which would add a new section to the Montana Code to regulate bill collectors. Wow. Given the layoffs suffered around the state, I say this is both timely and needed to protect Montana consumers. This is in House Judiciary, David Niss the staffer – dniss@mt.gov

Having cleared the Senate, and now in House Business & Labor is Sen. Cliff Larson’s bill to revise Insure Montana, SB135. This one is friendly to small business – the meat-and-potatoes of Montana’s economic sector. It would do a number of things including revise eligibility thresholds for owners, partners and shareholders; clarify the description of credible coverage; and revise funding terms for premium assistance and premium incentive programs. Another VERY SUPPORTABLE bill. Bart Campbell the staffer, bcampbell@mt.gov

So, readers, there’s my truncated version of committee hearings for Wednesday through Friday. Please take a moment to shoot a quick email to the committee staffer with “yea” or “nay” on these bills. Make sure to note the bill number and that you are wanting to provide public comment.

You can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for as many as five legislators or one legislative committee per call. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

The Session Information Desk is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to adjournment on Saturdays.

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  1. drylander

    I have to say..
    Zinke’s bill is not bad one…. Why piss and moan about that? He’s a Republican for God’s sake and it looks like he’s looking out for small biz AND the his employees. Honestly, why slap him down for this? Usually I don’t agree with Republican politics… but please explain how this doesn’t help our smaller businesses and employees? Especially in this super screwed up economy….

  2. drylander – read the fiscal note. Anything that his pushing more costs onto local government and, in fact, state government isn’t a good thing. It’s going to have to be made up somewhere, and that somewhere is going to be your pocket….in this screwed up economy.

    I’ve championed many Republican bills. My choice to say “nay” to Zinke’s isn’t party based.

  3. drylander

    OK, I can see the logic in that… (sorry, I didn’t read the fiscal note, too busy reveling after Super Bowl.)
    I do like the the principal of his bill, it’s too bad it can’t be funded in a way that’s not going to hamstring our State and Local govt. Seems a catch 22.

  4. Dennis Himmelberger

    Just curious why you publish the committee staffer’s email address?

  5. I guess to ensure that comments which are submitted become part of the public record.

    Am I incorrect to think that the staffer would pass them on to the committee members when requested?

  6. Dennis Himmelberger

    I would agree that if you request a committee staffer to pass on comments, they should and most likely will. I just can not recall ever receiving submitted comments from a staffer. My suggestion would be to contact the committee members individually either by email or at 444-4800 and leave a message that is delivered to the legislators desk. I know it’s more work, but that is the way I believe most all legislators receive their voter input. You can of course find the emails at the legislative website, leg.mt.gov

  7. Thanks Rep. Himmelberger. I appreciate that information – I’ll adjust my future posts accordingly.




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