Legislative Update

Here’s a 30,000 foot view of the major pieces of legislation still in play as the 2017 Montana Legislature moves into the homestretch.

By Eric Moore,

Senate District 19

Here’s a 30,000 foot view of the major pieces of legislation still in play as the 2017 Montana Legislature moves into the homestretch.

1) The Budget. Declining revenues over the past two years have forced roughly a 5% cut across most state agencies in order to meet our constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget. HB 2 (the budget bill) passed out of the House last week on a straight party line vote. Senate Finance and Claims (of which I serve as vice chair)  will take up the bill at the end of next week. I still have some concerns with higher ed tuition hikes and funding levels within section B (Health and Human Services).

2) Budget Stabilization Act. I co sponsored a ground breaking budget management bill that would free up 100 million dollars out of ending fund and put to work for the citizens of Montana. We utilize some of the 500 million in state special revenue accounts as transfers in times of financial stress for the state.

3) Drug abuse/Child Protective Services. With the Meth epidemic on the rise, Montana’s most vulnerable populations continue to suffer. The  number of children in foster care in Montana has more than doubled over the past four years, and drug abuse is involved in the vast majority of the cases. I carried two bills related to transparency and coordination with law enforcement in child removal cases. The House Appropriations committee funded the increased caseload request for Child Protective Services. I will bring an amendment to finance and claims to put more drug interdiction agents on the roads in Montana to stop more of this poison before it enters Montana.

4)  Infrastructure. I will introduce legislation next week that will provide for a state wide infrastructure bill. The projects will include water and sewer improvements, rural water projects, K12 school infrastructure, and projects for our university system. Bond rates are at a historic low, and if we wait, these projects will cost the state millions more in debt service. With previously issued general obligation bonds being retired at an increasing rate, we can issue the bonds required to fund the projects in this bill and not increase our total debt service over the previous 15 year average.

5) Workman’s Compensation Insurance. Despite numerous attempts at reform, Montana remains one of the worst states in the nation in terms of workman’s compensation insurance rates. I believe it is because almost 2/3 of the marketplace is controlled by a quasi governmental agency. On Friday, I will introduce the Montana Workman’s Compensation Modernization Act. By moving to a private sector model, we will protect workers, improve customer service and competition, lower rates, and attract more good paying jobs to Montana.

You can monitor the progress of these bills and/or send me a message at www.leg.mt.gov