2019 Legislature – Bill Positions
Now that we are nearing the end of the Legislative Session, the best way to affect policy is to contact Governor Bullock’s office directly. To search for a specific bill, hold down CTRL + F on your keyboard and begin typing the bill number, sponsor, or a keyword.
How to take action:
- Call (406) 444-3111 to leave a message with the Governor’s office.
- Reference the Bill/Resolution #. Keep your message short and simple so that it is easy for staff to pass along.
- You can also click here to email Governor Bullock directly.
Sponsored by Rep. Laurie Bishop, D-Livingston
This bill would extend the contract length for renewable energy projects to fifteen years to make them more competitive for inclusion in Montana utilities’ energy portfolios—a necessary step in encouraging the transition to clean, renewable energy.
HB 22 passed out of the Senate on April 5 and was appointed to a Conference committee on April 11 to work out differences between the House and Senate.
Sponsored by Rep. Zac Perry, D-Columbia Falls
This simple bill would require that utility companies hold public meetings when making energy decisions and planning for the future as is already required in neighboring states. NorthWestern Energy has been voluntarily providing opportunities for public input in its procurement and planning processes, but HB 78 would ensure that captive rate-payers, who have no choice but to purchase electricity from the single utility serving their area, have a voice in these important decisions that will influence rates and the energy landscape for decades to come.
HB 78 was tabled by the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on April 2.
Sponsored by Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula
HB 219 removes Columbus Day as a state holiday and replaces it with Indigenous People’s Day. Establishing Indigenous People’s Day would give Montana the chance to celebrate and educate our communities about indigenous cultures and begin to heal generations of atrocities and wrongdoing against native peoples. HB 219 provides a way for Montana to recognize the importance of first nation in a small but significant way.
HB 219 was tabled by the Senate State Administration Committee on April 1.
Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, R-Billings
This bill establishes the legal security framework necessary to protect consumers’ personal information if they opt to have a “smart meter” installed by a utility. Smart meters are an effective tool that allows consumers to monitor and control their energy consumption through their smartphones or computers and allow utilities to track energy use and make adjustments to conserve energy. Smart meters are an essential part of the eventual creation of the “smart grid” of the future.
HB 267 has been signed into law by Governor Bullock.
Sponsored by Rep. Barry Usher, R-Billings
This bill would continue the current contribution from Montana’s coal severance tax to the Coal Board, which distributes the money to counties affected by coal mining to be used on important infrastructure projects and other community needs. Currently, 5.8% of the amount received from this tax goes to the Coal Board but that amount will reduce to 2.9% at the end of the year if HB 292 doesn’t pass. This bill would help those communities most affected by coal production prepare and adjust to the energy transition by ensuring that the current 5.8% contribution extends to the year 2023.
HB 292 passed out of the Senate Finance and Claims Committee on April 8 and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield, R-Livingston
Protein products, derived from animal cells but grown in a lab, are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Giant corporate meatpackers like Tyson and Cargill have invested tens of millions of dollars in developing techniques to mass produce these new products and plan to mix them with meat products from live animals. This will give the packers a steady, cheap supply of product that they can use to drive down the prices they pay ranchers. HB 327 would clarify that hamburger and ground beef come from live animals and that cell-cultured meat could not be labeled as hamburger and ground beef. This bill will give consumers the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions while ensuring ranchers get a fair price for their product.
HB 327 has been signed into law by Governor Bullock.
Sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula
This bill would create a grant program aimed to increase access to locally-produced fresh fruits and vegetables at venues such as farmers markets for Montanans using the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP). This would be a positive step toward ensuring our most vulnerable neighbors have access to healthy, nutritious food while supporting Montana farmers.
HB 400 was heard and tabled in committee by Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee on April 8.
Sponsored by Rep. Zach Brown, D-BozemanTAKE ACTION
This bill would enact a student loan forgiveness program for Montana residents who pursue a career in farming or ranching after receiving their degree. HB 431 would revise Growth Through Agriculture laws and use interest income from coal severance tax funds to repay up to 50% of a student’s loans. This bill was heard in the House Agriculture Committee on February 14 and passed out of Committee on March 13.
HB 431 has passed both Houses and is headed to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman
HB 467 would allow NorthWestern to apply to the Public Service Commission to “securitize” its remaining debt using state-issued bonds. This is similar to refinancing your mortgage. The bill would allow NorthWestern to diversify its energy-generation portfolio and deal with its cleanup obligations at Colstrip without unfairly shifting these costs onto its captive customers (you and me). This concept has been applied to other sectors for decades. HB 467 would make this tool available if NorthWestern should choose to pursue it, and the company would only be allowed to take this route with the approval and oversight of the PSC.
This bill will be heard in the House for 3rd Reading on April 23.
Contact your representative and tell them to vote YES on HB 467!
Sponsored by Rep. Bradley Hamlett, D-Cascade
This House version of the Montana Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) Act would give our ranchers and farmers a fair shake and give Montana consumers the information they want. The bill would require that placards be placed in meat counters to inform consumers about where the meat was born, raised, harvested, and processed.
HB 594 was tabled in the House Agriculture Committee on February 26.
After a failed attempt to bring it directly to the House floor, HB 594 remains tabled.
HJ 38 - Interim study on decommissioning and bonding for Colstrip and other electrical generation facilities
Sponsored by Daniel Zolnikov, R-BillingsTAKE ACTION
This resolution, which calls for an interim study, was requested by the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee in response to SB 93, a bill that would require decommissioning bonding for large-scale solar facilities despite the lack of similar requirements for coal-fired or natural gas power plants. This requested study (HJ 38) also relates to concerns about the decommissioning and cleanup of the Colstrip plant.
HJ 38 has passed both Houses.
Sponsored by Sen. Frank Smith, D-Poplar
This bill would require a more thorough environmental review of major oil pipelines like the Keystone XL including evaluating impacts on heritage sites. This bill was heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on January 30.
This bill has been tabled in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Sponsored by Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls
Montana is one of the top industrial hemp producers in the nation, and this bill will help add value to this promising new crop by creating a program to certify Montana hemp and promote it in the market.
SB 176 passed out of both Houses and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls
This bill would revise Montana law to align with new federal rules that allow industrial hemp to be grown, processed, and marketed like other crops. SB 177 would give Montana farmers a boost in taking advantage of the quickly growing hemp industry.
SB 177 passed both Houses and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip
This bill would allow coal counties to create trust funds to set aside money from their existing budgets (from property tax revenues they receive from coal-fired power plants and mines). These trust funds are to be used as their local economies change with the energy transition.
SB 191 passed out of the House on April 3 and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip
This bill would require coal mining companies to post surety bonds with the state to cover the cost of their workers’ pensions when they go bankrupt or reorganize–scenarios we’re already seeing play out in the midst of declining coal prices. SB 201 will create some security and stability for workers and their communities as they confront the energy transition.
This bill passed out of the House and was returned to the Senate with amendments on April 8. The bill was assigned to a Conference committee on April 17 to work out differences between the House and Senate.
Sponsored by Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell
This bill would restore country of origin labeling for beef and pork sold in Montana in order to give ranchers and farmers a fair shake and give Montana consumers the information they want. The bill would require that placards be placed in meat counters to inform consumers about where the meat was born, raised, harvested, and processed. SB 206 was heard in the Senate Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation Committee on February 12.
This bill was tabled on February 19.
Sponsored by Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings
This bill would provide business owners and agricultural producers access to 100% upfront financing to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their properties. C-PACE allows business owners and agriculture producers to start saving money on their energy bills from day one. This bill is good for Montana businesses, promotes energy independence, and immediately addresses the impacts of climate change. C-PACE financing will be repaid through long-term loans (up to 20 years) through an assessment on the property.
The bill was tabled on April 11 in the House Taxation Committee.
Click here to learn more about C-PACE and see case studies from commercial property owners across the country.
Sponsored by Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby
This bill would require that all workers hired for power plant remediation work be hired at the standard prevailing wage. This will ensure that these skilled workers are compensated fairly for their skilled labor. This bill will also make certain that union workers will be competitive when hiring decisions are made for the hundreds of jobs associated with cleanup.
SB 264 was heard by the House Business and Labor Committee and the bill is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
SJ 4 - Urge Congress to reauthorize the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) fund in the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA)
Sponsored by Sen. Jon Sesso, D-Butte
SMCRA was passed into law in 1977 (with the help of Northern Plains!) to require reclamation (cleanup) of coal mines. The law also created a new program, paid for by a fee on active coal mines, to reclaim mines that were abandoned before 1977. In western states like Montana, this program is used to reclaim both hard rock and coal mines. The AML fund has provided millions of dollars to cleanup historic mining sites including the McLaren Tailings in Cooke City on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. For decades, McLaren Tailings created a “dead zone” in Soda Butte Creek, a tributary of the Lamar River. The AML fund is set to expire in 2020 unless it is reauthorized by Congress. SJ 4 urges its reauthorization so we can continue to clean up Montana and America’s legacy of mining pollution.
SJ 4 has passed both Houses.
Sponsored by Rep. Alan Redfield, R-LivingstonTAKE ACTION
In the name of raising revenue for state coffers, this bill would end tax credits that Montanans use to make energy conservation investments in their homes as well as more than two dozen other tax credits. In addition to energy conservation, HB 144 would ax tax credits for biodiesel production, investments in historic preservation, landowners who allow access to land-locked public lands, employers who invest in daycare facilities, and for employers who provide disability insurance to employees. HB 144 leaves other tax credits alone, including those involving capital gains and donations to churches and other tax-exempt groups.
HB 144 was heard in the Senate Taxation Committee on April 5 and tabled on April 11.
Sponsored by Rep. Barry Usher, R-BillingsTAKE ACTION
HB 403 would continue for an additional ten years the coal gross proceeds tax reduction for the Signal Peak mine in Roundup. This would cost the state and Musselshell County millions of dollars. When this tax reduction was passed in 2011, it was intended to spur new underground coal mine development, not to sustain the existing Signal Peak Mine, the most financially-solvent coal mine in Montana. Signal Peak’s business model appears to be based on getting tax breaks as much as actually mining coal. Musselshell County and Roundup need the future revenue threatened by HB 403 for schools, infrastructure, and to plan ahead as coal continues its decline.
Call Governor Bullock and tell him to veto HB 403!
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Keane, D-ButteTAKE ACTION
HB 476 would allow the Board of Investments to loan up to $50 million to NorthWestern Energy to do any combination of the following: 1) purchase an additional interest in a coal-fired generating unit, 2) purchase coal to use at the generating unit (or make improvements to utilize coal from a different source), or 3) purchase transmission lines to transmit electricity from the generating unit. HB 476 would put the Board of Investments in the precarious position of lending enormous sums of money for business activities in economic decline that private investors consider a losing bet.
Call Governor Bullock and tell him to veto HB 476!
Sponsored by Rep. Derek Skees, R-SomersTAKE ACTION
HB 487 allowing existing hydro-electric dams to be included in the list of new renewable energy projects in our state. (Last time we checked, 100-year-old dams should not count as new renewable energy projects.) Allowing existing hydro-electric dams to be eligible for the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Community Renewable Energy Project (CREP) standard defeats the purpose of the current law, which exists to encourage rural economic development through renewable energy projects.
This bill passed the Senate floor on April 2 and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Rep. Bill Mercer, R-Billings
HB 625 would eliminate numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus from Montana water quality laws, threatening the health of Montana’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Polluting industries can currently receive general variances from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that allow them to continue doing business even if they don’t meet current water quality standards. The variances allow them to incrementally come into compliance with water standards over time. However, industry fears that federal courts may soon rule that these general variances for private industry are a violation of the Clean Water Act.
Rather than waiting for the court decision and then working with the DEQ to obtain individual variances that would allow them to continue doing business while incrementally improving their discharges, industry wants to just scrap the standards. Without numeric standards for water quality laws, the state would be left with “narrative standards” which can be subject to interpretation and difficult to enforce. The bottom line is that industry would rather try to flex its muscle with the DEQ, continuing to pollute, as opposed to working with the department to reduce their discharges.
HB 625 was tabled by the Senate Natural Resources Committee on April 8.
Sponsored by Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan
This joint resolution would send a message from the legislature to Washington, D.C that Montana wants the federal government to intervene and force Washington state to allow the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal port to be built to increase the export of Montana coal to Asia. The Legislature has more pressing issues than to waste its energy on meaningless gestures encouraging the federal government to meddle in state affairs. The bill passed out of the House and was heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on February 20.
HJ4 passed out of Senate on March 12 and has been signed by the Speaker of the House and filed with the Secretary of State.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings
This bill would keep the state tax rate for any oil produced through “enhanced oil recovery” — pumping carbon dioxide or other gases or chemicals in the ground to increase production in old and low-performing wells—at the low level of 5.8% vs. 9% or 12% if the price goes over $54 a barrel. This is a giveaway to oil companies that will deprive state coffers of much-needed funds.
This bill has been signed into law by Gov. Bullock.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings
This bill, proposed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is intended to give the department the ability to grant variances from water quality standards to municipal wastewater treatment facilities that are having trouble meeting water quality standards. The aim is to give the DEQ and the treatment facilities time and space to improve operations and to meet the standards. While the bill is well-intentioned, writing the law in a way that keeps wastewater treatment facilities and other polluters (as well as the DEQ) accountable for protecting our streams and rivers demands precise language and objectives.
We adamantly opposed the first version of this bill but have been working with the DEQ to amend the bill so they will have the tools needed to bring polluters into compliance and protect our water quality. Unfortunately, the bill was amended in committee, at the request of industry, to shift rule-making from the Board of Environmental Review to the Department of Environmental Quality decreasing transparency and the consideration of stakeholder concerns.
SB 48 has passed both Houses and is waiting on a signature from the Governor.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings
This bill would create decommissioning requirements including bonding for large solar projects, similar to what exists for wind. In theory, this is a good idea–it would provide the surety to protect taxpayers and landowners from having to clean up solar developments when they reach the end of their lives. As written, however, SB 93 doesn’t take into account that solar companies often already engage in this sort of bonding with landowners on whose land these projects are developed. More importantly, it doesn’t require the same decommissioning requirements for other forms of energy production including natural gas and coal. Consistent bonding policy is desperately needed and this bill puts renewables at a competitive disadvantage compared to other forms of generation.
SB 93 passed out of Conference committee on April 15 and was heard by the full Senate on April 18.
SB 199 - Tie the Public Service Commission’s hands and leave ratepayers vulnerable to NorthWestern’s bad investments
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings
SB 199 would restrict the PSC’s ability to protect utility customers (you and me). This bill will take away the PSC’s ability to shorten the economic life or contract length of a utility’s electricity generation facility to earlier than its depreciation date. This means that utilities can make bad long-term investments in energy sources expected to be less competitive in the future while forcing ratepayers to foot the bill. SB 199 applies to existing and future power plants.
The bill would force ratepayers to pay off a utility’s investment debt after a power plant is taken offline. This is unfair. For example, if NorthWestern bought a gas-fired power plant for $185 million on Monday and found that it was uneconomical on Tuesday, it could close the plant and charge rate-payers for that $185 million for decades.
Utilities like NorthWestern Energy are monopolies and their customers are captive. The PSC is there to protect consumers from being held accountable for a utility’s bad financial decisions.
SB 199 was tabled by the House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee on April 3.
Sponsored by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-ColstripTAKE ACTION
SB 252 would allow the owner/operators of the Colstrip power plant to break their contract with the Rosebud mine and buy coal from Spring Creek or Wyoming mines. It would also allow them to build a new coal loadout facility to import coal from these new sources without amending its Major Facility Siting Act (MFSA) certificate. This bill is prompted by the uncertainty surrounding the Rosebud mine, whose owner, Westmoreland, has declared bankruptcy and is restructuring. The Rosebud mine is the current source of coal for the Colstrip plant and the only source specified in the plant’s MFSA certificate. The bill is unnecessary and could present a real threat to high-paying union mining jobs in Montana and to state tax revenues should Colstrip get its coal from the non-union Spring Creek mine or from mines in Wyoming.
Call Governor Bullock and tell him to veto SB 252!
Sponsored by Tom Richmond, R-Billings
This bill would allow counties to give a 50% tax abatement to new or expanded coal strip mines for their first ten years of operation. This could encourage bullying of counties by coal companies that could starve coal counties of precious revenue for education and infrastructure and undermine their abilities to prepare for future instability in the coal market.
SB 328 has passed both Houses and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Tom Richmond, R-BillingsTAKE ACTION
This bill would allow the Land Board to extend state coal leases, including those at Otter Creek held by Arch Coal, from ten to twenty years. Landowners near the Otter Creek tracts and in the Tongue River Valley lived under the constant threat of a new mine and the Tongue River Railroad for decades. Speculative coal ventures should not be allowed to cast uncertainty and fear indefinitely over the landowners that would be affected by a new mine or the associated infrastructure. Given that Arch Coal is in bankruptcy, the company’s leases should be allowed to expire so landowners can get on with their lives.
SB 329 passed both Houses and is on its way to the Governor’s office for his signature.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings
This bill would guarantee that NorthWestern Energy (NWE) can pass on up to $75 million in Colstrip-related costs to rate-payers for ten years without Public Service Commission oversight if NWE buys more of the Colstrip Power Plant. The Public Service Commission was created to protect captive energy customers from a monopoly utility like NorthWestern jacking up our bills. The legislature should let the Public Service Commission do its job, not prevent the use of an evidence-based process in determining power bills.
SB 331 failed to pass 3rd Reading in the House on April 16 with a surprising vote of 37-60.
**While SB 331 was defeated in the House of Representatives, the worst parts of this legislation are expected to be revived and/or amended into existing bills. Stay tuned for updates… the fight isn’t over!**