Legislative Scorecard: Knudsen fried our bacon, Governor saved it
The 65th Montana Legislature is in the books and we all survived. The tragic comedy that is the Montana Legislature was filled with highs, lows, embarrassments, and downright awkward moments. Once again, Northern Plains and our members worked tirelessly to defeat the detrimental and irrational policies that were brought forward by a segment of our state’s legislators, but the biggest hurdle throughout the session were the highhanded parliamentary tricks by the Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen (R-Culbertson).
Northern Plains members worked tirelessly this session to pass Senate Bill 330, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) enabling legislation. PACE is a simple and effective way to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings. Northern Plains worked to successfully pass PACE out of the Senate with a 31-19 vote, but that bipartisan spirit quickly evaporated when SB 330 was transmitted to the House.
2017 Legislative Scorecard
Instead of assigning SB 330 to the House Energy Committee, where it belonged, Speaker Knudsen placed PACE in the House Natural Resources Committee with the intent to kill it on arrival. The strategy worked and PACE was tabled along a party line vote. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, as Speaker Knudsen employed the same tactic for several pieces of progressive legislation.
To avoid amendatory vetoes by Gov. Bullock, Speaker Knudsen also withheld hundreds of bills from the Governor for several weeks after the 2017 Legislature ended. It was frustrating to watch the Speaker use parliamentary tricks in order to usurp the democratic process.
Fortunately, Governor Bullock really delivered for the conservation community this session. Bullock served as a key leader in the attempt to enact PACE, and vetoed or amended every bad piece of legislation that hit his desk. I’d like to thank Governor Bullock for his work throughout the session because Montanans are fortunate to have a Governor that is willing to exercise political courage for the right reasons. Here a list of the top bills he vetoed.
- HB 339 – An attempt to exempt rural subdivision water wells from state water
- SB 93 – An effort to undercut the landowner notification requirements for oil and gas drillings we won at the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation;
- SB 154 – An attack on clean energy that sought to repeal net metering incentives;
- SB 235 – An attempt to revive Otter Creek’s coal ease;
- SB 337 – a shot to eliminate the Board of Environmental Review (BER).
You can view these bills and others we supported and opposed here.
All in all, Northern Plains worked to pass practical legislation that will further the issues we care about, while killing every bad piece of legislation that we saw. Montana is a little better off after the 65th Montana Legislature, and we have our members to thank for that. Everyone who lobbied, made calls, and sent emails throughout the session made the difference between advancing our work during the Legislature and falling years behind.
Richard Parks of Gardiner is a fishing guide and longtime member of Northern Plains’ Legislative Executive Committee.