Rep. Dan Salomon
This past week Representative Steve Daines and Governor Steve Bullock addressed the state legislatures and outlined some of their visions for the future of our state. Representative Daines would like to see a balanced budget from lawmakers in Washington D.C. Also of importance to him is the protection of hunting and 2nd amendment rights. He is also working hard on the Farm Bill as Agriculture is such a big part of Montana’s economy.
In his State of the State address, Governor Bullock stressed the importance of working together with the legislature for the good of Montana. Tax relief was the next topic and I share the Governor’s want for seeing this happen. As usual, the many fine details are the hard part. Questions such as one time only or permanent tax relief or should it be via business equipment, property or income tax relief? The Governor also talked about working on the state pension plan, Education funding, and Medicaid expansion. We are still waiting for these ideas to be transformed into bills so that we can get to work on them.
My thoughts on other areas the Governor addressed include the following: in regards to the State Pension Plan, we need some reform. This needs to not just be a tax - payer funded bailout, but a long term solution. On Education Funding - we need to look at where the money is to come from and how it can be equally distributed to school districts. Medicaid Expansion - we need to understand how much liability the state would assume as the federal governments contributions to this fund shrink every year.
The Joint Board of Control and the Tribes, along with the United States Government, have reached a Water Use Agreement and it will be put to a vote of the irrigators. I would like to encourage everyone to gain an understanding of what is in this agreement and how it will benefit the project in the future.
This week I will present bills on Passenger Accountability in the case of serious injury or fatality in motor vehicle accidents, and a bill that revises the use of dyed fuels in farm vehicles.
As issues come up that you are interested in or want to comment on, you can contact me at email@example.com or 253-9724.
Sen. Janna Taylor
Finally we have some transparency in state government. Our new governor put the check book on line and the pay by hourly rates. Of course, that last one omits overtime and bonuses, if any, and you have to figure out what the yearly salary would be.
Still, it is a step in the right direction. Our last governor vetoed this idea. I think it shows the potential for the legislative and the executive branches of government to work together. Check out the site at http://transparency.mt.gov.
At the request of a local state employee, I had a bill to have public unions make their annual reports available. Labor organizations already file this report with the US Department of Labor and have been required to do so since 1959. So, no new costs.
You would think that everyone would want to know where their money goes, but I had several negative comments. What is there to hide?
There are lots of gun bills up in the house this week. Speaker Blasdel (R. Somers) has scheduled most of them for February 12 and 13. We could make a “just in time for Valentine’s Day” joke, but the issues are serious.
House Bill 302, sponsored by Representative and veterinarian, Krayton Kerns, (R. Laurel) would prohibit any state enforcement of a federal semi-automatic ban. He also has HB 304 that would revise concealed weapon laws to legalize most concealed carry.
I am still very concerned about the new redistricting plan. If I look at Republican/Democrat demographics, the new Senate District 6 would help me. But I am concerned with what the new plan does to Lake County. We will have parts of four senate districts and these parts can be dominated by Flathead, Missoula and Glacier Counties.
For example, the residents of our Turtle Lake area would be represented by a state senator from Missoula. If you can, check out http://leg.mt.gov/districting and leave a comment.
In Senate Tax Committee we are still studying property tax reappraisals. What a mess. Most residential property owners favor a yearly or two year cycle, but agricultural and forest landowners are arguing to remain on the 6 year cycle. We are running comparisons of all the costs.
The new appraisal plans call for oblique imaging. That is where images from planes can show any new construction or additions to a property. Before you get upset, just check out Google or Bing mapping. The Dept. of Revenue images are not detailed enough to show license plates or faces.
We lost former State Senator Ethel Harding last week. Also, Please keep her family and friends in your prayers.
Leave me a message at 406-444-4800, my cell is 253-8766 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Never forget that I work for you.
Rep. Greg Hertz
As we enter February, things have really begun happening at the State Legislature. Our new Congressman, Steve Daines, came and spoke to us. Also, the new Governor gave his State of the State Address. We passed some significant legislation, and some more good bills are working their way through committee.
When Representative Daines spoke, he said Washington D.C. could learn a lot from Montana. We’re constitutionally required to have a balanced budget. The national politicians could sure take a lesson from that.
Both Daines and Governor Steve Bullock, in his speech, praised the attitude of cooperation that has characterized this legislature. I agree. Our Speaker of the House, Mark Blasdel, started the session out by saying we should focus on more work and less politics. So far, it’s producing great results.
In the rest of his speech, the Governor joined with those of us in the legislature who have been calling for tax relief. We have some differences about how to do it, but we both agree on the goal.
As for what exact shape the tax relief should take, the Governor wants to give a $400 rebate to homeowners on their property taxes.
I would prefer to see tax relief for every single Montanan. No one should be left out.
The Governor’s address also demonstrated that he’s on board with the need to fix the state’s pension system. Once again, this is an area where the legislature and the Governor agree on the goal. But just like taxes, we disagree about exactly how we should accomplish the goal.
The Governor has proposed that we use taxpayer dollars to bail out the state employees’ pension system.
I disagree. I believe we need a long-term fix that will return the system to stability in its own right, not another taxpayer-funded bailout.
We passed a bill to strengthen the penalties for assault when the victim is a pregnant woman. If a criminal attacks her and she loses her baby, that’s a tragic loss for her and her family. I’m proud to have voted to punish that crime more severely.
As always, you don’t have to come all the way to the Capitol to participate.
If you have any input about specific bills, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at email@example.com or call or text me at 406-253-9505. You can also leave messages for individual legislators or committees by calling 406-444-4800. For more information on Montana’s 63rd legislative session, visit the Legislature’s website at www.leg.mt.gov.