Hello from Helena. I would like to address some of the legislative issues which may have not been as present in the press lately.
We’ve posted a list of job bills on our Facebook page at Montana Republican Legislature for all constituents to see. We want Montana to know that we are working on bills to responsibly develop our natural resources, grow jobs and the economy, deliver educational excellence, limit the size and scope of government, and restore individual freedoms.
In the Senate, we’ve addressed education standards through various out-of-the-box approaches which do more than simply pour money into the system. Without focusing on the quality of education, the quantity of subsidies is both irrelevant and potentially counterproductive. Why spend money without creating a solution? You can’t spend money on education to save education. With a 30 percent dropout rate in the state, it’s imperative to attract and retain high-quality teachers, those who can inspire and relate to students in a manner that makes learning something students enjoy.
Senate Joint Resolution 11 is sponsored by Senate President Jim Peterson to require tenure review of university educators. The purpose behind the bill is to ensure that high-quality instructors are attracted to Montana, motivated to achieve excellence in the classroom, and retained here in the state once tenure is appropriately awarded. Raising the bar for instructors is a realistic and conservative approach to setting an example for our students to achieve excellence.
Just this week, at the same time the press covered land access restriction without congressional approval through BLM “wild land” designations, we had four bills in committee to protect state’s rights to keep our family ranchers and farmers in business.
House Bill 240, an eminent domain bill favored by landowners, passed out of a House committee earlier this week to give landowners more flexibility in eminent domain negotiations. The bill aims to ease fears of landowners worried about a separate eminent domain bill that has been sent to the Senate, House Bill 198. Eminent domain has been one of the toughest issues this session, with supporters of Montana Alberta Tie Line worried that they may have to abandon the project if a workable solution not be reached. I’m also sponsoring a bill to give eminent domain rights to states over federal lands in order to protect landowners, farmers, ranchers, and recreationalists here in Montana. The bill, SB 245, was brought before committee last week
Included in the jobs list are two bills that were heard Wednesday in committee. Senate bills 312 and 317 were presented in Senate Natural Resources Committee, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent of Libby. SB 312 revises metal mining laws. Mine owners like Tim Lindsay at Revett Minerals in Troy, Tim Dimmock at Gold Sunlight Mines and Eric Klepfer of Montanore Minerals Corporation in Libby attended the jobs listening session to ask legislators for help in getting people back to work by restoring certainty to the permit process and protecting access to lands for responsible development. These are jobs that have a three to one lift factor on the community, with average pay between $55,000 and $65,000 per year.
Vincent presented SB 317 Wednesday in Senate Natural Resources Committee. The bill will revise the Montana Environmental Policy Act. Long delays under the MEPA permitting process hurts business and often eliminates jobs. SB 317 was backed by coal, energy, mining and other companies.
Other job bills include legislation to reduce Montana’s workers’ compensation rates to employers. Montana has the highest rates in the country, and neighboring states are reaping the benefits of a friendlier business climate.
The Legislative Fiscal Division announced Thursday morning that oil prices in Montana are up and development is down, pointing out that there are nine oil rigs in Montana and 145 in North Dakota. Many of the reasons development is up in states like North Dakota and Wyoming are lower workers’ compensation rates, less restrictive environmental regulations, land rights protected by the state and a pro-industry government.
Health Insurance Premiums are also lower across state lines. Republicans are working on a series of market-based solutions, such as a bill that would allow shopping across state borders for policies, as well as a referendum that would protect everyone’s freedom to choose whether or not to carry health insurance; that bill sponsored by Sen. Art Wittich of Bozeman, while a bill with the same intent has already passed out of committee in the House, sponsored by Representative MacLaren, R-Victor.
It’s been a very busy and interesting session, and I know we’re all looking forward to spending time with family, friends, and constituents over transmittal break next week. I look forward to speaking with voters about my sense of the Senate and am always willing to answer questions about the session, legislation and other concerns. Please e-mail me anytime at email@example.com
Thank you and God Bless.
Senator Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre