By Martin J. Kidston
Hill County Commissioners recently returned from Kalispell where they joined other county leaders from across the state in preparing resolutions for legislative review during its next session.
Commissioners Kathy Bessette, Doug Kaercher and Pat Conway spent the last week of September in Kalispell representing Hill County at the annual forum known as the Montana Association of Counties.
Commissioners representing 55 of Montanas 56 counties typically come together during the forum to discuss politics, elect officers and to learn how other counties are solving their problems. Butte-Silver Bow County is the one exception due to the design of its government.
Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher was elected as the District 4 representative, which includes Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties. Kaerchers position is year-to-year and though hes excited about his new role on the MACo board, hes more enthused about the resolutions MACo approved for legislative review.
Hill County introduced two resolutions to the board, Kaercher said. One pertains to a county-wide curfew for minors and the other is to establish the state funding of district court.
Kaercher said that because laws are set by the Legislature, gaining the support of MACo gives each resolution some clout when its passed to the Legislature. The Legislature, in turn, will review the resolution and act upon if it survives the legislative process.
Hill County introduced Resolution 99-4, which strives to establish state funding of district court. The resolution received a high priority rating from MACo.
Montana counties support state financing of district courts ... the courts are a state system, the resolution reads. A major district court case could place an undue financial burden on many counties, which do not have the fiscal capacity to absorb those costs.
Kaercher said that, although the state helps with some of the costs, the financial burden should fall upon the states shoulder since the counties have little or no say concerning court costs. Kaercher said the upcoming murder trial for Jacob Spang and Reid Danell is an example. It will be an expensive trial and the county will have to pay.
Hill County also introduced Resolution 99-2, which will give counties across the state the option of enacting a curfew for minors outside incorporated city limits.
Montana counties support county commission discretion in setting curfews for minors in both unincorporated communities and the county at large, says the resolution.
Kaercher said that if the Legislature passed the resolution, Hill County would enact a county-wide curfew for minors.
Beaver Creek Park and Fresno Reservoir give us trouble, Kaercher said. This law, its not one to harass, its just a tool, and whenever you can keep kids alive, its worth it.
Kaercher said the MACo forum will be held next September in Havre.
It will be a good one, Kaercher said. Its right before the legislative session.