By Ron VandenBoom
HELENA Havre area legislators said they would say no to a bill that would require drug testing for high school students wanting to participate in extra curricular athletic events.
Rep. Merlin Wolery, R-Rudyard, Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, and Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, all said in a telephone conference call they were opposed to House Bill 81 Tuesday during a conference call arranged by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
The bill was proposed by Republican Joan Andersen of Fromberg.
Jergeson expressed his concern that an estimated price tag of more than $560,000 is an issue that legislators will have to grapple with if the bill is to pass.
He said that either the the state would have to fund the testing or shift the cost onto communities a financial challenge he believes most school districts would have to reject.
"I would not favor an unfunded mandate," he said.
Kirk Miller, superintendent of Havre's public schools, said Havre had already investigated the cost of testing and found it prohibitive.
"It costs $40 per student," Miller said, adding that Havre has 300 to 400 students participating every year in various athletic activities.
"You do the math," he said.
Tester said education has bigger problems to deal with than drug testing athletes.
"I don't think we can afford it," Tester said.
Wolery said he believes the whole issue should be left to local control and Musgrove agreed that this is not a bill he would support.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Al Bishop, R-Billings, that would limit campaigns to 60 days prior to a primary election and 45 day prior to a general election brought objections from area legislators mostly because they see it as unenforceable and a possibly violation of an individual right to free speech.
"I don't know how you can effectively shorten campaigns," Jergeson said. "People are already organizing their campaigns for two and four years from now."
Tester agreed, asking "how do you stop this without limiting freedom of speech," adding that he also didn't see how it could be successfully administrated.
Musgrove and Wolery said they agreed with their colleagues, with Wolery saying that he is sure he would not support such a measure.
All four legislators also agreed that Senate Resolution 2 sponsored by Sen. Edward Butcher, R-Winifred, would have their support.
The resolution, and a similar resolution that was recently introduced in the House, puts the legislature on record as opposing the Federal Government's attempt to give the Missouri River national monument status.
Tester said the sentiments range from soup to nuts among his constituents on the issue, but he supports it even though he said he believes some areas of it may be flawed.
Jergeson said he expects the resolution will pass, but he noted that resolutions only express the opinion of the legislature and has no power of law to back them up.
Other bills area legislators feel could impact Havre or the Hi-Line included HB 73 a measure Musgrove said would give a "full cost accounting" of how government programs impact private enterprise.
Musgrove did not say whether he might support the measure.
Jergeson said one bill he believes will impact impact the Hi-Line is LC 1225 the water compact legislation sponsored by Rep. Matt McCann, D-Harlem, that will confirm the water compact negotiated between Fort Belknap and the state.
The bill is currently on hold, Jergeson said, waiting for approval by the tribes, but funding of the project "could mean quite a few jobs up here."
"It's a major one to watch," Jergeson said.
Funding for the Applied Technology Building at MSU-Northern is included in HB 14 and this too could be one Hi-Line residents might want to watch, Jergeson said.