2023 Montana Legislative Session Is Over- How Did Agriculture Do
The 2023 Montana Legislative Session is over. Rachel Cone, director of governmental affairs for Montana Farm Bureau Federation has followed the session from day 1. She gave us this recap of the bills that affected agriculture:
Day 87 of the legislature, the legislature made a motion to Sine die. This first started in the Senate in the afternoon. The minority leader set up and made the motion to Sine die, and that motion passed 26 to 24. Later that evening, the house made the same motion after they had finished up some important work, including the final passage of House Bill two, the state's budget. So both chambers were out of the capitol by the end of the day on day 87.
Sine die is a term often used to end the legislature. That is what fully adjourns them from the legislature. That means whatever bills have passed the legislature at that time have passed, and whatever bills that either are dead or maybe haven't gotten a chance to be voted through all of the different parts and pieces of their process have died because because of the adjournment.
Bills Tracked By Farm Bureau
For Farm Bureau, in total, we track 71 bills focusing specifically on the different kinds of Ag policy. So that 71 doesn't include the bills, like House Bill 2 or other big budget bills like that. The 71 bills is things on specific policy, things that Farm Bureau members have voiced their desire to either oppose or support on. So out of those 71 bills we opposed 19 of them, and I'm very proud and happy to report that of those 19 bills that we opposed, every single one of them went our way and died along the process. Those bills would've been really harmful to agriculture, and we wanted to ensure that we are protecting our Farmer & Rancher members and making sure the best thing for agriculture goes forward.
There was 52 total bills that we supported, and of that 38 of them, or 73% went our way. Digging into some of the details about what those other 14 bills were, it's important to remember that there's a lot more details than this. Not necessarily that we just supported it and the legislature voted against us that's actually not what happened.
One of the examples that's really easy to talk about and understand is some of the conversations we've had about grizzly bear bills. There are two important bills that came about grizzly bears, and they both had a very similar underlying factor, and that was to ensure that when the grizzly bears be de-listed at a federal level, the state of Montana is ready and able to manage them here at the state. So, those two bills we supported, they're both really good, but one of the things to remember is one of them was a little bit longer, had a little bit more information in it, and encompassed some of the things that the other one was asking. Senate Bill 85 and Senate Bill 295. 295 passed the legislature and Senate Bill 85 was tabled. So again, that's one of those examples where the goal that Farm Bureau had, both of these bills had and was accomplished, but both of them couldn't be signed into law. Montana Farm Bureau supports bills that our members support, and it's important that we continue to strongly support both pieces of the legislation because at the end of the day, there's no good way to know until the action is taken about which bill the legislature will decide to pass.
Headed To The Governor's Desk
The legislature can no longer take action but the bills will be heading to the governor's desk. I know he is signing bills as fast as possible, so we'll have all of those updates.
Reminder, Montana Farm Bureau sends out a weekly legislative resource that will go through every bill that we've taken action on. One of those was sent out in the middle of this week, and I will get another one sent out later on.
The governor has 10 days after Sine die to sign bills. After those 10 days if he has not taken action one way or another, either a veto action or passing action, then those bills do automatically become law. A lot of our bills already have been signed.
Marijuana Tax Allocation
Senate Bill 442, we've talked about that one a little bit. It talks about funding for local county roads and some of the noxious weed protections that come into it. That bill was supported widely by over 40 different stakeholder groups and more. There was a lot of people from the legislature who were very, were very fond of it, and voiced their support. It made it through both chambers with a huge amount of support and with very little opposition. Unfortunately that bill was vetoed by the governor. We understand that we'll have another bite at the apple next time the legislative session comes around and there is a chance that the legislature can take action and do a legislative override.
Senate Bill 72, one of the water bills that came out of the comprehensive water review. Dealing with the water court, again, something we've mentioned many, many times, but that bill was tabled in house judiciary a few weeks ago and there was no other further action, no blast motion or anything else for legislature to try and get that passed. So that one is dead and is another opportunity for us to get back to work in the interim and understand where that bill lacked and how we can fix it for the next time legislature comes back to town.
Montana Farm Bureau is very happy with the work that's been done at the legislature. We offer our gratitude and really give a big thank you to all the people who make this happen. There's 150 legislators that come to town, take four months away from their family and their work and their lives to come serve Montana. That's a big job and we really appreciate them doing that. The staff at the Capitol that keep everything moving, that is an enormous job and a big undertaking, and while the rest of us get to get out of town and get back to our normal lives, those folks are hard at work in Helena on getting things processed and getting things done as all of that stuff wraps up. I offer thanks to all of those folks, especially, the leadership on all sides of the aisle, including up in the governor's office as well. It's really been a successful session and there's been a lot of teamwork and we really appreciate.
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