Adjournment Plus Eight

Every few days, there are more bills signed by the governor from this year's legislative session. There's still concern about budget bills and line-item vetoes, and still a few days for bills to be acted upon, so I'm diligently checking (as are others).

Back at my regularly scheduled life, I'm back attending meetings of boards of directors (I serve on the Bozeman Business and Professional Women board, and also the Greater Gallatin Watershed Council board) and preparing to give legislative reports to BPW and the League of Women Voters. There is much to report.

My reviews will focus on school funding, money for the voter-approved Childrens Health Insurance Program, and money for Bozeman: for our wastewater treatment plant upgrade, our drinking water source security (guardrails on the road to Hyalite Reservoir), and money for debris removal from the downtown explosion and fire in March.

I'm also honored to speak at our Gallatin County Treatment Court this Friday, when two participants will graduate; I've been working on my remarks for the occasion.

And I need to write and detail some of the legislation I sponsored and passed that's really good for Montanans, like the cancer drug donation program, security of personal information at state agencies, revaluation of property in TIF districts (like downtown Bozeman) after local disasters, protecting freedom of speech for people in homeowners' associations that restrict political expression, and state matching funds for start-up companies that have innovative technologies and federal SBIR/STTR grants.

One bill of mine remains on the governor's desk: a committee bill that revamps the gravel pit permitting process. It doesn't do all it should for people living near the pits, or for public participation. It changes the fee structure so that the state agency, the Opencut Mining Division in the Department of Environmental Quality, gets around $400,000 more for new hires to process gravel applications, so the agency supports the bill. And the bill, after months of wrangling, suits the gravel industry well. It shortens the application review time and does not provide the agency any authority to deny a permit, even if a pit isn't appropriate somewhere. (That provision came out of the bill months ago.) The lobbyists from the Montana Contractors Association twice said they couldn't support the bill without changes, so we made the changes. Then the MCA members came to the House and Senate committees as opponents, requesting more amendments that they'd already agreed not to request. The bill was signed by the Speaker of the House a week before adjournment, but not by the Senate president; if it had progressed then as it should, the governor's office could have proposed governor's amendments that the legislature could have considered when it was still in session. But the Senate president signed the bill after the last day of the session, and so it advances to the governor's desk as is. We'll see what happens to it.

From this past week, and the last days of the session, here are some photos.


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