Flathead Legislators Propose Wide Range of Bills

By Beacon Staff

Flathead Valley lawmakers have put forth a wide range of bills at the 63rd Legislative Session, dealing with everything from staple issues like education funding and the business equipment tax to more obscure matters like canned food and beehives.

Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, is the primary sponsor of a critical joint resolution that establishes an official estimate of the state’s general fund revenue for fiscal year 2013. The Senate and House taxation committees met Jan. 10 to discuss the resolution and are scheduled to hold another hearing on Jan. 17. The legislative session began on Jan. 7.

Tutvedt, a farmer, is also introducing a bill to revise apiary laws and eliminate classifications for apiary sites, while revising registration procedures and fees. Senate Bill 95 also provides rulemaking authority.

As of Jan. 14, Tutvedt had over a dozen other pieces of legislation at various points in the bill draft process, including measures to revise tort reform laws, lower the business equipment tax and revise election laws.

Veteran lawmaker Dee Brown, a Republican senator from Hungry Horse, had a bill scheduled for hearing on Jan. 15 that revises laws on exchanges involving home canners and gardeners. Senate Bill 94 seeks to exempt certain foods and beverages from food safety regulations.

Brown is also the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 100, which stipulates that 25 percent of new natural resource development revenue goes to fund education. She is also requesting measures to establish a workers’ compensation holiday for employers with new hires and establish a Canada trade center.

Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, had four bills as of Jan. 14 slated for hearings. On Jan. 23, the state administration committee will take a look at Regier’s House Bill 78 clarifying break-in-service requirements for post-retirement employment under the teachers’ retirement system and House Bill 159 revising the Montana administrative procedure act.

There were also hearings scheduled for Regier’s House Bill 188 that revises laws for small power-production facilities and House Bill 104 that creates criminal offenses for the “death of an unborn child.”

Freshman legislator Rep. Ed Lieser, the Flathead’s only Democrat from Whitefish, has come out of the gates with a heavy slate of bill requests, including House Bill 52, which received a Jan. 11 hearing in the education committee. It renames “agriculture” in the Montana schools program account as “agriculture literacy.”

Lieser is also the primary sponsor of House Bill 94, which recognizes naturopathic physicians as licensed and practicing health care providers for unemployment insurance purposes. Among his other requested bills are measures requiring a septic inspection before a property transfer, providing tax incentives for landowner fire fuels reduction and revising fines for lakeshore protection violations.

Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, is the primary sponsor of seven bills, including three that have received hearings. House Bill 80 authorizes the Department of Corrections to appoint criminal investigators as peace officers. House Bill 45 requires a copy of the Environmental Quality Council’s eminent domain handbook to be included in a condemnation complaint. And House Bill 43 requires the Department of Public Health and Human Services to establish a jail suicide prevention program.

Sen. Jon Sonju, R-Kalispell, is introducing a measure – Senate Bill 117 – ensuring that federally qualified higher education savings plans from other states have the same tax advantages as allowed for the Montana family education savings plan.

Sonju’s other requested bills include revising automobile dealer franchise laws and clarifying which parties are entitled to protest additional franchise locations.

Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, has requested 20 bills and is the sponsor of House Bill 82 that clarifies workers’ compensation extraterritorial applicability in regards to other states, specifically applying to the construction industry. He has also requested bills to revise campaign finance laws, repeal same-day voter registration, revise property tax laws and revise Medicaid laws.

Rep. Mark Blasdel, R-Somers, the newly elected speaker of the house, has requested a number of bills, including revisions to motor carrier laws, state land cabin site laws, aquatic species laws and workers’ compensation laws.

Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, has requested measures to revise water planning laws, provide funding for water planning, extend the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission and authorize a Montana state bank, among others.

Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, is seeking to establish a “one-stop-shop” process for permits and revise workforce drug testing laws.

Among the bills requested by Rep. Randy Brodehl are measures prohibiting state employee testimony on policy matters before legislative committees, revising laws related to public employee unions and revising laws related to pawn shop stolen-gun procedures.

Sen. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, has requested measures to eliminate minimum wage for high school dropouts, allow defendants to bargain for corporal punishment and provide immunity to solid waste managers from civil action related to salvaging by the public.

O’Neil is the primary sponsor of House Joint Resolution 3, urging a U.S. constitutional amendment limiting Congress’ power to regulate commerce.

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