Scores of Laws Take Effect with New Budget Year

Nearly $20 million in additional mental health funding will become available when the new fiscal year begins July

By ALISON NOON, Associated Press

HELENA — A $10 billion budget and millions of dollars in new and expanded mental health care are among the wave of laws taking effect Wednesday.

Nearly $20 million in additional mental health funding will become available when the new fiscal year begins July 1. That money will be used to expand mental health crisis intervention services and remodel the state hospital in Warm Springs.

Most of the 93 laws taking effect Wednesday are housekeeping measures that update existing code.

Another 165 will take effect Oct. 1. Still others, such as a $67 million plan to raise state employees’ wages and increase the state’s contribution to their benefits, will go into action in January or later.

The two-year budget the Republican Legislature passed spends less than Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock proposed in January. The final plan, as negotiated behind closed doors in the final days of the Legislature, increases spending by about 6 percent over the last biennium.

Other laws taking effect on Wednesday:

TAGGING: Hunters must tag game animals where they lie before moving or leaving a carcass.

PIPELINES: Six months after a pipeline break spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil into Montana’s Yellowstone River, state officials must publish pipeline information online, including counties where pipelines cross rivers and the closest shut-off valves to rivers.

MEETINGS: Five state boards must record and share their meetings on television or agency websites starting Wednesday. Three of them were already providing the recordings.

SUICIDE PREVENTION: Montana, the state with the highest rate of suicide, will begin urging public school employees to complete two hours of suicide awareness training every five years.

UBER: Lawmakers laid the groundwork for personally owned vehicles to operate transportation networks, opening the door for services like Uber to enter Montana.

TRIBAL COLLEGES: For the first time, tribal colleges will receive the same per-student funding as community colleges.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: An updated human trafficking law allows victims to bring civil action against a trafficker, provides immunity for child victims and makes victims’ past sexual behavior inadmissible in court. Victims could also move to have past criminal convictions vacated and get financial help.

MINT: Montana’s mint committee will be discontinued July 1. The committee was created in 1989 to serve peppermint and spearmint farmers, but Montana growers have turned to higher-profit crops, and virtually no mint farmers remain in the state today.

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