Update from the Legislature

Some bills of interest to the Flathead Valley are Senate Bill 9, Senate Bill 29 and Senate Bill 94

By Keith Regier

The 65th session of the Montana Legislature has finished its 3rd week.  Bill drafts on various legislation are being completed and assigned to committees for public hearings.  These hearings are open to the public for their input.  If an individual is in favor of a bill becoming law or opposed to it, the committee hearing is where they can voice their opinions.  If a bill is favorably voted out of a committee, it goes to the Senate or House floor where no public testimony is allowed.

Some bills of interest to the Flathead Valley are Senate Bill 9, Senate Bill 29 and Senate Bill 94.  Senate Bill 9 is titled “Provide for Primary Enforcement of Seatbelt Laws.”  Currently not wearing a seatbelt is a secondary offense.  That means you can be fined for not wearing a seatbelt only if you are stopped for some other driving infraction.  SB 9 would make it a primary offense.  This bill was tabled in the Judiciary Committee.

SB 29 is titled “Providing for the Crime of Aggravated Sexual Assault and Removing the Requirement of Force from the Definition of Consent.” This bill changes the definition of rape to include intimidation and coercion. Victims do not consent but often from trauma or mental distress there is little to no resistance.  SB 29 says that evidence of force is not the only definition of rape. This bill passed out of Judiciary Committee and passed the Senate with a 48-0 vote.  It will now go to the House.

SB 94 is titled “An Act Providing for a Property Tax Exemption for Certain Residential Property When Land Value is Disproportionately Higher that the Value of the Associated Improvements.” There are several people that have high property taxes with the value of the land much higher than the value of the improvements on that land.  The increased value has been caused by neighbors buying land and building expensive homes.  This is happening on many lakes in the Flathead Valley. Montanans are being taxed out of their homes not by what they did with their property but by what happened beside their property.  SB 94 will limit the value of the land to 75 percent of the value of the improvements on that land.  It will only be for primary residents.  The Senate Taxation Committee heard this bill on Jan. 20 and will act on it in the near future.

These bills and others can be seen and tracked through the legislative process at leg.mt.gov.

Keith Regier is a Republican state senator representing Kalispell.

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