Legislative Update February 2015

Legislative Update - February 10, 2015
This Update will come weekly to inform you on the 2015 Idaho legislative session. Every Friday, we will try to send a report to update you on the broad issues and news out of both the Montana and Idaho capitols.   We will include specific updates on the both general issues and legislation important to you, as well as those issues specific to Landscape Architecture.  

This report is provided as a member service - if you are not a member and would like to know more, please check us out at http://www.idmtasla.org/.

 In this Issue: 

  1. Montana Update
  2. Idaho Update
  3. Upcoming Events

Montana Update:

Submitted by:  Jolene Rieck
These reports have advanced your advocacy desires, become hooked on advocating for landscape architecture by following Montana’s bills at www.leg.mt.gov. The list will get quite long until the transmittal deadline of February 27, of which many of these bills will be declared dead.
Category 1:  Funding and Financing (for your future projects)
HB5 – Jeffrey Welborn (R) “Provide for Infrastructure Development.”  This bill provides state-funded revenue for designated projects, otherwise known as Governor Bullock’s “$400 million infrastructure bill.”  While almost no one questions the projects included in the bill, debate is whether to use low-interest bonds (as proposed by Democrats) or to use cash (as proposed by Republicans).  The Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning holds a hearing almost every other day on the bill.    See also HB403 by Dave Hagstrom.
HB9 – Mike Cuffe (R) “Cultural and Aesthetic Grants.”  This bill provides state-funded revenue for projects funded through a grant process ran through the State Department of Commerce.  The bill contains project-specific requests and dollar amounts.  Many of these projects are managed on a local government level.  This bill has been re-referred to the House Joint Appropriations Subcommitee on Long-Range Planning.  A hearing is scheduled for February 6.
HB262 – Kerry White (R) “Revise resort tax laws.”  While there are less than six communities in Montana that qualify for the resort tax (local sales tax), this bill would allow those communities, by petition, to add an additional 1 percent to the 3 percent currently allowed.  In a strange twist, that 1 percent can only be used for historic preservation. A House Taxation Committee held a hearing on February 3 and took no action.

HB308 – Jeff Essman (R) “Revise coal board and impact grant laws.”  This bill is aimed and changing the composition of the Coal board from a 7 member to 9 member board.  The sponsor is from Billings, and I suspect he is trying to ensure Billings has representation on the board based upon the qualifications of the board members.  Billings has been shut out of several coal board grants considering several coal trains pass through the community.  This bill was  rereferred to the House Local Government Committee and has a scheduled hearing for February 10.

HB310 – Tom Jacobson (D) “Establish an oil and gas trust fund.”  This bill would put forth to a vote of the Montana people, a constitutional amendment to create an oil and gas trust fund.  The bill does not say how those funds must be used.  The House Taxation Committee held a hearing on February 5, and took no action on the bill.

Category 2:  Licensure and Regulation
HB63 – Kathy Swanson (D) “Revise licensing/regulation of engineers and land surveyors.”  This bill breezed through the Senate Committee and Chamber and has been transmitted to the Governor for his signature.  Obviously, the engineer and land surveyors know how to get a bill passed in short order!  http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2015/billpdf/HB0063.pdf
HB80 – Ryan Lynch (D) “Revising certain licensing boards.”  This bill mostly refers to electricians and plumbers.  It provides exemptions for those installing low-voltage lighting to under 90 volts.  This bill passed unanimously out of the House chamber.  It has been referred to the Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs Committee with a hearing scheduled for February 10.
HB 97 – Edie McClafferty (D) “Authorize alternative contracting process.”  This bill will allow for alternative delivery for all Departments in the State.  http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2015/billpdf/HB0097.pdf   The Senate Highways and Transportation committee held a hearing on February 3 and took no action on the bill.
HB248 – Kenneth Holmlund (R) “Revise contracting laws for community colleges.”  If you do any work for Montana’s Community College Districts, then this proposal will allow for a Board of Trustees to direct select up to $80,000 for contracting services.  That is quite a big number jump, considering that $25,000 is the current law.  This bill passd out of the House floor on 90-10 and 88-11 votes.  It has been transmitted to the Senate and assigned to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee with a hearing scheduled for February 9.

SB76 – Gene Vuckovich (D) “Revise administrative duties for licensing boards.”  This bill makes changes to the board’s authorities for continuing education, license renewals and disciplinary actions. http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2015/billpdf/SB0076.pdf  The House Business and Labor Committee reviewed the bill on January 29, but has not scheduled a hearing.
SB79 – Tom Facey (D) “Clarify the definition of “fees commensurate with costs.”  This is of direct importance to our board.  It gives the Department of Labor and Industry the power to set fees commensurate with costs.  I think this bill is an attempt to “fix” some of the issues the boards had when the fees commensurate with costs was passed several years ago.  The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs committee has not taken action since the January 20 hearing.
*NEW* SB251 – Dee Brown (R) “Revise prevailing wage laws to match local government contracting.”  This bill would raise the minimum construction amount from $25K to $80K in which prevailing construction wages are required.  This bill has been referred to the Senate Business, Labor & Economic Affairs Committee with a hearing scheduled for February 18.
Category 3:  Water Rights
HB 168 – Steve Fitzpatrick (R) “Define combined appropriation for exempt wells in certain cases.”  The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports developers who have already applied for a subdivision permit would be allowed to drill household water wells without a water right if the Legislature passes House Bill 168.  The bill received support from both the real estate and agricultural interest, groups normally at odds over wells. This bill passed out of committee and the House on a 99-1 &97-2 vote.  It has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

SB203 – Bradley Hamlett (D) “Revise exempt well laws.”  This bill complicates the exempt water well system. http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2015/billpdf/SB0203.pdf I’m including the link because it is very complicated. An individual exempt water right in this bill is reduced to 20 GPM with an annual volume of 2 acre-feet or less, and a project use must be 35 GPM with an annual volume of 7 acre-feet or less.  An “individual” use must be 35 GPM or 2.4 acre-feet, used to irrigate 0.7 acres or less.  A shared use must be at 35 GPM or 2.4 acre feet or less that can serve 2 or 3 homes or businesses.  A “project” use can still be at 35 GPM or less with 10 acre feet or less.  The Senate Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on February 16.
Category 4:  Planning and Zoning
HB183 – Forrest Mandeville (R) “Revise annexation laws related to parks.”  This bill requires that parks that are located adjacent to wholly surrounded by city property being annexed by a municipality be included in the annexation.  It is in my opinion that this is a positive change that will eliminate parks in the county wholly surrounded by city lands that creates confusion for law enforcement and other park management issues.  This bill passed the 2nd and 3rd readings in the House 66-34 and 67-32.  The Senate Local Government Committee had a hearing on February 4 and took no action on the bill.

SB226 – Roger Webb (R) “Revise subdivision review criteria laws.”  This bill prevents future subdivisions to be used in speculation with an applied subdivision.  Plan reviewers must only consider approved or submitted subdivisions adjacent to a review.  The Senate Local Government Committee held a hearing on February 4 and took no action on the bill.
*NEW* HB380 – Mike Miller (R) “Revise laws related to subdivisions and recreational camping vehicles.”  Current law indicates that if one wants to build an RV park with more than 5 spaces, the development of the park falls under the full subdivision requirements.  This bill would change that number to 20 RV spaces, and then subdivision requirements would be required.  This bill has been referred to the House Local Government Committee for a hearing on February 10.
*NEW* HB385 – Zach Brown (D) “Revise cash donation in lieu of land for park dedication requirement.”  This bill would require the value of the cash donation to include the unimproved park land AND the value of park improvements if such improvements are set forth in a growth policy or other plan.  The House Local Government Committee has a hearing on February 12.

Category 5:  Business Development and Management
HB213 – Mike Miller (R) “Revise business equipment tax laws.”  This bill will raise the exempt threshold for business equipment from $100,000 to $500,000.  This bill passed out of the House Taxation Committee on a 12-8 vote with amendments.  I haven’t heard what the amendments are, stay tuned.

SB 99 – Jill Cohenour (D) “Revise Insure Montana small business health insurance laws.”  With the changes in the Affordable Care Act, this bill revises the Insure Montana program that has traditionally been funded with tobacco dollars.  This bill may affect you if your small business is a part of this program.  The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs committee has not taken action since the January 23 hearing.
SB205 – Robyn Driscoll (D) “Provide for the Hire Montana First Act.”  This bill outlines the preferences for employment of Montana residents on public works projects.  This bill strikes out the word construction and replaces it with public works contracts.  http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2015/billpdf/SB0205.pdf This bill could be applied to design services for public works projects.  This bill may be good for Montana landscape architects who are constantly competing with out-of-state firms for public project work.  This bill has been referred to the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs committee and has a hearing scheduled for February 6.
*NEW* SB246 – JP Pomnichowski (D) “Revise laws restricting use of sick leave & vacation time.”  This bill would remove the probationary period requirement for employees seeking to use sick and vacation time.  This bill is referred to the Senate State Administration Committee with a hearing scheduled for February 11.
Category 6:  State Transportation and State Parks
HB263 – Matthew Monforton (R) “Remove Madison Buffalo Jump State Park from the list of primitive parks.  A hearing was held on January 29 in the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks Committee with no action.

HB280 – Jeff Essman (R) “Generally revise laws on bicycles.”  Bicycle advocacy groups have been working on several bicycle bills for this legislature.  BikeNet (Billings) and Bike Walk Montana (Helena) among others are collaborating on these bills.  This bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee on a 12-2 vote with amendments.  The amendment addresses where a lamp can be located, either affixed to the bicycle itself or to the cyclists’ helmet.  The House will vote on this bill on February 6.

HB312 – Nancy Wilson (D) “Require MDT to consider growth policies and neighborhood plans.”  The Missoula-based legislator introduced this bill.  Those of us who have worked with MDT are probably smiling behind their screens, but it unclear whether or not the rest of the legislature believes that codifying law is required to make such a change.  The House Local Government Committee was held on February 3 and no action has been taken.

HB346 – Clayton Fiscus (R) “Revise laws related to highway by-pass requirements.”  This bill would require certified mail notification of all property owners throughout a highway bypass planning process.  I’m speculating that this is in response to a MDT bypass project in Billings where property owners contested a large highway through their front yard.  The House Transportation Committee held a hearing on February 4 with no action taken.

SB191 – Robyn Driscoll (D) “Specify exception for state parks under the procurement laws.”  This bill would allow State Parks to enter into concessionaire agreements for up to 20 years.  The current law is 7 years which is problematic for State Parks who have concessionaires who build facilities on State Park lands that are having difficulty finding financing for those facilities.  A hearing was held on February 2 in the Senate State Administration Committee and no action has been taken.
*NEW* - HB394 – Jerry Bennett (R) “Revise bicycle safety laws.”  This bill would require a vehicle who is passing a bicyclist to maintain a distance of 4 feet.  This bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee with a hearing set for February 11.
*NEW* - HB395 – Doc Moore (R) “Revise laws and rules related to public swimming pools and spas.”  This bill would allow for a grandfather clause for existing pools and spas (and spray parks) to be exempt from the requirements of any new regulations.  This bill has been referred to the House Local Government Committee.

*NEW* - SB279 – Christine Kaufmann (D) “Revise Pedestrian Laws.”  This bill would require a vehicle to stop for a child in a school crosswalk to stay stopped until the child got all the way to the other side.  This bill was referred to the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee.

The total number of introduced bills is 743, and unintroduced bills count at 1680.  426 Bills have been introduced in the House and 278 bills have been introduced in the Senate through January 30.

If you know of a bill or bill draft that you think ASLA should track, please contact me at jolene@peakstoplains.com
Idaho Update
Submitted by:  Teri Ottens

As is typical at this point of a legislative session not much appears to be happening. Most legislative committees have completed their review of executive agency rules and are beginning to consider actual bills. Not much happens on the floor of either the Senate or the House. They both hold relatively brief floor sessions each day, clear their legislative calendars by voting on the few bills that have made it through the process and adjourn for the day.
Much of the work of the legislature will take place in the next four or five weeks as proposals are considered by the 24 committees (ten in the Senate and 14 in the House). Bills get hearings and votes to advance them to the full body are held. This committee system generally acts as a good screening process to keep bad ideas from advancing and to help good ideas get even better. The key to the success of this committee system is the committee chair.
Committee chairs are like traffic cops and they have nearly absolute authority to decide what will and will not be considered by their committees. They decide when bills will be scheduled and in what order. The chair also has the ability to put a bill “in a drawer” so that it never gets a hearing. We always want to have good relations with all committee members. It’s essential that we have a good relationship with the chair.
More detailed information can be found at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/.


Specific Issues to Watch:
CALDERA MONUMENT - Stating findings of the Legislature and opposing any national monument designation in the Caldera area of the Island Park region in eastern Idaho and declaring that any efforts to reach decisions regarding lands of Idaho administered by federal agencies be made by local collaboration, rather than by unilateral administrative processes that exclude the residents of Idaho.
Reported out of Committee with Do Pass Recommendation, Filed for Second Reading
by REVENUE AND TAXATION COMMITTEE RECREATION DISTRICTS - Amends existing law to remove a provision that a certain Idaho taxing code section does not apply to certain recreation districts and clears up technical problems. 
This bill has passed the Senate and is on the way to the House.
EMINENT DOMAIN - Amends existing law to provide that eminent domain shall not be used for trails, paths, greenways or other ways for walking, running, hiking, bicycling or equestrian use, unless adjacent to a highway, road or street.
This bill has been introduced and printed.
Upcoming Events
·         Missoula Event: Jennie Meinershagen will be a panel presenter at the Sustainable Business Council’s Social Sustainability Event Series ‘Healthy Work Environments’ February 19th, 2015, from 5:30-7pm at Adventure Cycling, 103 E. Pine St. The series is free and open to the public. Local food and drink will be provided.

·         Missoula IMASLA Lunch Group will begin 2015 monthly lunches in February and continue on the third Thursday of the month through next fall. Please contact Kate Dinsmore, kdinsmore@wgmgroup.com to be included in the email distribution list and receive invitations.

·         Certified Playground Safety Inspector Course and Exam February 25-27 , 2015 - CEU’s: 1.2 PowerHouse Event Center 621 South 7th St. Boise, ID 83702  Link to document to sign up: Rendezvous 2015

·         RENDEZVOUS, October 8-11, Boise, Idaho