Week 7 in the legislature

Jerry Schillinger
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Monday of week 7 got rolling on the Floor with approval of a bill to eliminate restrictions on nuclear energy facility development.

There are some promising new technologies developing that could make nuclear a safe, dependable way to supply base load electricity. The recent failures in our system point out some of our power supply vulnerabilities. Survival, especially in places like the central and northern plains, depends on reliability. We also passed a resolution directing state entities to resist any attempt by the federal government to put onerous taxes on firearms or ammunition.

We passed a bill increasing penalties for chronic DUI offenders, including stiffer fines and longer prison terms. There was a lot of debate on the floor and general agreement that there really aren’t any ideal solutions, but in the end a majority agreed that a priority of government is safety for its citizens, and this was necessary.

Electric vehicles have escaped contributing to the highway maintenance and construction funding because, obviously, they don’t buy gas and pay the accompanying taxes. As a reminder, the state tax is 32 cents a gallon, federal 18 cents. This bill will levy a fee of $150 for cars, $250 for heavier pickups, increasing for heavier vehicles. Not a perfect system, but a start to include electric vehicles to help support our roadways. Out of state vehicles escape the fees yet. If anyone has any innovative ideas, please let me know.

Free speech on college campuses hasn’t been a major issue in Montana, but the House ok’d a bill to hopefully ensure that it doesn’t become one.

We passed a part of the governor’s Recovery Plan to raise the business equipment exemption from taxation from $100,000 to $200,000 of equipment value. This is designed to help small business and encourage investment.

Another potentially significant bill passed to the Senate is for Montana to start electing our Supreme Court Justices by districts. Hopefully, this will bring The Court closer to the people they serve. Only voters in each district can vote for that particular judge. Hopefully, this will encourage some judges on the bench from areas other than just Helena.

Here we are at Friday again. I understand Gov. Gianforte ventured out to our neck of the woods today to visit some of the Keystone Pipeline sites to reinforce his support. This is too important of a project to just let go. Next week Sen. Hinebauch and I will be presenting a resolution of support from the legislature. I’m also preparing a bill to repeal the renewable fuels mandateimposed years ago on our electrical generation industry. While they have met the standards at this point, a repeal would apply to future increase of demand. Mandates typically spur poor economic decisions. Recent blackouts underscore the need for reliable energy baseload production. -30 doesn’t allow for a lot of margin for error.

This week my appropriations subcommittee wrapped up our work on reviewing the departments within our scope and are now prepared to present our recommendations to the full committee. There are six appropriations subcommittees, so each will report to the committee as a whole and we will have the challenge of dividing available money between competing requests.

HB 102 was signed by the governor this week to reinforce our 2nd amendment rights of selfdefense. Essentially this new law recognizes an individual right to conceal carry, without a permit, anywhere open carry was allowed before. It also allows conceal carry, with a permit, in places not allowed previously.

This week I signed on to a bill Sen. Ken Bogner is carrying to help ease restrictions on meat inspections affecting local processors. I raised and explained the need for this in a previous report.

March 3, has been targeted as transmittal date, meaning all non revenue bills must be transmitted from one house to the other by this date or die. We also have a four-day recess beginning that afternoon, so we are looking forward to our first trip home since this journey began in January.

Until next week, thanks again for your support. Contact me with your ideas and concerns.

(Rep. Jerry Schillinger, can be contacted at P.O. Box 200400, Helena, 59620, jerry.schillinger@mtleg. gov, 406-974-2478.)

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