Legislative Week in Review
April 3 - April 7
Big week for the MUS; budget and long-range building funding holding strong; win some, lose some
The whirlwind that was Week 14 at the Montana Legislature is drawing to a close and a 3-day Easter break begins at the conclusion of Friday’s business. Seventy legislative days will have come and gone. Legislative leadership has shifted some deadlines to accommodate the glut of bills still awaiting hearings and committee action, and the official calendar as of April 5 has legislative day 90 falling on Saturday, May 6. In the flurry of activity, one of the most consequential bills of the session for the MUS continues to work its way through the process.
On Monday, the House debated HB 517 and the constitutional authority of the Board of Regents to govern the MUS. The bill’s 2nd Reading vote was 66-34, with all Democrats and two Republicans--Rep. Welch (R-Dillon) and Rep. Rusk (R-Corvallis)—voting no. On the next day’s 3rd Reading vote, the bill lost support of 5 additional Republicans, with 61 members total voting in favor. Along with the Democrats, the following lawmakers voted against HB 517 on 3rd Reading:
Brad Barker (R-Red Lodge)
Ross Fitzgerald (R-Power)
Llew Jones (R-Conrad)
Denley Loge (R-St. Regis)
Wayne Rusk (R-Corvallis)
Ken Walsh (R-Twin Bridges)
Tom Welch (R-Dillon)
Although the bill has a more difficult road ahead to garner the supermajority of votes needed for the referendum to be placed on the ballot, it has been transmitted to the Senate and will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, April 12. The MUS will continue to actively oppose HB 517 throughout the remaining days of the session.
HB 2 (General Appropriations Act)
The MUS budget received its first hearing in the Senate Finance and Claims Committee on Wednesday. During his comments, Commissioner Christian highlighted the importance of investing in the MUS to support the mission of higher education across the state and the need for continued support for the benefit of students, their families, and Montana’s communities. The committee made no initial changes to MUS’s budget during Friday’s Executive Action on Section E. Members will conduct their final votes on all sections and HB 2 as a whole on Tuesday, April 11.
HB 5 (Long-range building appropriations)
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing for HB 5 but is expected to hear the bill next week. No proposed amendments have been posted at this time.
HB 10 (Long-range information technology financings and appropriations)
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee heard HB 10 Tuesday. Executive Action is expected next week.
HB 13 (State pay plan)
The state pay plan has been transmitted to the Governor for his signature, which is expected soon.
HB 288 (Tuition waivers for Native American students)
HB 288 has been referred to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee. A hearing will be scheduled soon.
HB 496 (Provide for health care preceptor individual income tax credit)
The MUS supported HB 496 at its hearing in the Senate Taxation Committee. On Friday, the Committee voted 7-5 to send the bill to the Senate Floor for debate.
HB 531 (Establish annual combined meeting of the board of education)
HB 531 is nearing the end of the legislative process. It will soon be sent to the Governor for his signature.
HB 749 (Revise Montana digital academy laws)
The Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee will hear the bill on April 14.
HB 944 (Establish the Montana in-demand skilled trades investment pilot program)
After passing in the House on an 80-19 vote, HB 944 has been transmitted to the Senate and referred to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee. A hearing date has not yet been set.
HB 949 (Generally revise education laws related to data governance)
HB 949 easily cleared the House on a 92-5 vote. The Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee will hear the bill on April 12.
HB 950 (Establish the Student and Administration Equality Act)
After passing the House on a 65-34 vote, HB 950 has been referred to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee. A Legal Review Note prepared by the Legislative Services Division’s legal staff outlines potential constitutional concerns.
SB 232 (Provide for deadlines to respond to public information requests)
The House State Administration Committee tabled SB 232 early this week.
SB 480 (Remove opt-in requirement for student contact information on ACT test)
On a vote of 8-5, the House Education Committee voted to send the bill to the House floor for consideration.
Legislative Day: 70
Percent complete: 77.78%