February 6 - 10, 2023

Transmittal approaches; decision day for MUS budget; pay plan progresses; Regent confirmation hearings near

With six weeks down and hundreds of bills still awaiting drafting, review, introduction, hearings, and votes, legislative committee leadership is beginning to prepare members for lengthy hearing agendas and protracted executive action sessions. It is the point in the process when the general bill transmittal deadline, which seemed so far away a few short weeks ago, looms large with the potential to force committees into extra innings to ensure appropriate public notice, fair hearings, and thorough discussion.


March 3 is the 45th legislative day and the deadline for all general bills to be transmitted from their chamber of origin to the other chamber. With a few exceptions, general bills that fail to be transmitted will die.

Appropriations bills, Revenue Bills, and bills proposing referenda must be transmitted on April 7, the 67th legislative day. Among those bills and high on the MUS’s list of priorities are HB 2 and HB 5, the measures containing appropriations for agency budgets and building and capital maintenance proposals.

With the hearings and presentations on the MUS’s portion of HB 2 and HB 5 having occurred in late January, the OCHE team is keeping a close eye on those subcommittees’ plans for executive action on the budgets, requested spending authority, and potential adjustments that may be brought by subcommittee members.

Anticipated Action

Schedules are subject to change, but executive action is anticipated next week as follows.

  • Tuesday, February 14 (beginning at 9:00 a.m.): Section F Long-Range Building Subcommittee votes on the MUS’s major repair and capital projects proposals, as well as HB 10, the state IT infrastructure funding bill.
  • Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday, February 16 (beginning at 8:30 a.m.): Section E Joint Subcommittee acts on MUS’s budget and any adjustments proposed by subcommittee members.

Once approved by the subcommittees, the bills, with whatever changes the subcommittees approved, move to the full Appropriations and Finance and Claims Committees where they receive another round of hearings, additional scrutiny, and committee action.

HB 13

HB 13, the State Employee Pay Plan, remains under close watch by the OCHE team. If enacted, the bill will significantly impact system employees as well as system budgeting. So far, the bill has met little resistance and passed out of the House on Friday with an 89-7 vote. Key provisions of HB 13 are:

  • across-the-board pay increases in FY 2024 and FY 2025 of $1.50 per hour or 4% (whichever is greater) for state and university system employees;
  • a one-time lump-sum payment to employees equivalent to 50 cents per hour in FY 2023; and
  • an increase to the meal per diem rate for travel.

HB 13 will move on to the Senate Finance and Claims committee next week. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Updates and What to Watch

SR 32 – Confirm Governor’s appointee for Board of Regents of Higher Education
The Senate this week scheduled a hearing for SR 32, which submits to the Senate Governor Gianforte’s appointment of Jeff Southworth to the Board of Regents. Regent Southworth has served on the Board since 2022. The hearing is scheduled for 03/15 in the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee.

SR 51 – Confirm Governor’s appointee for Board of Regents of Higher Education
The Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee will soon schedule a hearing for SR 51, which submits to the Senate Governor Gianforte’s appointment of Norris Blossom to the Board of Regents. Regent Blossom has served as the student regent since last summer. The hearing will be held the same day as Regent Southworth’s confirmation hearing.

SB 232 – Provide for deadlines to respond to public information requests
SB 232 requires a public agency to acknowledge receipt of requests for public information within 5 days of receiving the request, requires an agency to provide the requested information within 20 working days from the date the agency acknowledges receipt, provides for extension of the deadline, and allows a person to file an action in district court if an executive branch agency fails to meet the deadline. SB 232 has been assigned to the Senate State Administration Committee. It was determined that the bill needed a fiscal note to indicate the fiscal impact to agencies to comply with the requirements, so the hearing was canceled pending preparation of the note.

SB 289 – Allow tuition waivers for qualified survivors of firefighters and peace officers
SB 289 expands tuition waivers to a surviving spouse or child of a person who meets the qualifications for a firefighter as provided in 7-33-4107, MCA. SB 289 is sponsored by Senator Friedel (R-Billings).

HB 31 – Generally revise laws related to academic brewers license
HB 31 would allow a unit of the MUS or a community college that is part of a community college district to apply for an academic brewers license. This week, the bill passed through the Senate and is a few steps away from becoming law.

HB 185 – Increase appropriation to MSU Fire Service Training School
HB 185 provides a $352,000 biennial appropriation and a $120,000 one-time-only appropriation to the MSU Extension Fire Service Training School to be used for increased staff resources, fire engine maintenance, and training. Senate Finance and Claims will hear the bill on 02/13.

HB 197 – Constitutional amendment on article X, section 9
As noted in previous summaries, HB 197 is a referendum to amend the section of the Montana Constitution that vests the Board of Regents with the full authority to manage and control the Montana University System. As drafted, the bill aims to restrict the Board’s authority with respect to actions taken by the Legislature. The bill has been referred to House Judiciary, but the hearing has not been rescheduled.

HB 391 – Require local user fee on certain exempt property
HB 391 would require cities and counties to collect user fees from certain property owners that are currently exempt from state taxation, including educational institutions. The bill sponsor noted during a hearing earlier this week that the bill is intended to apply to MUS property. HB 391 is sponsored by Representative Essmann (R-Billings). 

HB 445 – Establishing mentoring program for new teachers
HB 445, sponsored by Representative Romano (D-Helena) would establish a statewide teacher mentoring program in the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and sets forth specific programmatic requirements for teaching mentoring. The bill includes an appropriation of $1 million. A hearing is scheduled for 02/13.

Time Served

Legislative Day: 30
Percent Complete: 33.33%