February 20 - 24, 2023

Transmittal around the corner; bills advance; it's flood season 

As evidenced by the hours of hearings, packed committee and floor agendas, and altered schedules, the legislative session has entered a new and frenetic phase—one in which the brick wall known as Transmittal is on everyone’s mind.

On Friday, March 3, all general bills still in the process must be transmitted to the other chamber for consideration. By the end of that day (Legislative Day 45), any general bill that is still in a committee, still in drafting or in any stage of the review process, or still in the possession of the chamber in which it originated dies by virtue of it not having met the transmittal deadline.

Today is the last day a general bill may be introduced, and of the 4,620 total bills requested, 1,401 have been introduced.

OCHE’s legislative team’s tracking list continues to grow and fill in as the text of bills becomes available, sponsors introduce legislation, and hearings are scheduled. Many of the 358 bills the MUS is tracking have transmittal deadlines later into March and April, so the team’s work continues apace to make sure nothing escapes review as the landscape shifts daily.

Updates and What to Watch

SB 232 – Provide for deadlines to respond to public information requests

SB 232 would establish deadlines for public agencies to acknowledge receipt of and provide response to requests for public information. A fiscal note prepared for the original bill estimated an impact to the state General Fund of over $4 million each year of the biennium. This week, the Senate State Administration Committee heard the bill, amended it significantly, and passed it out of committee on a 10-0 vote. A revised fiscal note is expected to be prepared before the bill is debated on the Senate floor.

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). The Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee made a minor revision to the bill and sent it to the Senate floor on a vote of 11-0.

HB 5 – Long-range building appropriations

On Thursday this week, the Section F committee returned to executive action and passed an amendment removing language about a “statewide education facility.” The amendment provides more clarification on the process for the construction of Gallatin College. Like the other major appropriations bills, HB 5 will move to the full House Appropriations Committee for another round of hearings after transmittal.

HB 185 – Increase appropriation to MSU Fire Service Training School

HB 185 proposed a $352,152 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. After the Senate Finance and Claims heard the bill last week, Sen. Esp requested an amendment to reduce the biennial appropriation to $102,152. The committee approved that amendment and passed the bill. The amended version will be debated on the Senate floor likely after the transmittal break.

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 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 teacher mentoring. The bill includes an appropriation of $1 million. The House Education Committee heard the bill on Monday and has not yet voted on it.

HB 482 – Provide access to education and supports for children aging out of foster care

Sponsored by Rep. Gillette (R-Bozeman), HB 482 establishes “a Montana foster youth higher education assistance program administered by the board of regents through the commissioner of higher education for the purpose of helping youth who have aged out of the foster care system meet their educational, vocational, and professional goals without accruing debt.” The bill establishes a grant program that provides full-time room and board. The bill currently does not include an appropriation to administer or fund the program. An initial hearing was held in House Education on Friday.

HB 496 – Provide for health care preceptor individual income tax credit

HB 496, sponsored by Rep. Walsh (R-Twin Bridges), creates a non-refundable personal income tax credit for preceptors in Montana. Similar to other states that adopted tax credits to incentivize individuals to serve as preceptors in healthcare related fields, HB 496 would provide a $1,000 credit for each eligible clinical rotation. The maximum amount each taxpayer could claim is $5,000. As currently drafted, an “eligible health care training program” is a “graduate-level academic degree-granting program or graduate medical education program that:

  • has its principal accreditation or physical location in the state; and
  • provides clinical instruction to an advanced practice registered nursing student, medical student, physician assistant student, psychology student, counseling student, applied behavioral health student, or social work student, including a student listed in this subsection (6)(b)(ii) who is continuing the student's training as a resident or fellow to obtain additional qualifications for licensure.

A eligible “preceptor” is “an individual licensed in this state as an advanced practiced registered nurse, physician, osteopathic physician, or mental health provider who voluntarily provides direct supervision and instruction of a student enrolled in an eligible health care training program.” The bill is scheduled for its first hearing in House Taxation on Tuesday, February 28, at 8:00 a.m.

HB 517 – Constitutional amendment regarding Board of Regents

HB 517 seeks to submit 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. The proposed amendment states that the legislature “may enact laws requiring the board of regents of higher education and units of the Montana university system to adopt and maintain policies and practices that protect the rights and associated civil liberties provided in the Montana constitution and those provided in the United States constitution.” It also provides “the board of regents of higher education and units of the Montana university system are not exempt from laws of general applicability.” HB 517 is sponsored by Rep. Hopkins (R-Missoula). It has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, and an initial hearing is expected in mid to late March.

HB 531 – Establish annual combined meeting of the board of education

Sponsored by Rep. Brockman (R- Kalispell), HB 531 reduces the number of required meetings between the Board of Regents and the Board of Public Education, which constitutes the state Board of Education. State law currently requires the joint Board of Education to meet twice a year. HB 531 proposes to require annual meetings and does not preclude meetings to be called as necessary as provided in law or limit collaboration between the BOR or BPE. An initial hearing was held on Friday in House Education.

HB 715 – Revise school immunization laws

HB 715 is sponsored by Rep. Carlson (R-Belgrade) and proposes to revise school immunization laws, including the authority of a postsecondary school to impose immunization requirements as a condition of attendance that are more stringent than those currently required in part 4 of Title 20, chapter 5, of the MCA. The bill also revises immunizations exceptions. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, February 27 in House Human Services.

HB 749 – Revise Montana digital academy laws

HB 749, sponsored by Rep. Jones (R-Conrad), revises laws for the Montana Digital Academy, which is housed at the University of Montana. The bill expands instruction for part-time students and would authorizes instructors from Montana and “other jurisdictions.” The bill also revises the makeup of the Digital Academy’s governing board, creating nonvoting seats for a member of the House and Senate and a licensed teacher, and establishes the legislative appointee as the presiding officer of the board. HB 749 also establishes a clearinghouse “to provide additional choice and flexibility to build local capacity for serving pupils with remote instruction courses, models, and materials.” The bill includes an appropriation of $950,000 to the office of the commissioner of higher education for each year of the biennium for the Montana Digital Academy.

HB 814 – Revise laws related to intellectual diversity on college campuses

HB 814, sponsored by Rep. Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls), proposes that whenever a public postsecondary institution provides an opportunity or facilities for expressive activity providing a specific viewpoint, the institution shall provide an equal opportunity for the expression of the opposing viewpoint. The bill would require the opportunity for the opposing viewpoint to be presented within 1 year of the date of the original presentation. HB 814 was introduced Friday and has not yet been scheduled for hearing.

Next Week

Week 9 promises more of the same as the words “flood”, “deluge”, “avalanche”, and “glut” have been heard over the microphones as legislators plan their schedules. The Legislature takes its Transmittal Break from March 4 through March 8, returning on March 9 to begin Act II.


Time Served

Legislative Day: 40

Percent Complete: 44.44%