Capitol Monitor – 2013 Legislative Session

Volume 20, Number 1 — January 7, 2012

PDF Version

Your “insider’s guide” to the 2013 Legislature

The Montana Capitol. MEIC is preparing for the 2013 Legislative Session.

The Montana Capitol. MEIC is preparing for the 2013 Legislative Session.

Welcome to the first issue of MEIC’s Capitol Monitor for the 2013 legislative session. As usual, you can expect to receive high-quality and up-to-date information on the Montana Legislative Session.

We expect this session will be one of the most challenging in MEIC’s 40-year history. We hope that by communicating promptly and frequently with you—our members—you will be able to participate more effectively in our lobbying efforts.

And—no kidding—we need your help. Our lobbyists cannot do it alone. Protecting the environment this session will require everyone’s efforts. So please use the Capitol Monitor and our website (www.meic.org) to get involved. Let’s protect the things that make Montana special.

Legislators need to be told over and over that Montanans want clean air, clean water, clean energy, and the right to participate in government decision making. If they don’t hear from you, it could be that they will only hear from well-heeled, self-interested lobbyists. It’s your choice.

Let the Games Begin

When the Legislature convenes on Monday, January 7th, we expect to hit the ground running. Most seasoned observers of the legislative process predict it will be similar to the craziness of the 2011 Legislative Session. If the bill draft requests already submitted by legislators are any indication, many of our environmental laws, public health safeguards, and public participation rights will be on the chopping block. Last session the governor vetoed many of the worst bills. We expect all of those vetoed bills to be re-introduced.

Given the attacks, part of MEIC’s response will be providing our members with up-to-the-minute information about what’s going on at the Capitol. Our website will be updated daily so you can follow the bills and issues that you care about most. MEIC will also regularly publish Capitol Monitor with the most recent information on the important upcoming bills and hearings. To follow the session and read the MEIC Blog, go to www.meic.org.

MEIC also invites you to join us during the session to help us lobby during one of our Citizen Lobby Days. We will help guide you through the steps you need to effectively talk to your legislator about issues that matter to you. Please sign up for one or all of our citizen lobby days and let us help you protect the environment. Plan to attend one or all on Jan. 24, Feb. 13, Mar. 8 and Apr. 9.

How to Engage During the 2013 Session

  • MEIC Legislative Bill Tracker. MEIC maintains and regularly updates a Legislative Bill Tracker. It that includes the important legislative proposals that could impact Montana’s environment. All of the bills on our bill tracker are categorized by issue, offer an easy-to-understand description, list MEIC’s position, and it includes a tool for contacting key legislators.
  • Capitol Monitor and Blog. MEIC maintains a legislative newsletter (Capitol Monitor) and Blog that will have frequent posts about environmental and energy issues affecting Montana, and will include relevant writings on the 2013 Montana Legislative Session.
  • Calendar of Events. MEIC and other environmental organizations will hold “lobby days,” host legislative socials, and schedule membership meetings across the state to provide legislative updates. MEIC regularly updates our online events calendar, where you can view the details of different events.

An Advance Peek at the Issues

CONSTITUTION AND MEPA. We can expect numerous at tacks on our constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, and our right to hold government agencies and large corporations accountable when they fail to comply with public health and environmental laws. In addition, there are almost a dozen bills requested to change the Montana Environmental Policy Act – again!

Senator Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge.

Senator Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge.

One bill that has already finished the drafting stage and has been introduced is SB 17 (Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge). It would amend the Montana Constitution to say everyone has the right to “use” their property. This language sounds a lot like “takings” proposals that have been defeated in previous sessions. It appears that this language is intended to provide people with a constitutional right to use their property, regardless of how it might impact their neighbors. If that is not his goal than his proposed amendment is meaningless as the Montana Constitution already provides a right to acquire, possess, and protect property.

RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY CONSERVATION. There will be attempts during this legislature to roll back the few policies that support a clean energy future in Montana. These rollbacks include undermining the state Renewable Energy Standard that requires public utilities to acquire 15% of their energy from new renewable resources by 2015. For example, SB 31 (Sen. Debbie Barrett, R-Dillon), would subvert the renewable energy standard by allowing all existing hydropower from large dams to be counted as an eligible renewable resource, which would threaten the feasibility of new renewable energy projects.

Senator Debby Barrett (R-Dillon)

Senator Debby Barrett (R-Dillon)

There will also be attempts to change policies that promote energy efficiency and energy conservation. Some positive changes may include increasing energy efficiency tax credits for homeowners and businesses. However, a negative proposed change includes SB 74 (Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge), which undermines Montana’s Universal System Benefits (USB) program. USB is a crucial funding source for low income weatherization, energy efficiency, and smaller scale renewable energy projects.

OIL AND GAS. There are several bill requests to end or significantly alter the oil and gas “tax holiday”, a tax break for newly producing oil and gas wells for up to the first 18 months of production. It was originally put in place to incentivize new oil and gas development. With the recent and rapid increase in the development of oil and gas in Montana, mostly due to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, it is obvious that incentives are not necessary.

How to Contact Your Legislators

If you do not know who your legislator is, you can search by zip code on Project Vote Smart’s website: www.votesmart.org

  • By computer: MEIC will regularly offer ways to contact legislators via our 2013 Legislative Session page and online bill tracker: We also have created a legislator contact page, in which legislators phone numbers, emails, and/or addresses are available.
  • By telephone: To leave a message for your legislator or for session information, call (406) 444-4800 between 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. until adjournment on Saturday. You may need to be patient; the line has been understaffed in previous years.
  • By Mail:

Montana Senate
P.O. Box 200500
Helena, MT 59620

Montana House of Representatives
P.O. Box 200400
Helena, MT 59620

MEIC’s Team at the Capitol

From left to right: Kyla Maki, Anne Hedges, Jim Jensen, and Derf Johnson.

From left to right: Kyla Maki, Anne Hedges, Jim Jensen, and Derf Johnson.

Leading MEIC’s lobbying staff at the Capitol is Anne Hedges, MEIC’s Program Director. Anne joined MEIC in May 1993, and has lobbied every session since. She handles a wide range of issues that are important to MEIC members including energy, land-use planning, environmental policy, and air quality.

Jim Jensen has been MEIC’s Executive Director since 1985. He attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City and holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Montana (1980). Jim will focus primarily on clean water and mining issues at the legislature.

Kyla Maki will be lobbying primarily on renewable energy and energy efficiency issues. She is beginning her fifth year at MEIC, having lobbied during the 2009 and 2011 sessions. Kyla graduated from the University of Montana in 2006, obtaining a degree in Wildlife Biology with an emphasis in Political Science from the College of Forestry and Conservation.

Derf Johnson will be lobbying primarily on oil and gas development and energy issues. He is beginning his third year at MEIC, having lobbied during the 2011 session. He is a graduate of the UM School of Law, and originally hails from Bozeman.