HB 597, by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings), was a broadly titled Public Service Commission reform bill. MEIC’s primary concern was that it was openly being talked about by legislators as becoming a coal bailout bill very late in the session. There were active efforts to make the bailout happen, however these efforts failed.
What remained was a bill that puts in place the potential for a “hearings examiner” to hear Public Service Commission cases and make recommendations to commissioners on how to rule. The commissioners would not need to follow this recommendation, however it would likely carry significant weight. The bill also changes the timeline for long-term resource plans being created by utilities from every two years to every three years.
Efforts failed to amend in language on coal bailouts. The bill passed the House and the Senate, was signed by Governor Bullock, and has become law.