If you missed our legislative update call last Thursday evening, you’ll be glad to hear some good news: SB 176, a mish-mash of a coal-positive bill, is dead! And we’re hearing that all of your message, letters, and word-of-mouth is starting to pay off in the legislature. We need to keep it up!

You can always catch up on meetings you’ve missed on our website. Remember that you can comment multiple ways on a bill, whether it’s by phone or email. Our team is also working with members to write and send Letters to the Editor, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re interested in writing a letter and don’t know how to get started.

1. Speak Up for Electric Vehicles in Montana – Register NOW to testify against HB 188

Electric vehicles are in the crosshairs of the legislature right now and we need your help to prevent Montana from adopting the highest tax in the nation on these vehicles.

HB 188 by Rep. Denley Loge (R-Saint Regis) would add $250 onto existing registration fees for vehicles that are electric (and $400 for trucks using electric batteries). Electric vehicles that are 4 years old or newer would have to pay $467 per year to register (compared to $217 for nonelectric vehicles). Electric vehicles between 5-10 years old would have to pay $337 (compared to $87 for nonelectric). Those that are over 11 years old would have to pay $278 (compared to $28 for nonelectric vehicles).

That amount is more than every other state in the US!

With other states averaging between $100-150, the only other state that comes close is Georgia at $200. What is also outrageous is that there are only about 500 electric vehicles registered in Montana (behind Arkansas and Alaska), so now’s the time to encourage the State not to penalize the adoption of this important technology.

As the nation moves toward electric vehicles and companies such as GM invest over $27 billion in them, we must defend Montanans’ ability to move toward a cleaner vehicle fleet. The Montana Legislature should not penalize those who purchase an electric vehicle just as they start to become more affordable.

On top of everything, HB 188 is bad for business. The legislature should NOT be discouraging car dealerships from adding lucrative new vehicles to their inventory by making them less attractive to buyers with the fees attached to this bill.

Action: There will be a hearing for HB 188 in Senate Finance and Claims this Tuesday at 9:00 am. At this hearing, the committee will only accept public comments regarding the cost of the bill and not the policy — so please try to focus your comments on what this expense could do to consumers, businesses, and the growing electric vehicle industry in Montana. You can register before noon today to testify. As always, if you have questions, please contact us and we will help you defend Montanan’s ability to invest in the next generation of vehicles. Here’s the link: https://leg.mt.gov/public-testimony/

2. There’s still time to comment on SB 164 and 165, bills that will increase water pollution.

We’re in luck — the House hasn’t yet voted on SB 164 and 165, so there’s still time to contact your Representative. These bills would allow for more nutrient pollution into our ground and surface waters and reduce water quality protections currently in place for new developments.

Action:Send messages on SB 164 and SB 165. Call your Representative at 406-444-4800 and tell them to vote NO on these bills.

3. Sign letters saying you’re against NorthWestern’s Billion Dollar Bailout, SB 379.

SB 379 is the big, bad energy bill of the session that could cost NorthWestern customers more than $1 billion. Word on the street and the Twitter feed is that customers, legislators, and business people are mad about it, and we need to let our elected officials know just how many of us there are.

We’re collecting signatures asking legislators not to support this bill. If you don’t support paying hundreds more on your utility bills, consider signing one or both of these letters.

Letter for business owners:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeWZx3T4QGWwJYajuKVRWZDsECsLMzzKLvvxPFYOjHPWmD1jw/viewform?pli=1&pli=1&gxids=7628

Letter for anyone impacted by rising utility costs: https://meic.org/bill-tracker/#/28

Action: Call your Representative and message the full House saying you oppose SB 379. If you want to learn more about this outrageous bill, go to MEIC’s website here and see MEIC’s latest fact sheet, read newspaper articlesbusiness-focused op-eds,editorials, and watch recent TV coverage.

Update: We’re still waiting on the SB 260 vote.

The House vote on SB 260 continues to be delayed, and we don’t know when that vote will happen. In the meantime, let’s keep telling our Representatives to oppose this no-good, rotten, terrible takings bill.

If you need a reminder of why this bill is so bad, the long and short is that SB 260 expands the takings provision of the the Montana Constitution in a way that could lead to a total lack of regulation, because it will be easier for governments not to enforce laws than it will  be to pay out all the claims that could arise. This is dangerous for provisions that protect your health, safety, and the environment. 

Action: Send a message through our website, call your Representative at 406-444-4800, call the Governor at 406-444-3111, and tell your local government officials to help oppose this bill!!! 

MEIC in the News

There’s a horror movie being made right now for NorthWestern Energy customers.

Unfortunately, it’s not a fictitious screenplay, but a documentary of impending disaster.

Scene 1: A conference room in Spokane, where Colstrip owners are enmeshed in an arbitration. At issue, among other things, in the arbitration: NorthWestern says that any decision to defer maintenance — or to close — Colstrip units 3 and 4 must be unanimous among owners. The other owners say no. They say such decisions should be made by an ownership majority, not by unanimity. Four of the other owners in Washington and Oregon face bans on using coal-fired power starting in 2025.

The subplot: If NorthWestern wins the arbitration, the other owners who wish to close the coal-fired units might actually be forced to give up their interests to NorthWestern, giving the utility complete control of Colstrip.

Scene 2: The Montana Capitol, where the Senate Thursday passed Senate Bill 379. It goes to the House later this week.

Read more: Gazette opinion: SB 379, a horror show for NorthWestern Energy customers, should be killed – Billings Gazette. April 11, 2021

Check out some other news stories from the past week:

Bill Could Allow NorthWestern To Pass Colstrip Costs Onto Ratepayers – Kayle Deroches, MTPR. April 8, 2021

Takings’ bill leaves public unprotected – Sue Rolfing, Missoulian Opinion, April 7, 2021

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