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Legislative Priorities for 2023

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Hello, folks! The following is a full overview of the bills I am privileged to sponsor. Hopefully, this provides a good look at my priorities in serving House District 7 in the 2023 Legislative Session. Thank you to the many who made the time and effort to pull this legislation together and to testify on behalf of these bills.

HB 91 State Library Aid

HB 91 is a bill to continue and expand funding to all qualifying local libraries in 82 counties throughout the state. The Library State Aid is the funding for which ImagineIf is currently not qualified; however, my hope is that our library may again be qualified - at that point, the funding would become available.

HB 225 Establishing a Montana Adoption Tax Credit

HB 225 is to establish a refundable tax credit for families who choose to grow their family through adoption. It proposes a tax credit of $5,000 for private or out-of-state adoptions and $7,500 for anyone adopting from Montana’s foster care system.

HB 256 Allows Auxiliary Officers the Ability to Carry Weapons (with training and approval from law enforcement agency)

HB 256 was drafted at the request of our local Sheriff’s Posse and local law enforcement agencies. Our auxiliary officers complete approximately 200 to 300 hours of training each year and undergo evaluation with the authorizing agency - in the Flathead, that’s the Sheriff’s Office. These auxiliary officers provide more than 10,000 hours of volunteer service to the Flathead community each year. In light of the recent violent gang event at the Majestic Valley Arena, the need for this legislation is clear. Unfortunately, this important bill is currently tabled, but we are looking at options to have it revived.

HB 257 CTE Advanced Opportunities

HB 257 authorizes funds to pay for out-of-pocket costs families would incur as a part of internships, apprenticeship or other learning opportunities outside the school’s brick and mortar walls. This bill also provides funding to schools to oversee and administer these hands-on opportunities. This bill is strongly supported by our schools, the teachers’ union, and Americans for Prosperity. It’s always encouraging to see legislation in which folks from very different perspectives can agree.

HB 267 SAFER Act

The SAFER Act is a $100 million transportation fund to be used for state matches on federal grant monies and reauthorization dollars. The goal is to help complete $750 to $850 million more in road, bridge, and safety projects for Montana over the next five to seven years. For projects such as West Reserve Drive or the Kalispell Bypass, these match dollars are critical in securing funding; Montana usually has to provide somewhere between a 1:5 and a 1:8 match on most of these matching opportunities.

LC 1916 - Generally Revises Electronic monitoring and Victim Notification Laws

LC 1916 will be introduced this week. This legislation offers victims of domestic violence the ability to opt-in to monitoring alerts through victim notification technology if court-ordered. It requires that the county attorney or prosecuting attorney notify a victim within one business day of an offender’s violation of geographic restrictions—for instance, approaching the victim’s home or workplace. It’s easy to understand why direct notification of the victim enhances the effectiveness of this life-saving service.

LC1301 Revise alcohol and gaming law relating to county all-beverages licenses (Liquor license loan option)

This bill is designed to address a growing community such as the Flathead. It is very difficult and expensive to get a liquor license when opening a restaurant. I’m a huge fan of the work our community has done to open Kalispell’s Parkline Trail but the reality is, we can’t revitalize without restaurants. LC 1301 will allow an innovative approach, which is to “lease” licenses from the County (6 total - in the Flathead’s case, 4 to Kalispell, 1 to Whitefish and 1 to Columbia Falls). The proposal makes licenses far less expensive while not devaluing licenses that others have purchased and owned. The lessee can use the leased license for the entire time they are in business, but it is non-transferable. If the business sells or closes, the license returns to the County’s license count and can be sold to a county business or leased out by someone new. I developed this legislation in partnership with the Chair of Business and Labor and am hopeful it can provide some options for folks who want to invest in our downtown area but have found it cost-prohibitive. Our Kalispell Chamber and Kalispell Downtown Association are excited to learn of this proposed legislation and are coming out in support.

LC 2772 Generally revise drug crime sentences (Fentanyl Trafficking)

LC 2772 proposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for anyone caught trafficking fentanyl in Montana. I’d love for it to be a longer sentence yet, but then we start bumping up against the work the feds are doing in our state. Overdose deaths related to fentanyl have increased by 1100% since 2017. The Attorney General has stated there is

enough fentanyl in our state today to kill every man, woman and child living here. We need to give our law enforcement officers more tools to get traffickers off our streets, and the goal of this legislation is to provide one of those tools.

Final Thoughts

My priority is is to focus on work that can benefit all the folks in House District 7. I also think it’s worth addressing some of the social bills. These issues are the ones that elicit great concern and a diversity of thought. My challenge is that, no matter what legislation I carry to serve my constituents, I am also required to vote on complex, divisive social issues. Very few of them are black and white--either “all good” or “all bad.”

For instance, consider HB 361--regarding use of gender-related pronouns in schools. Had the bill not added an amendment, I would have voted against it. However, the amendment that was added ensures that behavior does not rise to the level of bullying as defined state statute. With inclusion of the amendment to the bill, I see it falling within the perimeters of the free speech; the bill allows the school to intervene if a child is being targeted or bullied.

In general, I don’t see the social bills as top priorities for the people I serve in House District 7. Based on my time spent at the doors and on feedback provided by voters, I am focused on infrastructure, education, housing and community safety. My goal as your representative is to prioritize legislation that brings us together and to build bridges wherever possible.

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