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Bugle Briefs 03/15/09

Fun week coming up in the legislature. I suggest you all take the week off go sit in front of the teevee, pig out on chips and beer and watch committee hearings. Unless of course the hearings bore you silly like they do every other sane person. So, on second thought, go to work and on your way home pick up a copy of the Bugle and we’ll try to keep you informed. Here are a few places to start off your week.

BAD: 03/18 SB417 Jim Keane (D) Butte, gets a hearing before the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications committee (who comes up with these committee names?) As you will remember from our post on Friday, this dumb bill redefines the Montana Constitution and alters the intent and meaning of MEPA to make it just a polite suggestion to the legislature that they consider, if they want to, any health, cultural or environmental consequences of state agency actions. Don’t like your constitutional guarantee of a clean and healthy environment? Your going to love this bill. Passed the Senate 29-21 so, there may be a chance to stop it in the House.

BAD: 03/19 SB 529, Llew Jones (R) Conrad, same committee. This fun bill would have the state just back off and not be so tough on fuzzy bunny coal energy companies when they want a permit to destroy public land. ‘nother assault on MEPA. We all know that they just want to create good, high-paying jobs that cause their employees and the public to die a slow and painful death from toxins and climate change so, why should they have such a hard time getting a permit?

BAD: 03/19 SB483, Llew Jones (R) Conrad, same committee (jeez, these guys have all the fun). This bill does really bad things to your rights as a citizen to appeal DEQ air and water quality permits. It makes the permitting process pay to play. The BER will decide whether a citizen needs to post a bond. Guess who they are talking about, YOU. It shortens the time to file an appeal. It won’t let you bring up any new information about a permit if it wasn’t covered during the comment period. Basically, if this stupid bill passes you can kiss off your right to file an appeal to a DEQ permit.

Good: 03/17 SB437, Gary Perry (R) Manhattan. House Local Government committee. This bill makes a small change in the way fish ponds are permitted in the state. It forbids the use of exempt wells. Exempt groundwater wells are small wells (<35gpm) that do not have to go through the regular permitting process. Just because they are small doesn’t mean that there can’t be a lot of them in a watershed or that a single well might affect the water rights of neighbors. Since they don’t go through the regular review, there is no way to tell the consequences. The bill DOES NOT affect already permitted ponds and it DOES NOT stop anybody from building a new pond using the regular environmental review process. Good bill, it should pass. It sailed through the Senate 38-12 and that’s a tougher audience than the House.

Good: 03/19 HB190, Kendall Van Dyk (D) Billings. Hearing before the Senate Fish and Game committee. This bill passed the House 97-3. All it does is codify and clarify the public’s right to use stream access at county road bridges. The issues have been upheld by the Attorney General and the Montana Supreme Court. All this bill does is write the prior findings into law so that all sides know where they stand. Maybe it will slow down all the stupid lawsuits by rich landowners that don’t want you on their private rivers. Pass this one.

Finally, HB455, The Big Sky Rivers Act went down on a 9-9 party-line vote in the House Local Government committee. Nine Republicans decided for you that this really good bill should not get a vote on the floor of the house. A tie vote in committee usually means that a bill is in it’s death throes, but there is still a small chance of reconsideration. Let’s start a movement to get the committee to reconsider this good bill. Then let’s take a couple of Republicans out behind the capital and persuade them with our cattle prods that they messed up.

Call your Senators and Representatives tomorrow at 406-444-4800 and leave a polite message in support of good bills and let them know how you feel about stupid legislation.  Or, use the Legislature Online Message Form to send email to your local legislators and members of the appropriate committees.


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