Montana’s 65th Legislative Session || Legislative Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on Montana’s 65th Legislative Session. Jay and Kori sit down to discuss the outcome of 10 of the bills that were on MSGA’s Priority List this year. Our lobbying focused on taxes, property and water rights, wildlife management, regulation and agency funding. Questions? Please email Kori or contact the office at 406.442.3420.

 

Week 14 || Montana’s 65th Legislative Session

This week Jay Bodner and Kori Anderson sit down to discuss aquatic invasive species, sage grouse, tax rates and more. Have any questions about the topics discussed? Contact the MSGA office at 406.442.3420.

 

Week 3 || Montana’s 65th Legislative Session

Listen to the podcast below for an update for the week ending January 20, 2017. MSGA’s Director of Natural Resources, Jay Bodner, sits down with MSGA Manager of Communications, Kori Anderson, to discuss the past week at the Capitol. They discuss water bills, the Agriculture Coalition, fence laws and more!

Montana Stockgrowers Addresses Policy Focus and Priorities during Legislative Session

Errol RiceBy Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President

Three overarching policy areas were paramount to Montana Stockgrowers during the 2015 Montana State Legislature – adequate funding for the Department of Livestock, passage of the CSKT Water Compact and the Sage Grouse Conservation Act. Each brought varying degrees of controversy and unwavering points of view by lawmakers and constituents, but we made the lift. There is still work to be done.

Fundamentally, there are three different approaches MSGA could have taken on these issues. We could have just simply reacted and waited to see if we’d be forced to respond to new and unanticipated policies. We could have only monitored and gleaned information to anticipate policy changes. We could have undergone direct participation in the process and shaped policy to minimize threats and advance opportunities. We chose direct participation in the process. This approach is the most costly in terms of resources, but the results in my opinion have yielded the greatest benefit to our industry.

The Department of Livestock budget came together after weeks of negotiations between livestock interests, House Appropriations and the Senate Finance committee. MSGA worked hard on the appropriations process. For months, leading up to the session we have been offering feedback and briefings to legislators on the tightening of costs and revenue projections, adjusting fees, recalibrating Board governance, human resource policies and procedures, and building a long-range plan. MSGA has also focused on vetting and making recommendations to the Bullock administration about appointments to Department’s Board.

The Governor’s nomination of Lila Taylor is a game changer. We supported and stewarded her candidacy through the process. Lila brings over forty years of industry experience along with a foundation in legislative appropriations and sharp understanding of how to serve on high-level boards.

She has served on the Board of Regents and the Montana Board of Public Education just to name a few. We also supported the confirmation of Nina Baucus and reappointment of Brett DeBruycker. Both of whom are stalwarts to the successful future of the DOL.

The CSKT water compact was a very complex policy matter that required intense due diligence by the water committee, Board of Directors, legal counsel and our lobbyists. We had to establish a high degree of confidence that the compact protected historic water rights both on and off the Flathead Reservation. Ratifying an agreement of this magnitude is of course going to draw a level of skepticism by some people.

There are almost no public policy decisions that enjoy unanimous support from all constituents, but as a matter of mitigating our industry’s risk exposure from tribal water claims, this compact needed passage. This proposal still has to go before the U.S. Congress for authorization and this could take years. After that, the CSKT’s tribal council must formally approve it. Following the tribe’s approval, the Montana Water Court must consider it.

In the meantime, the tribe must file their water rights by June 30th of this year. Those claims will be put on hold while Congress takes up the compact. MSGA will continue to be fully engaged at all levels of the compact’s life cycle moving forward.

Since April of 2013 MSGA has been working to develop a Montana solution for the conservation and management of sage grouse with the intent of avoiding a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listing of the bird under the Endangered Species Act. A listing by the USFWS would have a devastating impact to Montana’s livestock economy.

The passage of Senate Bill 261, solidified a mechanism for private landowners to maintain, restore and expand sage grouse habitat. Furthermore, it offers incentives for private landowners to participate as well as provide mitigation options for project developers such as coal, oil and natural gas to meet their regulatory obligations. MSGA has been at the forefront of getting Montana’s plan structured the right way for grazing interests.

Montana’s livestock industry is profoundly affected by public policy decisions. Anybody can be a part of this process but MSGA will continue to build from the bottom up to access key policy makers, providing credible technical information and influence. Political advocacy is not always easy and it is a competitive endeavor but we have to play to win.

I read a piece recently by Stanley McChrystal, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan and now advises CEOs on leadership. He said that political chiefs handling national security in Washington would benefit from a bit of white-water rafting together. That would build personal relationships that promote cooperation during times of crisis.  This is important from my point of view in that political advocacy is not always about making a statement but actually showing that we can develop meaningful relationships and lead on major issues affecting our industry.

Governor Steve Bullock Signs CSKT Water Compact Into Law

Senator Chas Vincent (R, Libby) speaks during the ceremony for signing of SB 262 at the Capitol on April 24. Image: Governor Steve Bullock

Senator Chas Vincent (R, Libby) speaks during the ceremony for signing of SB 262 at the Capitol on April 24.
Image: Governor Steve Bullock

Governor Steve Bullock today was joined by Sen. Chas Vincent and tribal leaders fromthe Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes as he signed the CSKT Water Compact into law. Once implemented, the Compact will honor tribal treaty rights, while protecting water access for farmers and ranchers both on and off the reservation, as well as avoiding the uncertainty that decades of litigation would cause. It is the final tribal water compact to be approved by the Montana Legislature.

“I am honored to sign the CSKT Water Compact into law. It is proof that when we put partisanship aside, work together and seek out solutions, we can tackle the biggest and most complex issues before us,” Bullock said. “This Compact will ensure that we’re living up to our treaty obligations while protecting the interests of Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

After the Legislature failed to approve the Compact during the 2013 legislative session, Bullock andthe Tribe agreed to reopen limited negotiations on issues related to irrigation use and instream flows on the Reservation, as well as incorporating recommendations from the Montana Water Policy Interim Committee. After a series of public hearings, Sen. Chas Vincent, who opposed the Compact in 2013 agreed to be the lead sponsor of the bill in the Montana legislature.

“Water is no doubt the most valuable resource in the Montana. This Compact will ensure that all Montanans continue to have access to reliable water sources, whether they live on reservation or off,” Vincent said. “I’m pleased that legislators from both sides of the aisle recognized not only the importance of passing this legislation, but also that this was a fair deal for all Montanans.”

Governor Steve Bullock signs SB 262 into law at the Capitol on April 24, 2015. The CSKT Compact must now go to Congress for approval. Image: Governor Steven Bullock

Governor Steve Bullock signs SB 262 into law at the Capitol on April 24, 2015. The CSKT Compact must now go to Congress for approval.
Image: Governor Steven Bullock

The Compact will make new water available for commercial and irrigation use, end the water administration void on the Flathead Reservation, allow for economic development under conditions of legal certainty on and off the Reservation, and facilitate the completion of the statewide general stream adjudication. In addition, the Compact would establish a technical team with irrigator representation to implement irrigation project upgrades to protect historic irrigation use and meet Tribal in-stream flow targets.

“This day will be remembered for years to come,” said CSKT Chairman Vernon Finley. “We have more discussions to sort out with Congress, but we can always say that many joined with us as the Montana Legislature did the right thing and supported the CSKT Water Compact. This is a historic day.”

In addition to Bullock and Vincent, the Compact received wide bipartisan support from farmers and ranchers, business groups, conservation organizations, and elected officials. The Compact now goes to Congress and the CSKT’s Council for final approval.

–Office of Governor Steve Bullock

Young Stockgrowers Host Calling on the Capitol – Legislative Conference

Lacey EhlkeBy Lacey Ehlke, Townsend, Young Stockgrowers Vice Chair

This year’s Calling on the Capitol Legislative Conference, hosted by the Young Stockgrowers, was a very informative and productive two days in Montana’s capitol city. We 20 attendees from all over the state become involved in the key issues affecting Montana ranchers.

The event started with a great overview of the issues focused on in the 2015 Legislative Session, presented by MSGA’s Jay Bodner. We then formed a round table discussion to talk about these issues, the major ones being the Board of Livestock Budget, Sage Grouse population, and the CSKT Water Compact. In that discussion, we were able to talk to all participants and find out how these issues directly affected them, as well as getting some questions answered for those affected. The social hour and dinner later that evening allowed us to get to know the fellow attendees, as well as continue some very meaningful discussion.

Calling on the Capitol 2015 Legislative Conference YSGThe next morning, we were fortunate enough to have breakfast with over 15 of our local legislators from both the Montana House of Representatives and Senate. During this breakfast, it was clear the legislators wanted to hear our input on the issues affecting ranchers in the state, which was both encouraging and rewarding. Following breakfast, we had a presentation from both the DNRC and Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and were able to ask questions of the presenters. Errol Rice then gave us a legislative training to prepare everyone for the visit to the Capitol that afternoon.

To wrap up, we all headed to the Capitol to see the legislature in action. The timing worked out perfectly, as we witnessed a joint session of the House and Senate, who were then addressed by Montana’s Congressman Ryan Zinke.

A comprehensive tour of the Capitol building itself followed and we completed the day by listening in to the Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting that afternoon.

As the newly elected Vice Chair of the Young Stockgrowers, I felt extremely lucky to be able to attend such a wonderful event. I am trying to become more involved in the organization, and this was a perfect way to do so. I recommend it to all Young Stockgrowers, not only for all the useful knowledge you walk away with, but for the lifelong friends you will make over the course of two days. These issues the MSGA staff work so hard on affect each one of us as ranchers, and it is crucial that we keep ourselves informed.

Senate Committee Passes SB 262 on CSKT Water Compact

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee took executive action on Senate Bill 262 (Implement CSKT water rights settlement). The bill passed committee by a vote of 8-4 and will now advance to the Senate floor.

Republican Senators Chas Vincent (Libby, bill sponsor), Doug Kary (Billings) and Nels Swandal (Wilsall) joined Democrats Robyn Driscoll (Billings), Cliff Larsen (Missoula), Mary McNally (Billings), Mary Sheehy Moe (Great Falls) and Diane Sands (Missoula) to vote in support of the bill. We encourage you to reach out to these Senators in appreciation for the support of this important piece of legislation.

As you know, Montana Stockgrowers Association came out in support of the CSKT Water Compact last month. You can read our press release here.

On Monday of this week, the President Gene Curry testified in support of the Compact, SB 262, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He outlined why the Stockgrowers Association supports this critical legislation:

  • The compact includes numerous protections for historic water users that would not be available through litigation.
  • In those cases where the CSKT are granted off reservation rights with a time in memorial priority date, the rights are limited in a manner to protect historic water use
  • If the compact is not ratified, water right claims filed by the CSKT will likely be larger, more senior and likely encompass a greater area of the state.
  • Regardless the outcome of the litigation it will be expensive, lengthy and disruptive to the current adjudication process

“It is important to pass this critical piece of legislation and not force thousands of family ranchers in similar situations of this type of litigation,” said Curry during his testimony.

To protect Montana’s ranchers, we need YOU to Take Action in support of the Compact.

Call your Senator and House members today and tell them to support the Compact – (406) 444-4800. Let them know that the compact is the right choice for ranchers. Individual contact information can be found on the Montana Legislature’s website.

For more information on the compact, you can go to the DNRC website and read more. MSGA will share more information about the compact in next week’s member newsletter.

2014 Election Results for Montana

The votes are in and final ballots are being counted for the 2014 election. Across the country, Republicans gained several seats over Democrats, even in traditionally Blue states. Republicans will now have the majority in both Senate and House, with Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell expected to take on the role of Senate Majority Leader.

Locally in Montana, Republican Party candidates did well in the election, gaining the Senate and House seats. Daines will be the first Republican to serve as U.S. Senator from Montana in 101 years. Below are results from the Secretary of State’s office with 692 of 693 precincts fully reported this morning. To view complete local results, go to electionresults.sos.mt.gov. Results are not considered complete and final until final canvass is certified by the Secretary of State.

Congratulations to our winners-elect. MSGA looks forward to working with newly elected officials on issues important to Montana’s ranching communities.

United States Senator

  • Steve Daines (R) – 57.89%
  • Amanda Curtis (D) – 39.97%

United States Representative

  • Ryan Zinke (R) – 55.47%
  • John Lewis (D) – 40.35%

State Supreme Court Justice #1

  • Jim Rice – 78.33%
  • David Herbert – 21.56%

State Supreme Court Justice #2

  • Mike Wheat – 59.07%
  • Lawrence Vandyke – 40.85%

Public Service Commissioner, District 5

  • Brad Johnson (R) – 61.06%
  • Galen Hollenbaugh (D) – 38.94%

Ballot Issues

  • Constitutional Amendment No. 45 (State Auditor)
    • No – 51.60%
    • Yes – 48.40%
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 126 (Voter Registration)
    • No – 56.82%
    • Yes – 43.18%

To see State House election results, click here.

Montana State House Results 2014

To see State Senate election results, click here.

Montana State Senate Results 2014

Montana Stockgrowers and Farm Bureau to hold joint legislative conference for young farmers and ranchers

Helena – The Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Young Stockgrowers and Montana Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers will meet in Helena, Jan. 24-25, for the 2011 “Calling on the Capitol.” This year’s event is the first joint conference for the associations.

“MSGA and MFBF are looking forward to bringing young farmers and ranchers to Helena to see the 62nd session of the Montana Legislature,” said Peter Taylor, chair of MFBF’s Young Farmers and Ranchers.

“Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with the leaders of both associations, the legislature and our state agencies,” said Charlie Rein, chair of MSGA’s Young Stockgrowers.

The “Calling on the Capitol” will feature visits with President of the Senate, Senator Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo); Speaker of the House, Representative Mike Milburn (R-Cascade); a tour of the Capitol; meetings with Montana Department of Livestock and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials; media training; and an opportunity to attend legislative hearings.

The conference will be headquartered at the Red Lion Colonial Inn in Helena. Registration and hotel rooms are free for attendees. The conference is limited to the first 30 registrants and registrations close Jan. 21, 2011. Registration forms are available at www.mtbeef.org or www.mfbf.org, or by calling MSGA at (406) 442-3420 or MFBF at (406) 587-3153.