This session has already been a busy one, as many bills have been introduced that would have a direct impact on the state's agricultural resources. A few of these bills are moving right along from one chamber to the other so it is important that we communicate our position on these bills to our elected representatives.
SB 147 Generally Revise Subidivision Review Criteria Laws Regarding Agriculture - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Buttrey (R-Great Falls), this bill drastically changes the way agriculture is considered in the subdivision review process. Rather than looking at the impacts to agriculture as a whole, this bill limits consideration to “impacts on surrounding adjacent agricultural operations.” This change prevents local government from considering the permanent loss of agricultural land as an impact of a subdivision. This language is contrary to the original intent of the MSPA and was vetoed in 2011. This amendment further restricts the impacts a local government may consider and mitigate. This bill passed its second reading in the House with a vote of 64-36. We must now count on a veto by the Governor to kill this bill.
HB 420 Fund Food and Agricultural Development Centers - SUPPORT
This bill, due to significant work by Grow Montana, would secure an additional two years of funding for Montana's Food & Ag Development centers which do great work around the state assisting food and farm entrepreneurs. The bill provides $300,000 in total grant support for FY 2014 and 2015. It has been passed by the House and referred to Senate Finance and Claims Committee. Click here for more info on how you can help.
HB 471 Support Farm to School Programs - SUPPORT
This bill, again due to significant work by Grow Montana, would create a competitive grants program for Montana K-12 schools to help promote and support the purchase of Montana products in school lunches. The bill provides $300,000 in total grant support for FY 2014 and 2015. It has been passed by the House and referred to House Appropriations. Unfortunately this bill died in committee.
SB 17 Constitutional Amendment Revising Article II, Section 3, Regarding Use of Property - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Priest (R-Red Lodge), this is the “regulatory takings” watch bill. This bill modifies inalienable rights of “…acquiring, possessing, using, and protecting their own property…” (Changes underlined) While seeking further advice on the potential legal ramifications from takings experts, many of our conservation partners oppose the general concept that there should be no limits on the uses of private property. Reasonable regulation protects property owners as well as the general welfare, health and safety, and clean air and water communities depend upon. *Note: amendments to the Montana Constitution require approval of 2/3 of the entire legislature (100 votes). This bill has been tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SB 23 Revise Interim Zoning Laws - Support with Governor's amendments
Proposed by Senator Rosendale (R-Glendive), this bill would functionally eliminate an important tool for local government – interim zoning –which is used to protect private property rights when they are threatened by unexpected land use proposals. An identical bill was vetoed in 2011. This bill was amended by the Governor, which have been adopted by the Senate.
SB 24 Revise Zoning Laws for Sand and Gravel Operations - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Rosendale (R-Glendive), this bill gives exclusive rights to one property owner (in this case sand & gravel developers) at the expense of neighboring property owners and communities. Based on the timelines, developers would be able to file an open-cut permit at nearly any point in the zoning process and preempt a local government’s ability to create a residential zone. This bill was defeated on the Senate floor in 2011. As amended this bill would not allow an application for a sand and gravel operation to trump an ongoing zoning process as long as a hearing has been scheduled. It also requires a “complete application” for an open-cut permit before disallowing the creation of a residential zone that could prohibit sand & gravel operations. As amended, this bill strikes a much better balance between competing property rights. This bill was amended and passed both the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by the Governor.
SB 40 Generally Revising Provisions Governing Subdivision Review - WATCH/SUPPORT
Proposed by Senator Buttrey (R-Great Falls), this bill originally held language that would prohibit mitigation from being considered new information, thus requiring a hearing for consideration of mitigation measures. The mitigation section was completely amended out of this bill due to great work by our conservation partners. It has been signed into law by the Governor.
SB 41 Prohibiting Consideration of Future Subdivision Impact - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Buttrey (R-Great Falls), this bill prohibits a local government from considering the impact of future subdivision when considering a subdivision application. Similar to SB 40, this bill limits the ability of local governments to act on behalf of their own communities. Forcing local government to consider each subdivision in a vacuum flies in the face of good planning. A bill with the same language was vetoed in 2011. This bill passed the Senate and House but was vetoed by the Governor.
SB 105 Revise Interim Zoning Laws - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Brown (R-Huntley), this bill would prevent local governments from adopting interim zoning if a complete application has been filed for a project that is subject to state permitting. Local governments would be prevented from restricting certain land use activities despite the fact that the state has no authority to impose regulations to protect community interests. This bill was also vetoed in 2011. This bill passed the Senate and House and amendments are being offered by the Governor.
SB 146 Generally Revise Subdivision Review Criteria Laws Regarding Agency Comment - WATCH/SUPPORT
Proposed by Senator Buttrey (R-Great Falls), this bill would have required that agency comments regarding wildlife habitat or the natural environment be supported by the "best available scientific information." This language was vetoed in 2011 as "unneccessary, unreasonable, and counterproductive." Our conservation partners put some great work into this bill and it has been amended to say that comments should be supported by "scientific information or published studies." This bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
SB 284 Establish the Property Fairness Act - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Rosendale (R-Glendive), this bill would require local governments and state agencies to compensate private property owners if a rule, policy, permit, etc. reduces the market value of a property by 10% or more. This issue has been turned over by state and federal Supreme Courts many, many times and while it has been decided time and again that a regulation may not take ALL economic value of a property, when communities require regulations to protect private property values and other key community values, a fairly substantial portion of a property's economic value may need to be taken. This bill flies in the face of those decisions in Montana and across the country. This bill was tabled in the Senate Local Government Committee.
SJ 9 Resolution Providing Due Process for Property - OPPOSE
Proposed by Senator Taylor (R-Dayton), this non-binding resolution urges the state of Montana as well as local governments to reject policy recommendations from the United Nations. This resolution is part of a fringe theory that the sustainability and planning policies described in the UN's Agenda 21 are part of a global conspiracy to destroy the middle class and undermine private property rights. This bill was tabled in the Senate Local Government Committee.
Many thanks to Grow Montana, the Montana Smart Growth Coalition, and others for their help in putting this list together!