By Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, R
It’s taken a while to readjust to being home after a grueling 4 months in Helena. I wanted to share with you a written report of the legislation that successfully passed into law as a result of bills I requested, drafted, and/or carried during the 2015 legislative session. Of course there were many other issues I worked on, but these are the ones originating from my desk that became law. Below you will find the bill number, official title (in all caps), and a brief description.
For more detailed information on any bill, audio or video of the hearings, and vote tallies visit www.leg.mt.gov.
SB 356: AN ACT REVISING LAWS RELATED TO LAW ENFORCEMENT; AND PROVIDING THAT THE CURRICULUM FOR THE MONTANA LAW ENFORCEMENT ACADEMY MUST INCLUDE INSTRUCTION ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS. Increases law officer’s knowledge of the lawful rights of citizens and strengthens public trust and confidence in our law enforcement officers by requiring the Montana Law Enforcement Academy to provide a section of instruction on constitutional law emphasizing the rights of the people as set forth in the bill of rights of the United States constitution and the rights contained in Article II of the Montana constitution. The bill was supported by the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and the Montana Municipal Police Association. It passed the Montana legislature with most republicans voting yes and most democrats voting no.
SB 294: AN ACT REVISING THE AUTHORITY OF A HOSPITAL DISTRICT TO BORROW MONEY; ALLOWING NOTES ISSUED TO PROVIDE FUNDS FOR A HOSPITAL DISTRICT TO MATURE OVER A TERM NOT TO EXCEED 30 YEARS IF APPROVED BY THE DISTRICT ELECTORS. Helps hospitals by extending the repayment period for a hospital district that borrows money by the issuance of bonds for acquisition, furnishing, equipment, improvement, extension, and betterment of hospital facilities and to provide an adequate working capital for a new hospital. Prior to passage of this legislation a hospital had to pay off the notes within a 15 year loan period. SB294 allows the bond notes to mature over a term up to 30 years, but only if authorized by the electors of the district. This bill passed with 148 of 150 Montana legislators voting in favor.
SB 298: AN ACT REQUIRING THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PURSUE REIMBURSEMENT OF MONEY OWED TO MONTANA PURSUANT TO THE ENABLING ACT; DEPOSITING RECOVERED FUNDS IN THE PERMANENT FUND FOR THE SUPPORT OF COMMON SCHOOLS. As a result of the legislature’s interim study of federal lands, we learned that the federal government has not been paying the state as required each time it sells public lands in Montana. This law directs the Attorney General to pursue unpaid funds that the federal government owes to Montana’s permanent fund for schools. Every democrat in the House of Representatives voted against the bill, but it passed with strong republican support. Next week I will meet with the Attorney General to provide the lawful and historical research I have compiled on this issue which goes clear back to Montana’s Statehood in 1889.
HB 510: AN ACT FACILITATING IMPROVED LAND AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ON PUBLIC LANDS IN MONTANA TO AID LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN REDUCING WILDFIRE RISK AND IMPROVING FOREST HEALTH ON FEDERAL LANDS; ESTABLISHING DUTIES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION; PROVIDING STATE ASSISTANCE TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. Helps local communities by requiring a state forester to assist local governments who request aid in accomplishing projects on federal forested lands that reduce excessive wildfire fuels that endanger communities, infrastructure, or municipal watersheds; or enhance economic productivity in economically depressed counties. This bill received strong bi-partisan support in the House and was opposed by most democrats when it came up for a vote in the Senate. With strong republican support it passed.
SB 50: AN ACT REVISING OFFENSES RELATED TO THE VISUAL OBSERVATION OR RECORDATION OF A PERSON WITHOUT THE PERSON’S KNOWLEDGE. Protects every individual’s right to privacy by prohibiting people who would linger around a residence or use remote technology for the purpose of surreptitiously (secretively or fraudulently) viewing or recording an occupant in their home without the occupant’s knowledge. SB 50 also prohibits recordation of the sexual or intimate parts of another person in a public place without the other person’s knowledge when the victim has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in public restrooms or department store dressing rooms, etc. The law does not apply to a law enforcement officer or investigator while the officer, agent, employee, or private investigator is acting in the course and scope of employment for legitimate investigative purposes. I carried this bill at the request of the Montana Attorney General. It passed into law with only one legislator (a democrat) voting against it.
SB 326: AN ACT REVISING LAWS RELATED TO RECREATIONAL USE OF STATE LANDS; REQUIRING PUBLIC NOTICE PRIOR TO LAND CLOSURES AND RESTRICTIONS ON GENERAL RECREATIONAL USE; SETTING CAMPING LIMITS. Increases the user friendliness of State Trust Lands by allowing campers to stay for up to 16 days per 30 day period and also allows horses to be kept overnight. The bill also requires State agencies to issue a press release and post notice on site prior to a future use restriction or closure taking effect. This gives the public in the affected area a better chance to become aware of the situation and possibly prevent a restriction or closure BEFORE it occurs. The bill passed with strong bi-partisan support.
SB 308: AN ACT PROVIDING A PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN PROPERTY LEASED TO A COUNTY, MUNICIPALITY, OR TAXING UNIT FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES; REQUIRING THAT THE PROPERTY BE USED FOR PUBLIC PARK, RECREATION, OR BEAUTIFICATION PURPOSES. Provides a property tax exemption on up to 10 acres of land rented or leased to a municipality or taxing unit for less than $100 a year and that is used for public park, recreation, or landscape beautification purposes. This is particularly helpful for communities that maintain or improve public parks on railroad right of ways. The bill passed with most republicans voting yes and most democrats voting no.
Thanks for being informed and involved in YOUR government!
Sen Jennifer Fielder
Montana State Senate – District 7
P.O. Box 2558, Thompson Falls, MT 59873
Please connect with me at: www.jenniferfielder.us
Serving beautiful Northwest Montana including all of Sanders and Mineral Counties and western portions of Flathead and Missoula Counties.