It is probably a good time to announce my intention of running for reelection as the Representative of Montana House District 27 (where the wind blows and the barley grows). Filing for office begins Jan. 12 and it is always good to let your intentions be known ahead of time.
During the 62nd Legislative session I served on the House Appropriations Committee and Long Range Planning Sub-Committee. During the interim, I am serving on the Legislative Finance Committee and I am one of four members elected as part of its management team.
I believe I had a very good freshman session in which I established excellent relationships with both the Montana Association of Counties (Harold Blattie) and The League of Cities and Towns (Alec Hansen). In fact, I carried legislation directly affecting these two entities when I proposed a new formula for the calculation of their statutory entitlement. This new formula provides county and city government with an index that is much more temporarily relevant then the previous one while including both a floor and a ceiling. The prior index lagged actual state economic conditions by as much as six years; the new index lags by a mere six months. The floor ensures that local funding will not decrease in severe economic conditions and the ceiling caps the maximum allowable rate of growth. This bill (HB-95) was passed into law and was signed by Governor Brian Schweitzer.
I carried a bill that reinstated the Treasure State Endowment Program (HB-351). TSEP funds local infrastructure projects and it has become integral to improvements to water supplies and waste water treatment in rural Montana. If you will recall, the Governor’s original budget eliminated this spending for the 2013 biennium. My bill funded more than 30 projects and kept most of the eligible projects on track for completion during the biennium. The Governor also signed this bill into law, albeit not without some political shenanigans in the form of a line item veto. His line item veto is currently being tested in court and it looks like the Montana Supreme Court will be the final arbiter on this issue.
I carried three bills of direct local interest. One provided the state veterinarian with more flexibility regarding the reporting of herd health test results (HB-294), one provided a clearer definition of the term ‘local owner’ in the Montana renewable energy portfolio standard. Thus, ensuring that only Montanans will receive the benefit (as originally intended). And finally, I carried a bill that ties the wind energy right to the surface right (HB-295). This was done to head off the issues created by severance as manifested in the current law regarding sub-surface mineral rights. All three of these bills were passed into law.
I carried two bills designed to give the legislature and the citizens of Montana a better accounting of exactly where and how the state is spending their money, The first of these proposed to review all statutory spending on an eight year cycle (HB-317) and the second proposed that the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning provide certain year over year spending comparisons so that we can easily determine whether or not the proposed spending is an increase, decrease, or the same (HB-388). Alas, while each of these bills made it to the Governor’s desk, they were both vetoed.
And finally, I carried four other bills that were integral to the proposed legislative budget (HB-375, HB-316, HB-604, and HB-611). These bills suffered a mixed fate with two being signed into law and two receiving vetoes.
That summarizes the legislation that I carried directly but let us not forget that the legislature also passed the following:
Sweeping worker’s compensation reform which produced an annual premium savings of approximately 20 percent for Montana businesses.
Substantive change in the Montana Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) designed to make it easier to receive a permit and, a bill providing for the phase out of the business equipment tax.
In short, we had a session that was so good for business that the Montana Chamber of Commerce rated it the best in the previous 30 years.
Feel free to contact myself (271-7535), Harold Blattie (698 0939), or Alec Hansen (442 8792) with questions or for confirmation of my veracity. I wish you all a great holiday season, Rep. Rob Cook, HD-27.