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Montana Legislature Report for Timber Harvesters and Haulers – Week 2

Montana Legislative Session Update - Week 2

By Jason Todhunter, MLA’s hard-working representative.

Below are some highlights from the legislature's second week back, including some bills to monitor in the coming months that will have an impact on MLA members:

SB 57 – Allow the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) to use alternative project delivery methods (Theresa Manzella)

Monitor - This bill would allow MDT to use new contracting methods to get more work done on the ground and, hopefully, fix some bridges in the state!

SB 47Revise Commercial Driver's License laws to comply with federal requirements (Theresa Manzella)

Support - This bill requires the DMV to check to see if someone applying for a first-time Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is cleared on the Entry Level Driver Training requirements and drug/alcohol clearinghouse. Currently, federal law already requires this check. This bill failed last session, and now that the federal law is in effect, this needs to be fixed! If Montana issues CDLs without checking, they could be issuing CDLs to an ineligible driver, and the business hiring them would be hung out to dry by the feds and lawyers if this isn’t fixed.

SB 43Revise notice for certain timber sales (Willis Curdy)

Support - This bill allows the DNRC to use other means of advertising for timber sales besides classified ads. They spent more than $10,000 last year on ads, and no one I have talked to gets timber sales information from classified ads!

SB 126 – Provide funding for Montana State Fund (Greg Hertz)

Support - The bill would pay back, with interest, the $28 million the Legislature took from the Montana State Fund Policy Holders in 2017 to pay for the bad fire year. There is always a risk when the Legislature can get its hands on work comp money. Remember the old fund days?

HB 26 – Generally revise highway use laws (George Nikolakakos)

Update - This bill passed both the committee and House floor and is heading to the senate!

This bill has four parts, two of which could affect us. The first will eliminate potential jail time for hauling heavy over a bridge. This change is particularly relevant with all the bridges that have been recently load posted in Montana, and sometimes even the wrong bridge being load posted! The second thing the bill got rid of was potential impoundment for needing to have current Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) fees paid and eliminating having to pay for a whole year if caught without current GVW fees being paid. You will still get a fine but won't get hit twice with fines like in the past.

Other highlights this week include a luncheon with the Montana State Fund to discuss their legislative plans with their business partners; an online meeting with the DNRC Forestry Division and Conservation District to discuss the 310/SMZ Law issues and possible legislative action; and a Treasure State Resources Association meeting where we heard from Kendal Cotton about a Constitutional Amendment that his group is trying to put together to add property rights as a constitutional right. Many folks are studying this amendment right now, so stay tuned!

Keep an eye out for more updates on comparable legislative proposals in the coming months. In the meantime, for those of you with the time/passion for following the legislative process:

The Montana Logging Association is a strong voice for Montana’s timber harvesting industry professionals, representing the interests and advocating on behalf of more than 500 members in state and federal legislative matters.

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