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Montana Legislature Report for Timber Harvesters and Haulers – Week 4

Montana Legislative Session Update - Week 4

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


Below are some highlights from week four of Montana’s 68th Legislative session, including some bills to monitor in the coming months that will have an impact on MLA members:

HB 267Create a SAFER account for federal highway grants (Courtenay Sprunger)

Support - This bill will put $100 million into an account to leverage federal grant money. A portion of this will be used to fix our off-system bridges. As many of you know, this is a big issue due to so many bridges now having load limits on them! They believe that this investment could leverage up to $1 billion into Montana.


HB 212 – Increase the business equipment tax exemption (Joshua Kassmier)

Update! Included in last week’s report. It has since had a House Appropriations committee hearing. Support - This bill will raise the tax exemption from the current $300,000 level to $1 million of your class 8 business equipment tax. It is a great bill that will backfill the counties and help businesses grow without raising taxes on your home. It is a true exemption that will give everyone a break from this regressive tax.


HB 245 Revise tax credit for trades education and training(Sue Vinton)

Support - This bill will allow an employer to take a tax credit for employee education. For example, sending folks to the Intermountain Logging Conference!


HB 26Generally revise highway use laws (George Nikolakakos)

Update! This bill is flying through! It has passed the House and had its first hearing in the Senate. Support - 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.

HB 277Revise workers' compensation laws relating to the State Auditor (Nelly Nicol) Monitor -- This bill would have allowed the Montana State Fund (MSF) to stop paying for the two additional positions necessary to audit them. After hearing the bill, I believe this is the first phase of moving to make the MSF pay a premium tax. Hopefully, it will die!


SB 137 – Revise bike safety laws (Steve Fitzpatrick)

Update! This bill died in committee. Oppose - This bill would require vehicles to yield at least 5 feet to a bicyclist. I opposed this part of the bill after talking with some log haulers. Our concerns are, a truck looks big, how will we defend whether we gave them 5 feet or not, and is this going to result in truck drivers getting turned in by this law? How will we fight this? The bill also requires a bicyclist to wear a red light at night. This part is beneficial, and I supported this portion of the bill.


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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