Rep. Loge recaps first half of session
Rep. Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, attended the Mineral County Resource Committee monthly meeting when he was on transmittal break last week. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
The Montana State Legislature has 150 seats — 50 for the Senate and 100 for House. The Montana Constitution dictates that the Legislature meet in regular session for no longer than 90 days in each odd-numbered year with the primary work of passing a balanced biennial budget which must then be approved by the governor.
House District 14 Rep. Denley Loge was home in St. Regis during the transmittal break to take care of his ranch and check in with his constituents.
“All of the (House) bills have to make it through by day 45 unless they have appropriations in them or other referenda which gives them another couple of weeks to work on the money stuff. It’s the same with the Senate,” he shared when asked if they felt they were on schedule.
Loge said he thought the last count on the House floor before they closed for the break was 809 bills but that might not be the end.
“You can still drop a money bill for the next two weeks which is a bill that either has money in it to collect, or to spend.”
Loge thinks about 15 to 20 money bills will come in the second half just because they have been written and are in the system. He said one of the problems that set them back quite a bit was the 240 red-tape bills that needed some amendments and updating.
“That took the bill drafters away from drafting bills so we had a flood of bills that came in the last two weeks,” he explained.
One of them was Montana Guides and Outfitters Association who just restructured their board last year.
“There were some rules and regulations that were written up in the last session that the sporting groups didn’t like the way they were written. They thought they were giving too much to the out-of-state hunters and a lot to the landowners. It’s just a different style of managing that they didn’t quite agree with. But they are making headway.”
Loge carried one of the bills that was a re-do.
“We’ve had a bill called 454 that if a rancher allowed four hunters on the property, he got a tag. It got modified last session to three hunters and that led to an extra 200 cows (elk) being shot off of one of the ranch properties. He (the ranch owner) saw how good it worked and he liked the hunters who came and he opened up his land,” he said but was also concerned that in some areas that maybe the ranches didn’t have enough elk for this formula.
“We did pass a bill for two $500 property tax refunds, one late this year and one next year. “We passed a school funding package, business equipment tax exemptions on up to 1 million dollars to help small businesses and a plan to lower income tax rates is still in the works. The constitutionally required balanced budget will be the first topic of discussion when we return,” he shared.
“How could I forget, we set up a $1,250 income tax refund per individual and $2,500 for joint filers, too.”
And a quick refresher course on how laws are made before he sat down for the Mineral County Resource Committee monthly meeting.
“What’s considered the first vote is what’s taken in committee. Second vote is a debate on the floor and then third vote is a non-debate on the floor and then it's sent over to the other chamber. We always say 51 and 26. 51 legislators and 26 senators and the governor to make a law. It’s a great screening process,” he smiled.
Friday, May 5 is the scheduled last day for 68th Montana Legislature.