State Capitol

Montana State Capitol Building

An active and raucous time in the Capitol this week as voting and hearings took on the atmosphere of a final four game.

Here, we are on the court... we are in the game and some times wishing we could call a “timeout.”

Early in the week the State Administration Committee voted on “Daylight Savings Time.” After thousands of emails and sometimes tearful and pleading testimony, it was time for me to declare if I was going to continue to stand up for us old guys who don’t like going to bed with the sun still shining in the window or support the majority of you who worship your sunshine in the late evening hours. The bill was unanimously voted down and tabled. I voted no!

“Security ... Clear the room!” was the call from the chairman of the Judiciary committee in the middle of hearing testimony on the all mail in ballot voting bill.

I only recall one other time in my four sessions this has happened. The committee chair usually has the cooperation of the room and can keep a lid on strong emotions.

This time the lady at the podium said, “I have more to say and a right to say it ... so, no Mr. Chair, you can not tell me my time is up.” Some of the committee members started encouraging her and suddenly the Chair was losing control.

Thirty minutes later they started again with a stern warning from the Chair to the committee about decorum. Remind anyone of the unfortunate teacher and a rowdy Junior High class? You’re wrong. I wasn’t the instigator for either of those occasions.

The House floor discussed and voted on the fuel tax bill.

The emotions are very high with the public, your emails, letters and phone calls are filled with passion and emotion, running about 3 to 2 in favor. Let’s take a quick look at the dollars and how they are dispersed to the cities, towns, and counties. These monies are marked for only one usage ... “for construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and repair of rural roads and city or town streets and alleys.”

These are the estimated numbers for Ravalli County and to Stevensville and Hamilton. Ravalli County – existing - $270,266, new - $426,889, combined new total - $697,155. Stevensville – existing - $34,148, new - $46,276, and combined new total - $80,424. Hamilton – existing - $86,703, new - $117,497, and combined new total - $204,200.

I voted yes on the bill for these reasons. It really benefits our county and towns. Our rural roads are to minimum standards at best and badly in need of the funding to allow them to do what they would like to do.

In past years have we ever not driven because of fuel tax? Our fuel prices have ranged from $2 to $4. It changes almost weekly. I see this as a type of user fee, and I see the tremendous benefit of having tourist and out of state help with this revenue. Both commercial and private use our roads.

Bonding and infrastructure bills coming this week. I imagine they will dominate the news...I’ll be back in a week with the latest.

– Ed Greef, Rep HD-88,