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Report Grades MT Lawmakers on Conservation, Energy Votes

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. - Conservation and clean-energy advocates found themselves playing defense on many occasions during Montana's 2021 legislative session. Now, a scorecard from Montana Conservation Voters rates how lawmakers did on these issues.

The report identifies a major victory this session in House Bill 701, which secured public-lands funding laid out in the recreational cannabis initiative passed by voters. But state Rep. Marilyn Marler, D-Missoula, who made the scorecard's honor roll, noted that victory had its own hurdles.

"If a bill is written and put on the ballot, and then the majority of people vote for it, then the Legislature's job at that point is to enact it," she said, "and it was really a fight just to get that basic amount done, but I'm glad that we were able to get that done."

Lawmakers who presented competing bills contended that the initiative's allocation of funds specifically for public lands was unconstitutional. State Rep. Brad Tschida, R-Missoula, was featured on the report's "dishonor roll" for introducing one of the competing bills to HB 701. In response to a request for a statement, Tschida said it was a "poor use of time" to comment.

One measure that sparked public outcry and protests across Montana was Senate Bill 379, which would have helped NorthWestern Energy prop up Colstrip at the expense of ratepayers. State Rep. Denise Hayman, D-Bozeman, who also made the Montana Conservation Voters' honor roll, said her office received thousands of comments in opposition to the bill.

"It's very different if you're trying to pass a very controversial bill, which this was," she said, "and you know that people are paying attention."

Bill sponsor Sen. Steven Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, did not respond to a request for comment.

Conservation groups also opposed bills that hurt efforts to bring more renewable energy to the state, such as a repeal of the Renewable Portfolio Standard. However, that bill was signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte last week.


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