HELENA – Some of the session’s biggest education bills top this week’s agenda at the Montana Legislature, as well as bills on campaign finance, building projects and pension reform.
Here’s a look at some key hearings on tap at the Capitol this week:
EDUCATION: On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee will hear Senate Bill 175, the major K-12 school-funding bill backed by the education community. Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, is the sponsor. Room 303, 3 p.m.
Two significant “school choice” bills, which create state income-tax credits for children attending private schools, will be heard Monday. SB81, from Sen. Dave Lewis, allows credits up to $5 million for contributions to a “student scholarship organization” that assists children attending “any qualified education provider.” Senate Education Committee, Room 303, 3 p.m.
House Bill 213, from Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, creates a $550-per-child annual tax credit for tuition paid to a “nonpublic” school. House Education Committee, Room 137, 3 p.m.
In the same House committee on Monday, Rep. Cary Smith, R-Billings, will present HB239, which requires school districts to get the written consent of parents before placing a student in a sex-education class.
Finally, on Wednesday, the House Education Committee will hear HB315, which would authorize public “charter” schools in Montana. Rep. Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, is the sponsor. Room 137, 3 p.m.
BUILDING PROJECTS: HB14, the Bullock administration’s proposal to finance nearly $90 million in state building projects, will be heard Monday before the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning. Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, is the sponsor. Room 317B, 8 a.m.
The same panel on Monday also will hear HB267 from Rep. Roy Hollandsworth, R-Brady, to finance and build a new Montana Historical Society building in Helena.
PENSIONS: On Tuesday, the Joint Select Committee on Pensions will hear two major proposals to reform state-employee pension systems. SB82, from Sen. Dave Lewis, would require newly hired state employees to have a 401-K-style retirement plan, rather than a set pension. HB96, from Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, is the proposal from the Public Employees Retirement Board, to increase government contributions to shore up several public-worker pensions funds. Room 317A, 8:30 a.m.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: On Tuesday, the House State Administration Committee will hear two bills to revise campaign-finance laws. HB229, from Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, increases contributions limits for individuals, allows corporations to give to candidates, and eliminates contribution limits for political committees. HB265, from Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick, raises or eliminates the limit on how much candidates can receive from individuals and political parties and committees. Room 455, 8 a.m.
The same committee on Wednesday will hear HB221 from Rep. Mike Miller, R-Helmville, to raise campaign contribution limits according to inflation. Room 455, 8 a.m.
INCOME TAXES: On Wednesday, Sen. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, will present SB170, which reduces Montana’s top state income-tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent, cuts in half the current credit for capital gains income, and raises some corporate income tax rates. Senate Taxation Committee, Room 405, 8 a.m.
TERM LIMITS: Rep. Bill McChesney, D-Miles City, on Thursday will present HB277, a constitutional amendment to increase term limits for legislators from eight to 16 years, within a 24-year period. House State Administration Committee, Room 455, 8 a.m.
DRUNKEN DRIVING: HB275, which increases the penalty for a fourth DUI from 13 months up to as long as five years, will be heard Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is the sponsor. Room 137, 8 a.m.