Medical marijuana, health care reform up for debate this week in Helena

2011-01-29T15:15:00Z 2011-02-04T16:37:02Z Medical marijuana, health care reform up for debate this week in Helena

Gazette State Bureau

The Billings Gazette
January 29, 2011 3:15 pm  • 

HELENA — Medical marijuana, health care reform, workers' compensation and state-employee pay and pensions are among the big topics up for hearing this week at the Legislature.

Here's a look at the highlights of the upcoming week:

Medical marijuana: On Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, presents House Bill 161, which would repeal Montana's medical marijuana law. House Human Services Committee, Room 152, 3 p.m.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, presents Senate Bill 170, which makes it harder to get a medical marijuana card for “chronic pain.” Senate Judiciary Committee, Room 303, 10 a.m.

Health care reform: Several major bills are up for hearing in this area. On Tuesday, dueling bills will be heard in separate committees on the federally required “health insurance exchanges,” which are electronic marketplaces to buy insurance. SB228 from Sen. Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge, in the Senate Business Committee at 9 a.m. in Room 422, would prohibit the exchanges in Montana, while HB124 from Rep. Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, in the House Business Committee at 8 a.m. in Room 172, would create them.

Also, on Thursday, the House Business Committee will hear HB128 from Rep. Pat Noonan, D-Butte, to revise state health-insurance requirement to reflect new federal requirements. Room 172, 8 a.m.

Workers' compensation: One of the session's key bills to reform Montana's high-priced workers' compensation system, House Bill 334 from Rep. Scott Reichner, R-Bigfork, will be heard Monday in the House Business Committee. Room 172, 9 a.m.

The Senate Business Committee also will hear SB232 on Tuesday, to transfer state management of the workers' comp “old fund” to a private bidder. Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte, is the sponsor. Room 422, 9 a.m.

Public employees pay and pension: HB13, the state employee pay plan for the next two years, will be heard Monday in the House Appropriations Committee at 3 p.m. in Room 102. Rep. Cynthia Hiner, D-Deer Lodge, is the sponsor.

On Tuesday, the House State Administration Committee will hear HB122, which is the Public Employees Retirement System's proposal to revise state pensions. Rep. Sue Malek, D-Missoula, is the sponsor. Room 455, 8 a.m.

Treasure State Endowment: Competing bills on the Treasure State Endowment, which funds local infrastructure projects, will be heard Monday in the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning. HB11, from Rep. Jon Sesso, D-Butte, carries out Gov. Brian Schweitzer's proposal to transfer the Treasure State Endowment money to the state's general fund for the next two years, to help balance the budget. HB351, from Rep. Rob Cook, R-Conrad, spends the money on infrastructure projects. Room 317B, 9 a.m.

Guns: Several bills to liberalize gun laws will be heard Wednesday in the House Judiciary Committee, starting at 8 a.m. in Room 137. HB174 from Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, would repeal the state ban on using silencers on firearms; HB201 and HB368 from Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, would allow employees to keep firearms in their car at work.

Endangered Species Act nullification: Kerns is sponsoring HB321, which says the federal Endangered Species Act is “null and void” and cannot be enforced in Montana. House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee, Thursday, Room 152, 3 p.m.

Subdivision review: On Friday, Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, will present SB209, which places new restrictions on local government's power to review and approve subdivisions of property. Senate Local Government Committee, Room 405, 3 p.m.

Nuclear power approval: HB326, sponsored by Rep. Dan Kennedy, R-Laurel, would repeal state law that says a nuclear power facility in Montana must be approved by a statewide vote of the people. It will be heard Monday in the House Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, Room 172, 3 p.m.

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