The Legislature at Halfway

March 14, 2023 / Comments Off on The Legislature at Halfway

Blog Policy News

We’ve passed the halfway mark! 

As we jump into the second half of the legislative session we offer this high-level summary of the issues and bills MNA has been working on. Thank you to those who have let us know about concerning bills, offered testimony in response to MNA action alerts, and reached out to your local legislators to offer the nonprofit perspective on issues that impact you and your community. Please continue to keep us informed. We count on it. 

Special thanks also to MNA’s 20-member volunteer Public Policy Advisory Council which offers direction and recommendations to our staff and board. They have helped shape and refine MNA’s public policy agenda which I encourage you to review. In the outline below we have included in bold the major categories in our agenda so that you can see the connection between that and our stand on various bills. 

Guide to symbols: ? = MNA opposed | ? = MNA support | ? = Amendments/Complicating factors | ❌ = bill is likely dead | ✅ = bill passed | ?= bill significantly amended

Nonprofit Practices, Reputability, and Accountability

?❌ HB708, a bill to establish governance requirements for non-profit hospitals, would have placed additional requirements on hospital boards – beyond what is already mandated in the Montana Nonprofit Corporation Act. MNA opposed (testimony at 17:12:18); the bill was tabled. 

? ✅ SB222, a bill to establish the Montana Individual Freedom Act originally pulled nonprofit employers in by including entities that do business with the state through contracts and grants. The bill establishes that the State of Montana cannot require certain training related to diversity, equity and inclusion as a condition of employment. MNA monitored the bill and, following the testimony of Department of Administration, it was amended to exclude state contractors and grantees and only include State of Montana employees. The bill was transmitted to the House. MNA will continue to monitor to ensure nonprofit contractors and grantees are not included. 

? ? SB307 is a bill to revise reporting requirements for nonprofits and charitable trustsMNA testified against the bill because it was written in a way that appeared to make it easier for donor privacy to slip into donor secrecy (testimony at 9:20:40). We were worried about the dark money implications given the ambiguity and scope of the bill. It was amended in a way that – in our minds – makes it a better bill. It passed and was transmitted to the House. We still take issue with the ambiguity of the language – and will continue working toward a bill that appropriately balances donor privacy and transparency. 

Charitable Giving

? ?MNA testified in support of HB383 which creates a rural hunter/angler community fund through a check-off on the hunting/fishing license application. (testimony at 15:20:36) Following the hearing the bill was amended to deem ineligible for funding any organization that has ever or will ever participate in a lawsuit. It passed out of Committee and is awaiting action from the full House. Going forward MNA will continue to support the bill absent the amendment.

? MNA will support LC2565, a bill to increase and extend the termination date of the Montana Endowment Tax Credit. (METC). The bill doubles the amount of the credit which is essentially an inflationary increase from the time the credit was established. It also makes the credit permanent rather than needing to request renewal every six years.  

Tax Treatment of Nonprofits

?❌ Every legislative session brings a new spate of nonprofit property tax bill drafts. The second week of February we heard HB391 which would have established a user fee on nonprofit propertiesMNA opposed (testimony at 9:35:18); the bill was tabled. 

Workforce Development & Capacity Building 

? HB648 is a bill to provide funding for the Best Beginnings Scholarship program. Best Beginnings is not only critical in helping lower income workers afford childcare, the stability of payments gives nonprofit daycares funding they can rely on. The bill has not been heard yet, but MNA will support given the impact of childcare shortages on the nonprofit workforce. 
? HB546 would authorize additional funding for a coal trust loan program for housing. It passed out of the full House to House Appropriations. MNA supports this bill given the impact of housing shortage on the nonprofit workforce. 
? HB574 would establish a workforce housing trust fund. The bill will be heard on 3/13/2023. MNA supports this bill given the impact of housing shortage on the nonprofit workforce.

? ✅ MNA spoke in support of full funding for Medicaid providers per the recommendations from the provider rate study. Currently HB649 which would implement rates from the provider rate study has passed House and is being heard by House Appropriations. As the bill travels to the Senate MNA will support given the significant detrimental impact of current rates on nonprofit Medicaid providers and the communities and people they serve. 

Civic Engagement

?❌ MNA issued a call to action on SB441, a bill to revise absentee and mail-in ballot laws. The hearing was cancelled, but we want to give a shout out to so many of you who were prepared to weigh in with us against the bill. SB441 would have made it more difficult for some groups to participate in elections, using measures that have already been struck down by Montana’s supreme court.

There are so many election bills; MNA didn’t and won’t weigh in on all of them – but this one would have created systemic and unnecessary challenges for certain whole groups such as seniors with full time care and people living in remote parts of Montana, including those in tribal communities. It would also create significant challenges for nonprofits which – as part of their mission – help get out the vote. 

Stay up to date

We will continue providing weekly updates to those of you who have chosen Policy as one of your news preferences in our list-serve. 

Also – for those interested in a short video tutorial of the Legislative website, this one’s for you. It’s a little jumpy in spots but it will give you the high points!

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