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Report from Helena – Week 6

 

Not much can top having visitors from home and I was doubly blessed this week. Long time friends from Florence, Curt and Lauretta Belts, came to spend a little time at the Capitol, taking in some of the floor session, and an exceptional evening of fellowship and sharing. On our walk through life, friendship is priceless! Thank you both.

The community of Lone Rock was well represented Thursday by what I call The Senior Citizens Advisory Council. They had an agenda. They had concerns for highway safety and they asked ahead of time if a meeting could be arranged with the Department of Transportation. The Director, Mike Tooley, Chief Engineer, Dwane Kailey, Senator Fred Thomas, myself and the council of six seniors had a great meeting.  Turns out that Dwane lived in the Florence area a few years ago, so it was really fun to re-connect. The meeting had two purposes, first were the concerns for safety on the portion of the Eastside Hwy between Stevensville and Florence. The council was well prepared with credible data. They had charts, statistics and photos of the areas of most concern and presented their material in an organized and efficient manner. We were all very impressed and the department was very complimentary of the good data brought forth and felt that in the short term they could do a couple of quick fix things by removing a few of the hazards.

Then the Chief Engineer gave an announcement that brought grins all around. The blueprints were spread on the table to show that phase one of the Eastside improvement project was finally at the top of the priority list and would likely be started this summer. Beginning at the traffic light in Florence, going south a little over a mile to about the Hurtt ranch. This will include a new bridge and also a round-a-bout intersection at the big curve with the 8 Mile Road. We adjourned in time to make the 1:00 floor session where I was honored to make introductions and all received a welcome from the Speaker of the House.  What a breath of fresh air and fun hour that was. If you know Rich Erickson, from Lone Rock, get in touch with him for details of the project.

Legislative business for the coming week is going to bring some challenging bills and some really heated and emotional voting. Heavy lifting has arrived, now is not the time for a weak back or an undecided mind. The list of bills includes several gun bills, the Sheriffs First and the public lands corner crossing.

Sheriffs First is a bill that says all investigations within the state and county must be coordinated with the sheriff. That would include federal investigations. Apparently several states are dealing with similar legislation at this time as well. The gun bills bring up some challenging arguments. I am committed to protecting and preserving our 2nd Amendment rights and convinced of the absolute importance of doing so. These bills are going to stretch us as to sideboards. Do we put any limits on this amendment? Is there a difference between want and need?  For example, some of the bills are asking for ‘Permitless carry’, others for a right to carry anywhere… schools, banks, bars, anywhere…. I think there are 6 bills that passed out of committee last week and will be on the floor this week. I do have questions and hesitation on some of these.  Is there a line between rights and reasonableness? Where does common sense enter the decision?

Early in the week there will be a request to reconsider the public lands corner crossing bill that was tabled in committee. The motion requires a 2/3rds vote to pass and then the bill will be moved to the house floor for discussion and voting. This bill has the enthusiastic support of some of the sportsmen groups and our emails are reflecting about an equal amount of support both for and against the bill. Think about sections of land that are in a checkerboard pattern mixed with private land. Thus the issue of legally being able to cross where the four corners meet. Land owner rights are at stake with this, as are the relationship between sportsmen and land owners. Not an easy fix. There will be an option to this bill offered also this week with HB 404. This bill is about creating more public access to public lands by creating easements and right of way agreements through the private land. The funding would come from the Wildlife Habitat and Block Management programs with a 2-year sunset, with a one-time funding to get this started. The options may come down to choosing between trying to build relationships or challenging those relations with private property owners. One way has no cost, just put it in statute. The other has funding consequences to two really popular existing programs. Not a clear path or easy choice.

All of this in addition to an already overloaded work week as we approach transmittal. Sleep is vital and I am my own worst problem. I’m a light sleeper and when I have a lot on my mind I tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours and before I can get back to sleep my mind becomes active and the thoughts start racing. If I was just a little bit more motivated I would get out of bed and write some of these thoughts down… Instead I just keep tossing around. Then when I do get up I find all these terrific ideas are all run together in a big jumble. I have created speeches I thought were amazing and then when I get up I can’t put them back together again. Dang!

Ed Greef, HD 90

Florence

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