The real shame in the Billings City Council’s process of creating a “special district” to increase the budget of our parks department is that legislative intent did not equal the surviving language of the new “special district” statutes, and even though two legislators stepped forward and admitted as much, our City Council went ahead and approved it anyway.
Senate Bill 57, passed in 2009, was designed to streamline administration of special districts. Evidence of its housekeeping nature is found in its fiscal impact statement: Analysts did not check the box on the form that reads “significant local government impact” and the only cost they anticipated was to the Department of Administration in Helena. Unfortunately no one appreciated what would happen when lots of valuable language got swept away with the more than 200 statutes this clean-up process repealed.
In 2011 legislators introduced House Bill 304, titled An Act Generally Revising Laws Governing Special Districts. HB304 provided many modifications to SB57 and offered language that might clear up the subject of fees vs. taxes, which seems to be the issue in Billings.
HB304 died in process. To ensure its revival and passage in 2013, please write to our “hold over” senators, and talk to our many candidates vying for a chance to go to the 2013 session. Ask them to breathe life back into HB304 and recover some of the language of the repealed statutes. I don’t believe SB57 was intended to allow local governments to implement a tax conveniently disguised as a fee.
Here’s a list of our “hold over senators, by Senate district: SD 1 Chas Vincent, 4 Jon Sonju, 5 Verdell Jackson, 8 Shannon Augare, 11 Anders Blewett, 12 Mitch Tropila, 13 Edward Buttrey, 14 Llew Jones, 15 Jim Peterson, 20 Eric Moore, 23 Alan Olson, 25 Kendall Van Dyk, 28 Jeff Essmann, 29 Edward Walker, 30 Jason Priest, 31 Ron Arthun, 32 Larry Jent, 35 Art Wittich, 39 Terry Murphy, 40 Mary Caferro, 42 Dave Lewis, 44 Bob Lake, 48 Tom Facey, 49 Dave Wanzenried. You can find their contact information here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/62nd/roster.asp?HouseID=2&SessionID=105#