Senator Jeff Welborn Weekly Update
Good Morning Southwest Montana this is your Senator Jeff Welborn coming to
you from my office inside the State Capitol in Helena. With week 7 in the books,
and the halfway point looming, we are working very long days, to get our work
done. A myriad of issues are before us, but some I’d like to touch on, that have
huge potential impacts to folks in all corners of my Senate District, are to do
with Grizzly Bears, Labor Unions, and Exempt Wells.
First, with the federal government showing a possibility of de-listing grizzly bear
populations in the Northern Continental Divide, and Yellowstone ecosystems, it
could be up to the state to decide how to implement management practices.
SB 295 Sponsored by State Sen. Bruce Gillespie (R-Ethridge) and co-sponsored
by a bipartisan group of 38 Republicans including myself, along with four
Democratic legislators, would give the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission the
ability to manage grizzly bears, should they be delisted.
It would authorize the Commission to adopt rules on grizzly bears, including
allowing livestock owners to take lethal action if the predator is attacking or
killing their livestock, establishing a quota for grizzly killings and allow livestock
owners to report directly about grizzly bear threats to Montana Fish, Wildlife and
Once de-listed, the state has the capability to responsibly manage grizzly bears,
and this bill seeks to accomplish that. Simply put, this proposal is a proactive
and measured approach.
Now shifting gears to labor unions, House Bill 448, Introduced by Rep James
Bergstrom, a Republican from Buffalo, would prohibit private sector union
contracts that require employees to join a union or otherwise pay fees for their
representation. It’s the latest legislative swing at unions in Montana, however we
have a deep history in Montana, using a bi-partisan coalition, that has
repeatedly resisted right-to-work legislation. This proposal sounds good on the
surface, but it a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
Some try to make this issue a stereotypical Democrat-Republican battle, like I
mentioned earlier, in Montana there is strong bi-partisan support when it comes
to pushback against right to work legislation. My Senate District for instance,
runs deep into Silver Bow County, where history tells us that there was blood in
the streets, because workers stood together for better wages, and working
conditions. I've never supported right to work, and wont be supporting this
I feel it’s best to let the free market work.
If a business chooses to use Union Labor, it should remain their choice, on the
flip side if a worker chooses to be non-union, they can certainly work for a non-
HB 448 is essentially identical to the 2021 bill, HB 251. That bill failed in a huge
bipartisan fashion . Both bills derive their policy from language circulated by
well-funded Out of State, advocacy groups like the American Legislative
Exchange Council, more commonly known as ALEC.
While the bill title presumes to give workers the freedoms to not join a union,
workers already have that right. No one is forced to join a union, not in Montana,
nor anywhere else in the country. This bill does not give workers any right they
do not already have.
Closed shops in which union membership is an exclusive condition of
employment – are illegal under the Taft Hartley Act, a 1947 amendment to the
National Labor Relations Act .
Several large employers in Montana came in opposition as well, asking to let the
free market work between Companies and their labor force They feel RTW would send a negative and demoralizing message to those workers, and disrupt workplace relations.
I hope we can beat back against this mis-guided policy again this session.
One last thing I want to mention is HB 642, and exempt well bill that has just
been introduced. Typically any water legislation is vetted through the Interim
with stakeholders at the table, this proposal has had none of that vetting, and
pick clear winners and losers if passed. Ranchers, farmers, and current water
rights holders being the clear loser, with land developers without rights in place,
and well drillers being the only ones benefitting from this. I’m asking anyone with
an exempt well on your property, or water rights for beneficial use, to weigh in as
opposition. You can text me at 406-949-6070 and I will get you in touch with in
person hearing information or a Zoom Link to weigh in that way.
The hearing is this coming Wednesday in House Natural Resources.
Rep Ken Walsh from Twin Bridges sets on that committee, I encourage you to
send him an email.
Until next week, stay warm, keep yourselves and your families safe, and I wish
everyone that is in the middle of calving season all the best.