Senator Welborn’s Weekly Report
This coming week we will start voting on the preliminary budgets in our combined
House/ Senate Sub Committees, prior to budget moving through the appropriations
process. I serve as one of two Senate Republicans that set the budget for all agencies
that have to do with natural resources, fish, wildlife, agriculture, environment, livestock,
wild land fire fighting, State Parks and transportation.
I will be offering some changes to The Governors budget in regards to funding for local
conservation districts, I will be asking for an economic study on cold and warm water
fisheries Statewide, and will be looking to divert some money for weed control to
County weed districts and/ or conservation districts, depending on local preferences
with cooperating agencies. I will also be offering amendments to Dept of
Transportation Budget for traffic safety and wildlife crossings.
I will also be working to fund engineering and re-construction for the
Willow Creek Reservoir in Madison County, which serves farmers and outdoor
recreation economies in the Eastern flank of my Senate District.
I will keep updates coming as we continue to work on these budgets. I will give a wrap
up in next weeks column on the entire section of the budget that I over see, and what
notable changes we made to the governor’s proposed budget as it moves back to the
House side for approval.
Shifting gears, I’d like to mention something being proposed to address human
trafficking, a horrible epidemic that’s been affecting our state in recent years.
Senate Bill 265, which will drastically increase the fines on criminals convicted of human
trafficking, will have its first hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, would fine convicted human
traffickers $400,000 for their crimes. Currently, fines for human traffickers range from
$50,000 to $100,000.
I feel that Criminals involved in the heinous crime of human trafficking do it for the
money. We have strong jail time already on the books for these crimes, but this bill will
make it clear that human trafficking doesn’t pay in Montana. With SB 265, we’re
showing that we have zero tolerance for criminals who ruin innocent people’s lives by
trafficking them for profit. If you’re caught trafficking human beings in Montana, you will
pay for it.
Moving to other issues on the minds of most Montanans, lets look at what we are doing
to address our housing crisis in Montana.
The Senate Local Government will hear a pro-housing bill sponsored by Sen. Daniel
Zolnikov, R-Billings, tomorrow afternoon.
Senate Bill 245 would reform Montana’s zoning laws to encourage multifamily housing
and mixed-use developments in urban areas with existing water and sewer systems.
Too often, zoning requirements make it unaffordable or impossible to build affordable
housing. This bill is intended to help fix that by creating a regulatory environment that’s
more friendly to affordable housing.
SB 245 focuses on streamlining regulations on multifamily housing and developments
that include both commercial and residential uses by opening up commercially-zoned
areas to housing development.
In addition to opening commercial areas to housing, SB 245 contains provisions to
guard against more creative ways of stifling housing in those zones. The bill clarifies
that a city can’t make more stringent hurdles for housing in commercial zones than the
city requires in other city zoning jurisdictions. These provisions are poison pill
prevention standards meant to make the reforms contained in SB 245 truly have an
impact in Montana communities with a need for housing.
This past week I had several folks from SW Montana get in touch with me while they
were in Helena visiting the legislative process. It’s always nice to visit with folks from
home, while they are in town.
I had a chance to hear from the Beaverhead Weed District while they were in town for
meetings, and also the Education Department at UM- Western. I’d like to give a shout
out to both organizations for making Montana a better place.
Vikki Howard and Kathy Schipman along with several students, shared with me what
the UM Westen Education Dept is doing with partnerships with Montana Tech’s Butte
Campus and both Little Big Horn, and Blackfeet Community Colleges, with an outside
the box approach to training teachers for the future. My hats off to UM- Western for your
thoughtful leadership in higher ed in Montana.
I had the honor of hosting two high school seniors in our Senate Page Program this past
week. I want to thank Josie Blazer from Ennis, and Gavin Garrison from BCHS, your
service to the Montana Senate is appreciated. I wish you both, all the best in your future
endeavors, and want you to have smooth sailing as you both wrap up your high school