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Senator Welborn’s Weekly Report

HELENA:

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

morning.


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

careers.



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