Latest Legislative News
MID TERM SCORECARD: Some wins, some progress, some challenges.
Legislative Action Plan
As we move into the final 30 days of the legislative session, the results are mixed.
There are 2 wins thus far with SB185 and SB63. These will result in a positive impact on our currently serving military members as well as veterans.
Progress is being made in the form of HB579. Its passage would pave the way for legislative success in the 2015 legislature by compiling factual data for the legislature on the economic impacts of the military in Montana.
We have had challenges in getting individual tax credits passed this session. HB49 has been tabled along with HB592. Part of the challenge has been that there is no factual study data in existence to provide the legislature with the economic impact of what the military does for Montana. HB579 could help us in achieving a breakthrough in 2015.
There are still some opportunities for another win or two, so stay tuned...
We could use your involvement by contacting your legislators when we send out the call for help.
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MTNGA formulated the action plan based on research and discussions with several legislators, other lobbying groups with an interest in military issues, and members of the DMA. What follows is our original 7 issues, along with commentary/actions being worked on each. We have made progress on the plan of attack to get these issues turned into draft bills and work them through to law.
- Defend / reauthorize the tuition reimbursement program of approximately $400K. STATUS UPDATE 28 March: Remains in Governor's Budget, now HB2. STILL ALIVE.
- Flat personal income tax credit of $250 (was $200) for all current members of the MT NG (will need a mechanism to validate eligibility). Rough estimate on fiscal note is $100K (was $80K). STATUS UPDATE 28 March: HB 592 (See [H] in the watch list on the Legislative Action page. Unsuccessful.
- License plate tax exemption. One tax free license plate registration (basic fees may still apply).(Biggest opponent in the past has been the MT Assoc of Counties, since this will be largely a hit to the populous county treasuries). STATUS UPDATE 1 FEB: Draft bill on hold. Unsuccessful.
- State active duty death compensation of $250K. State pays premium for policy that covers the dates of SAD. Possible enhancement to make it a regular year round benefit to all MT NG members as long as they are actively serving (similar to SGLI but with the state paying the premium) (will need a mechanism to validate eligibility). STATUS UPDATE 28 March: SB 63 (see [E] in the watch list on the Legislative Action page.) Passed Legislature! Awaiting Governor's signature.
- Flat income tax credit of $500 (was $200) for employers of actively serving MT NG members. Apply the employer benefit on a "per eligible employee" basis. (e.g., if an employer has 2 eligible guardsmen as employees, the business would get $1000 tax credit). Would need to develop eligibility criteria (length of employment during a calendar year, etc). STATUS UPDATE 28 March: HB 153 (see [C] in the watch list on the Legislative Action page.) STILL ALIVE.
- Re-energize the Board of Regents to apply some of its scholarship authority to eligible MT NG members enrolled full time in applicable colleges and universities. STATUS UPDATE 7 March: Unsuccessful.
- Correct an unintended gap in identifying "veteran status". Obviously, retired members and those who have served on active duty will have a DD 214 or equivalent as proof. However, to cover those who might not get a DD 214 but served honorably for a term of service in the National guard may not have a document that is acceptable to employers and retailers who require proof for discounts. One way to address this is to authorize a designator on the MT driver's license (e.g. a "V" designator on the back, or similar), or to issue some sort of separate card. NOTE: Recall the MTNGA did successfully lobby for a change in state law about 8 years ago to include veterans preference points for those who were NG veterans but did not serve in federal service to equalize the playing field for govt job applications. The proposed legislation could bolster/build on that previous law. STATUS UPDATE 28 March: SB 275 (see [F] in the watch list on the Legislative Action page .) STILL ALIVE.