In the Economic Affairs Interim Committee’s Feb. 7-8 meeting the focus will be on meat processing plants, workforce development on reservations, and the future of Montana State Fund as the state’s guaranteed provider of workers’ compensation. The eight-member legislative committee will meet in Room 137 of the Capitol; the public is welcome.
The legislative interim committee, which deals with a broad range of industries, first will hear an update from the head of the Banking and Financial Institutions Division, who will review recent consolidations, among other issues.
The committee then will revisit concerns raised by Montana meat processors last year when a recall and temporary shutdown of state-inspected jerky processors caught the attention of legislators, as did complaints from a Butte meat processor about the federal meat inspection process. An official with the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service will be at the Feb. 7 meeting to review how the state’s meat inspection process parallels a federal system designed to assure consumers about meat and poultry processing safety. Slightly more than half the states use a combined federal-state inspection process. Also on the agenda will be a discussion of whether to send a letter similar to one sent by Montana’s congressional delegation asking for an external investigation of some federal meat inspectors’ activities.
The afternoon discussions on Feb. 7 will feature information from tribal resource officers and others involved in employment efforts in high-poverty areas. Representatives of the Blackfeet Nation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will discuss their activities. The committee is studying unemployment in high-poverty areas as part of Senate Joint Resolution 20.
On Feb. 8 the committee meets as a subcommittee studying the future of Montana State Fund. Among the issues on the agenda are a legal review of what other states have experienced as they moved to make state funds into private insurers. Additionally, the subcommittee will look at how privatization or dissolution of Montana State Fund might impact state government and the state pension program. The subcommittee will seek to narrow its study at this meeting to determine what legislation, if any, to propose for the 2019 session.
The meeting Feb. 7 will start at 10 a.m. The Feb. 8 meeting will start at 8 a.m. Public comment opportunities are provided at various times. Public comment guidelines are on the committee website. The meeting will be live streamed at http://leg.mt.gov and will be broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT). Local channel listings for TVMT may be found here. For more information about the meeting, including full agendas, visit the committee’s website or contact Pat Murdo, committee staff.