The Local Government Interim Committee reviewed a variety of topics ranging from fire protection, state and local revenue systems, pensions, and on-site wastewater systems.

On November 12, 2019, the LGIC began a two-day meeting with an update from the MSU Local Government Center. After discussing the services offered through the Center and the struggle to maintain adequate funding for those services, the committee decided to allocate additional time to the topic. The committee requested a comparison of the services offered through the MSU Local Government Center and the services offered through the Local Government Services Division of the Department of Administration and whether services at both entities have decreased over time.

The Department of Commerce then discussed Opportunity Zones, a federal program designed to encourage investors to invest in areas that experience challenges to economic development, affordable housing, or other socio-economic factors. In 2018, the governor designated certain census tracks as Opportunity Zones, and the federal government administers most other aspects of the program. For more information, please see the Department of Commerce website.

The LGIC finished their first day with a panel discussion on regional fire protection authorities, a topic studied during the 2017-18 interim. A fire authority may allow more options for local fire protection jurisdictions to combine and pool resources, if desired by voters. Last interim, the LGIC drafted and introduced SB 17, but the bill failed on the Senate Floor. This interim, the LGIC decided to revisit the topic and continue workshopping areas that need more development, primarily the method of assessment used in a regional fire protection authority.

Wednesday, November 13 was devoted to pensions, entitlement share, and the committee's assigned study: Senate Joint Resolution 3, a study of optional septic drain fields. During its July meeting, the committee requested an overview of the pension system, focusing primarily on the pension system's interaction with and impacts on local government and the changes the system has experienced over time. The committee then progressed to a historical review of the entitlement share program, with focus on the work of the 1999-2000 Local Government Funding and Structure Committee and HB 33 from 2015 that impacted FY16 entitlement share payments. The Legislative Fiscal Division then presented information describing the revenues and expenditures of the entitlement share program over time.

The committee finished their November meeting examining on-site wastewater treatment systems. The Whitefish Lake Institute explained problems old and failing systems have caused around Whitefish Lake and discussed possible remedies. The committee also heard from a panel of local sanitarians to examine current regulations, policies, and procedures related to the permitting and installation of on-site wastewater treatment systems. In September, the LGIC requested an overview of Lewis and Clark County's septic tank maintenance program, and the county sanitarian proceeded to inform the committee on the implementation and current procedures of the program.

The next meeting of the LGIC is scheduled for January 15, 2020 at the State Capitol in Helena.

Video recordings of the meeting can be found at the following links: November 12 & November 13.  

Committee website:

Committee staffer: Toni Henneman,; 406-444-3593.

The Legislative News.