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Legislators attempting to muzzle state consumer advocate


Montana’s constitutionally-created office for protecting consumers could be prevented from doing so during the 2023 Montana Legislature under rules approved by Republicans preparing for the session, which begins in January.

Lawmakers drafting rules for the upcoming session voted along party lines to ban the Consumer Counsel from taking positions on bills unless legislators overseeing the Counsel’s budget vote to allow it. The rules face a vote for adoption in each chamber once the session begins Jan 2. This is the third attempt from lawmakers in the last two years to exert more control over the Consumer Counsel, a legal office created to protect consumers of monopoly utilities.

Attempts by lawmakers to pass bills benefiting utilities at customers’ expense have become commonplace during Montana legislative sessions. Most of those bills concern NorthWestern Energy and its ownership share of Colstrip. In 2021, lawmakers debated a law requiring NorthWestern Energy customers to pay all costs associated with the utility’s Colstrip share, no questions asked, and regardless of whether the power plant continued to run.



Published on 12/14/2022 (98 days ago) Montana Legislature