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Bill proposes permanent Montana Water Court

The future of water adjudication, administration and enforcement in Montana is the subject of a bill that saw division Monday among agriculture and other water users weighing in.Western water law is a complex and contentious issue. Water rights are assigned by priority date, meaning older water rights are “senior” to newer “junior” rights and get priority for use in agriculture, mining, municipal water or other uses such as instream flows. Determining who is first in time has been the duty of the Montana Water Court since 1979.Following ratification of the state constitution in 1972 which recognized existing water rights, the Legislature passed the Montana Water Use Act of 1973. That tasked district courts with issuing final decrees on nearly 220,000 pre-1973 water rights to determine the...

Published on 1/20/2023 (11 days ago) Montana Legislature


States bank big bucks as Fed attempts to fight inflation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State governments emerging from the coronavirus pandemic built historic cash surpluses as inflation in prices and wages drove up sales and income tax collections.Now many states are reaping another reward: banking millions of dollars off those surpluses as the Federal Reserve fights inflation with higher interest rates."We're catching both ends of it," said Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick, a Republican.First, "we received a lot of extra money," he said. "Now, nominally, we're benefiting from the increase in interest rates from the Fed."Missouri is hardly alone. States ranging from Democratic-led Massachusetts to Republican-led Texas as well as politically divided Minnesota all are sitting on large surpluses that are swelling even further thanks to favorable...

Published on 1/11/2023 (21 days ago) Montana Legislature


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...

Published on 12/14/2022 (48 days ago) Montana Legislature