City of Missoula tracking good, bad bills as Legislature nears end
(Missoula Current) While the 2023 Legislature has created a number of bills the City of Missoula views as unfavorable, including the removal of greenhouse gasses from environmental review, a handful of other bills have enjoyed the city's backing.
City administrator Jessica Miller said two bills that would have dismantled tax increment financing, including SB 523 and HB 925, have either been tabled or killed while HB 774, which would have moved municipal elections to even number of years, was tabled.
But other bills favored by the city continue to be debated and amended and still have an unpredictable outcome, including HB 819, which would create a reinvestment plan to fund workforce housing.
“It's hard to speak to what's in those and whether or not we still support them,” said Miller.
A number of other bills now waiting Gov. Greg Gianforte's signature are expected to have impacts on local municipal operations. How far that reaches and in what form is hard to say without more analysis.
Miller said city departments are crunching the details to see what changes they will be required to make moving forward.
“The Land Use and Platting Act is going to require some changes within the Department of Community Planning, Development and Innovation,” Miller said. “Other folks who are heavily affected will bring that information forward to City Council once they're able to finish their own analysis.”
Miller said SB 407, which revises zoning laws, now includes language that would remove a city's design excellence standards. The changes had unanimous backing of its committee.
“That will be another one where there will be a specific analysis on the impact of that,” Miller said. “The Montana League of Cities and Towns will also be doing a comprehensive analysis, especially of the land-use bills, to help municipalities interpret the massive amount of legislation on that.”
Miller added that two infrastructure bills backed by the City of Missoula have been watered down in recent days. SB 536 was amended to only allocate infrastructure funds to the Montana Department of Transportation and small towns.
HB 355, which would also appropriate funds for local infrastructure projects, now includes a far smaller allocation, Miller said.
“It now includes a much smaller allocation. The amount allocated has been drastically reduced,” she said, adding that a bill removing carbon emissions from environmental review will likely pass, much to the city's chagrin. “We did testify on it. But the votes were there before they made the introduction of the bill.”