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Three Forks Council shows support for proposed bills

The Three Forks City Council approved a resolution supporting legislative positions proposed by the Montana League of Cities and Towns for Montana’s 68th Legislature, during its Dec. 13 meeting.

The legislative positions include — but are not limited to — topics such as property tax reforms land use and environmental regulations, investing in local government infrastructure and retirement benefits.

The council also supported the Leagues plans to support bills pertaining to the City of Colstrip and other communities impacted by natural resources industries, public safety services and accountability, Montana military operations, the collection of building code fees and local governments’ continued contribution to critical public safety services in the wake of the coronavirus.

While the council chose to support most of the League’s ballot initiatives, it chose to remove the legislative position regarding housing from its resolution.

“It’s so vague, I don’t know what you’re agreeing to support,” Three Forks City Attorney Susan Swimley advised the council, adding that she was concerned that the council could be committing to the support of bills which wouldn’t benefit the town.

Kelly Smith, city treasurer, voiced concern about some affordable housing initiatives that could evade the subdivision act.

Another city council member questioned why the city wouldn’t support bills that promote more affordable housing projects, adding that the city could support the broad initiative now and speak for or against individual bills later.

Swimley clarified that supporting the broad position now but denying it later could cause confusion among the League.

Concerns were also voiced about the positions regarding the support of Colstrip and other natural resource based communities and the support of public safety, saying that some bills could be detrimental to Three Forks.

“I think you could make a hypothetical case against everything,” Council President Gene Townsend said, adding that he believed the League’s purpose with the positions is to develop a broad plan for what they will do in the upcoming Legislature.

Swimey agreed that the topics would provide the League’s lobbyists with a “filter” to use when considering whether to support or deny a proposed bill. She also added that the request for the city’s support — which Townsend said was a new request — likely covered the League’s most controversial topics.

The list of positions, excluding affordable housing, was approved unanimously.

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