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Summary of the 2019 Legislative Session from the perspective of the MAP Legislative Committee.

Compared to other years, this was a relatively quiet session for bills of concern to MAP. There simply were not many bills addressing our areas of primary areas of concern— zoning, subdivision, and growth policies.

There was only one bill with growth policy implications — the “Bison Bill” — requiring county commissioners to approve or deny release of buffalo in the county based on compliance with the growth policy. We opposed. The bill was vetoed by the governor.

There were no bills sent to the governor changing zoning and only one on subdivision. That was a bill addressing lifting agricultural covenants without additional review, which we supported. It was signed into law.

Only one bill that we opposed was sent to the governor and signed into law, that was a bill that made it impossible for HOAs to impose any restrictions on landowners other than those that were in place at the time they purchased the property.

Several bills were introduced regarding affordable housing, but only one made it through to passage, HB 16 that provides up to $15 million of Coal Tax Trust Fund to be used for affordable housing loans. We supported that bill.

We did not make TIF bills a focus area. So, there are only a few that we tracked. I am not sure if there were simply fewer bills in general on TIF this year or if it’s because it was a lower priority for the Committee.

Although this session was fairly quiet, our lobbyist Jeff Barber indicated that next session might see a much bigger focus on sweeping changes to the Subdivision and Platting Act, most likely promoting less regulation.


Prior to the 2019 Legislative Session, the MAP legislative committee reviewed our approach, considering comments that we’d received from membership and interviews with other relevant parties such as League of Cities, MACO, Realtors, etc. Other groups perceive our areas of expertise as growth policies, subdivision, and zoning and value our testimony on those topics. As a committee we agreed to focus our efforts on legislation directly related to those items and any that we were asked to comment on.

  • HB 332 The “Bison Bill” – requiring county commissioner approval before buffalo can be released in a county
    MAP Position: Oppose with amendment, sent veto request
    Final Status: Gubernatorial Veto

Background: This bill surfaced last session as well. This time the bill tied the County Commission’s decision to the growth policy, effectively making a growth policy regulatory.

  • HB 124 “Lifting Agricultural Covenants”
    MAP Position: Supported
    Final Status: Passed into Law (Title 76, Ch 3, Part 2)
    Background: This bill allows for the lifting of agricultural covenants by county commissioners when original lot lines are restored or a public entity seeks to use the land for public purposes “as defined in the governing body’s review criteria. The bill was advanced by MACO.
    Follow-up: Local governments should ensure they have sufficient criteria to determine “public purpose” in their subdivision regulations.
  • SB 300 “Restrictions on HOAs” Prevents HOAs from imposing more onerous restrictions on a property owner than what was in place when the owner acquired the real property
    MAP Position: Oppose
    Status: Approved into Statute

Background: Our decision to oppose came after lengthy discussion— HOAs are private contractual arrangements, not something we typically take a position on, but because we review them and many local governments rely on them to function as de facto improvement districts, we did discuss it. After a poll of membership, MAP opposed this bill. This bill stemmed from one person’s issue – they were buying a home, expecting to do something that was allowed under then current HOA covenants, but was later prohibited by the HOA shortly after the individual finalized purchase. This is a “type of use” issue that could have been addressed more predictably and with full process through zoning rather than HOA covenants. MAP testimony was prepared and presented by Greg McNally (thanks Greg!)

  • HB 16 $15 million of the Coal Tax Trust Fund to be loaned for affordable housing projects. Loans are permissible for new development and preservation of existing housing.
    MAP Position: Support
    Final Status: Passed into Law
  • SB 276 Conversion of condominium to townhomes
    MAP Position: None taken
    Status: Passed into Law
    Background: This wasn’t high on our radar as it focused on changes to the unit ownership. It has changes for the MSPA exemption language to now address townhomes and conversions.
  • HB 341 Establish ground water assessment and monitoring programs and annual funding of $250,000
    MAP Position: None taken
    Status: Passed into Law; the companion surface water bill (HB342) was transferred to Senate, but tabled in committee
  • HB 324 “Assessment of Property Annexed into Water or Sewer District”
    MAP Position: None Taken
    Status: Passed into Law
    Background: We were asked by Rep Walt Sales (R, Bozeman) to look at this bill, which we determined was a subject we are not well experienced with in general as planners.

  • SB 33 “Eliminate public participation from subsequent phases of subdivision”
    MAP Position: Oppose
    Final Status: Tabled in Senate Committee
    Background: MAP committee members agreed that last session’s phasing bill, which we helped to draft, is not perfect and could use some clarification on this topic and likely others. The final testimony stressed that the phasing statute is new and we need more experience with implementation to identify what is working and what is not. Thanks to Sharon for presenting testimony
  • SB 198 “Criteria for legal access to exemption parcels”
    MAP Position: Initial support testimony in Senate and then oppose
    Final Status: Passed Senate, then died in standing committee in the House
    Background: The bill provides for criteria to determine legal access to parcels exempt from subdivision review. The legislative committee had issues with how legal access was not clearly defined, but accepted the proposal that it could be decided at the local level in the subdivision exemption criteria. Surveyors were opposed. We supported it, along with MACO and League. Once it got to the House, amendments were proposed that Tara and MACO had issues with, so we sat it out, waiting to see what would happen and eventually it died on its own.
  • SB 263 “Exempting family transfer parcels in approved subdivisions”
    MAP Position: Opposed and testified
    Final Status: Died in Senate Committee
  • SJ25 “Undeveloped Subdivisions Study” same as LC1687?
    MAP Position: neutral, not sure what it would accomplish
    Status: Died in Standing Committee
    Background: A bill to study undeveloped residential subdivisions and examine the process required to bring them into compliance with local subdivision regulations and the MSPA.
  • HB 180 “Exempt Wells” prohibit transfer of exempt well water rights for another use
    MAP Position: Oppose
    Status: Died in process

Background: MAP committee generally not in favor of restricting water rights purpose. Additionally, it could have implications for annexation, especially if a city anticipates assuming water rights.

  • HB125 “Finding of Imminent Peril prior to Emergency Ordinances and Allow Judicial Review of Finding”
    MAP Position: None taken officially
    Status: Tabled in Committee

Background: MAP committee couldn’t see a need for the bill

  • HB354 Location requirements for “sexually oriented businesses.” The bill is being heard Monday in the House Education Committee.
    Status: Tabled in committee
  • LC1173 Requiring public hearing or hearing for plat extension approval
    Status: Smart Growth Coalition decided not to introduce the bill.
  • LC3087 Prohibits local governing bodies from placing additional regulations on exemption parcels
    Status: Not introduced

  • HB 494 “Tiny Homes”
    MAP Position: None taken
    Final Status: Tabled in Committee
    Background: Purpose of the bill was to try and make it more feasible for tiny homes to have standing as residential units. At first, the Legislative Committee thought it didn’t have much to do with MAP’s core legislative areas because codification would occur in Titles 50, 15, and 61, none of which directly relate to planning, zoning, or subdivision. Later, Yellowstone County and the League were working to refine changes that exempted tiny homes from zoning.
  • SB 15 Expands rulemaking authority under the Big Sky Economic Development Program to allow for infrastructure costs of low to moderate housing projects. Also expands the Treasure State Endowment Program to allow for the same costs.
    Status: The hearing for the bill was cancelled and the bill was tabled at the sponsor’s request.
  • SB 18 Allows for a tax credit for workforce housing projects.
    Status: Died in Process
  • LC 1220 Allows TIF to be used for workforce housing.
    Status: Never Introduced

  • HB 462 TIF bill that reworks some of the administration of TIF districts. It requires an annual report for each TIF district and limits the amount of base taxable value to 15% of the overall taxable value of the local government entity.
    Status: Transmitted to Senate, Tabled in Committee
  • SB 135 TIF bill removing school levies from the calculation of tax increment after the 15th year.
    Status: The bill was pulled at the sponsor’s request.
  • HB 452 Expands review of historic/heritage properties to include tribes and tribal historic preservation officers. Also includes public and private land in review.
    Status: Died in Process