Rep. Joel Krautter spoke at a Kiwanis lunch on Thursday, June 27, to give an update of the most recent legislative session.
“It felt like a marathon and a sprint all at one time. It was quite the experience, I really enjoyed it. I met a number of wonderful people,” Krautter said.
While he found it challenging, he said he also found it rewarding to be a part of the Legislature. Krautter said his main focus since day one was to put the needs of people in his district first in each decision made while in Helena.
“I went up there to get things done,” Krautter said.
Another focus was providing good feedback to the people of Richland County and keeping them informed of what was going on in Helena. Whether he posted to Facebook or ran a piece in the newspaper, he was intent on keeping the public informed. Receiving 75-100 emails a day, he said he always made an effort to respond to those as well.
“I made it a priority to get back to constituents. Ninety-five percent of the time I got back to them,” Krautter said.
Krautter gave a rundown of bills he sponsored and gave information about each. He said he sponsored eight bills and one resolution, but five of the bills had priority.
HB 50 was the first bill Krautter sponsored. This adds a civil penalty scheme or matrix for commodity dealers not in compliance with state law. It could be a felony for not getting paperwork in on time and put farmers out of contract with their dealer. This was the first bill that got passed all the way through.
HB 389 had the support of Montana stock growers. Krautter said it was requested by local farmers and ranchers. HB 389 increased the height allowances when hauling straw and hay on state roads.
HB 405 focused on the loss of skilled young people in rural communities.
“This was a fun bill to work on,” Krautter said. “There was a consensus of concern of what we’re seeing.”
HB 405, called “Catch and Keep,” aims to bring young professionals back to the area after they’ve gone to college.
“This is something I’m passionate about and I think we raised a lot of awareness on this,” Krautter said.
HB 656 was one of the biggest bills of the session according to Krautter. This bill restored the oil and gas money with a 50 percent increase to the city.
“We went at it with a unified approach,” Krautter said.
Commissioners Shane Gorder and Loren Young, as well as Mayor Rick Norby went to Helena to testify on behalf of the bill.
“That there was a major accomplishment to get back the revenue,” Norby said. “We get that money from the oil and gas board. The big thing is, over the last two years I’ve cut half a million out of my general fund which supports parks and police department. It was a no brainer to get back what we got before. To me it was a major accomplishment. The way that was handled ahead of time and put it together was very heavily supported. It was life and death for Sidney. It really improved the relationship between MAKO and the league of cities and we became united. The future is going to be great.”.
An additional bill that Krautter talked about was HB 660, which would create a mobile crisis unit to assist people who are in a mental crisis. As Krautter pointed out, it would also reduce cost of time to law enforcement in dealing with someone in mental crisis. One amendment to the bill allows for rural communities to apply for one of the grants available through the program.
“I heard from a lot of people in the district on supporting mental health funding,” Krautter said.
Krautter said he feels it was a good and productive session.