As the lone Democrat in the Flathead Valley’s legislative delegation, freshman Rep. Ed Lieser is finding himself busy before heading to Helena for the session that starts Monday.
Lieser, a Whitefish area resident who represents House District 4, said he has been approached by people in and outside his district to sponsor legislation that may not get picked up by local Republican lawmakers.
He is working on about 15 bills and preparing for his assignments on the House Taxation, Natural Resources and Fish, Wildlife and Parks committees.
“I’m really boning up on taxation statutes so that when the session begins it’s not all completely new. That’s one of the more active committees,” he said. “I want to try to be prepared as possible.”
A lot of work and research is required in preparing bill draft requests, he said, particularly in getting input from people familiar with the subjects.
“They just require getting a whole lot of background,” Lieser said.
“I do have a lot of bills. I think I’ve just about maxed out on what I can reasonably accomplish,” he added.
Lieser said he is pursuing several bills related to water quality. One would require a septic-system inspection on a property when it sells.
“The purpose, of course, is to identify systems that are failing, but also to protect the consumer so they know they aren’t buying a faulty system, and it would be good for lenders as well,” he said. “It would be an incremental step in improving water quality, both in lake and ground water.”
Another bill would establish an inspection system targeting all boats that enter the state to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels into Montana waters.
There is a limited program currently, and Lieser said he believes a more aggressive approach is needed that has been precluded in the past because of cost.
He said the bill may involve the sale of inspection stickers to fund the program.
Lieser is proposing a bill that would increase the fines for violations of lakeshore protection regulations from less than $100 to possibly $1,000. The current fine is too low to be a deterrent of violations, which have become a problem on Whitefish Lake.
Another bill would give cities the authority to create a library district. Currently, only counties have that authority.
He is proposing legislation to allow property owners to establish rental properties without having to go through an “onerous” platting process that is currently required. The bill, which would apply to zoned areas, likely would be helpful and applicable in Eastern Montana oil-boom towns.
Among other legislation he expects to have drafted, Lieser would create some form of tax incentive for property owners who undertake fuel reduction or forest stewardship projects and a bill that would establish a life insurance benefit for firefighting air tanker and helicopter pilots who often are not insured.
Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at email@example.com.