Montana has tremendous potential for economic growth, but more must be done legislatively to support and encourage new and expanding businesses, provide education that prepares our children for jobs of the future, and enable all Montanans to prosper and thrive.
The Montana Business Index is intended to provide information to the public about the economic, education, and health care issues that are critical to Montana’s continued prosperity. The index considers the opinions of over one thousand business entities in industries including small businesses, manufacturing, insurance, technology, health care, natural resources (wood, mining, oil, gas, etc.), energy, hospitality (restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts), and agriculture. The index is based on nonpartisan analysis and research and is not intended to support or oppose any candidate for public office.
The Montana Business Index does not consider political parties or ideologies but simply analyzes the actual votes of each legislator on bills that demonstrate either a pro-business, pro-economic growth pattern of voting or an anti-business, anti-economic growth voting pattern.
Legislators will be graded on the Montana Business Index scorecard on the degree to which they support pro-business and pro-economic growth policies.
Legislation is selected for inclusion in the Montana Business Index based on its positive or negative impact on business viability and growth, increased employment opportunity and expansion of high paying jobs in the state, promotion of a healthy and well-educated workforce, and assurance of a strong and secure infrastructure.
The research and analysis used to develop the index are nonpartisan and are broadly based on economic and business priority data available from publicly documented sources. The specific criteria used to determine the legislation to be included in the index is taken in part from the Montana Comeback Plan presented by Governor Gianforte as well as priority issues defined by key businesses, business and agricultural associations, and pro-business organizations.
Each legislator’s votes are assigned point values based on their floor votes and bill sponsorship. A positive point value is awarded for votes in agreement with the supported or opposed bills. A negative point value is awarded for votes in opposition with the supported or opposed bills. Opposed bills are weighted slightly higher than supported bills because bad bills that become law are very difficult to repeal and the negative impact of bad bills may do significant harm to business interests prior to their repeal. Votes not taken will be awarded zero points.
Scoring is based on votes taken during the final Second Reading and Third Reading of each bill with a bonus positive or negative point awarded to the sponsor of each scored bill.
A legislator’s positive overall score indicates a pro-business stance while a negative overall score indicates a legislator’s anti-business bias.
Economic Growth/Business Growth
Include legislation that will:
- Recruit new businesses to Montana
- Reform regulatory and legal impediments to business growth
- Reform the tax code to promote business investment and job creation
- Encourage entrepreneurship
- Invest in business infrastructure, such as access to high-speed Internet
- Improve conditions, including the tax structure, to encourage manufacturing investment in Montana
- Encourage growth of the technology sector in Montana
- Promote responsible development of Montana’s natural resources
- Promote and strengthen tourism, travel and hospitality industries in Montana
- Invest in workforce development for K-12 students and adults
- Increase opportunities for apprenticeships
- Promote policies to lower housing costs
- Increase support for childcare options
Increase the number of high-paying Montana jobs
Include legislation that will:
- Create more high-paying jobs
- Provide increased opportunities for high-paying jobs for Montanans
- Eliminate unnecessary barriers to occupational licensing
- Eliminate barriers to hiring skilled veterans for Montana jobs
- Create better-paying Montana jobs in manufacturing
- Bring more manufacturing jobs to Montana
- Provide more and better job opportunities for tribal governments and members
- Encourage entrepreneurship
Growth in Agriculture and Rural Communities
Include legislation that will:
- Promote Montana agricultural products
- Add value to Montana commodities
- Enhance the Montana agriculture brand
- Enable Montana agricultural producers to increase the value of their work
- Protect property owners’ rights
- Protect producers’ ownership in their products
- Protect landowners/agricultural producers’ rights to surface water and groundwater
- Ensure tax policy does not disadvantage agricultural producers or the agriculture industry
- Protect rights of landowners to engage in accepted agricultural practices on their land
- Ensure vehicle, trailer and driver’s license regulations do not adversely impact or burden agricultural producers or the agricultural industry
Promote a Healthy, Well-educated Workforce
Include legislation that will:
- Improve education and empower Montana’s workforce
- Provide better resources for K-12 educators
- Prepare Montana students for jobs of the future
- Provide workforce training in the trades and encourage apprenticeships
- Incentivize school districts to emphasize all career pathways
- Encourage school districts to incorporate workforce readiness in their curriculum
- Strengthen career advising in K-12 schools
- Require economics education in middle and high schools
- Increase support for education and skill-attainment programs for adults
- Expand opportunities for apprenticeship programs
- Provide financial aid incentives for students in high-demand fields
- Increase opportunities for Montanans to acquire manufacturing skills
- Improve education and empower Montana’s workforce
- Protect patient access to care
- Preserve access to health care in rural areas of Montana
- Protect Critical Access Hospitals
- Reduce the cost of health care to Montanans
- Protect health care coverage for Montanans with preexisting conditions
- Provide a strong safety net for the most vulnerable and the poor
- Reduce the cost of prescription drug prices
- Eliminate “Surprise Medical Billing”
- Improve Mental Health Care
- Protect rural communities’ access to care
- Protect Montanans from health insurance fraud and inappropriate coverage issues
- Advance affordability in healthcare
- Expand access to care through the use of telehealth and other technologies
- Protect the tax status of not-for-profit hospitals and clinics
- Improve and expand programs, services and resources dedicated to behavior health, mental health and suicide prevention
- Strengthen the state’s healthcare workforce
Strong and Secure Infrastructure
Include legislation that will:
- Improve the business infrastructure, including cell service and internet
- Promote careers in the construction industry
- Provide access to training, funding and job placement in the construction industry
- Provide funding for critical infrastructure projects
HB 011 This bill appropriates money from the Treasure State Endowment account to the Department of Commerce for infrastructure projects, emergency grants for financial assistance to local governments, and infrastructure planning grants. It also appropriates money to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for financial assistance to regional water authorities for regional water system projects.
HB 014 This bill provides funding for capital and infrastructure projects statewide, including appropriations to the Dept. of Administration for capital projects, the Dept. of Commerce for financial assistance to local government infrastructure projects, the Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation for grants and loans, and the University System for upgrades and replacement of educational buildings. The bill authorizes the creation of state debt through the issuance of general obligation bonds.
HB 121 This bill requires that rules, regulations, and fees proposed by a local health board must be adopted by the governing body. It allows the governing body to amend a directive, mandate or order given by a local health board or a local health officer during an emergency or disaster. It prohibits a local health board with interfering with a person’s physical attendance at or operation of a religious facility or place of worship.
HB 170 This bill is intended to incent renewable hydrogen production, renewable hydrogen storage, and renewable hydrogen utilization. It provides a definition for green hydrogen and its associated property in Montana law with a potential for hundreds of millions in tax revenue and more than a thousand new jobs.
HB 173 This bill provides that revenue from forfeited Fire Hazard Reduction Performance Bonds will be deposited in a newly established Fire Hazard Reduction Fund to be used for completion of fire hazard reduction activities that were not completed in accordance with the requirements of the bond.
HB 213 This bill clarifies that an apprenticeship’s rate of wages starts at the date of registration with the sponsor.
HB 226 This bill revises alcohol laws to allow curbside pickup and authorizes certain licensees and liquor store agents to offer curbside pickup to customers.
HB 235 This bill creates an incentives program for participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy fruits and vegetables from businesses that procure state-grown foods. The intent of the bill is to develop a nutrition incentives program that doubles the purchasing power of Montana residents with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, support Montana farmers, and invest in Montana’s local economies.
HB 247 This bill is intended to simplify the vehicle registration process for companies with fleets of vehicles. The bill will provide time and cost savings for companies with fleets of all sizes as well as cost savings for Montana counties and for the Montana Motor Vehicle Department.
HB 252 This bill allows an employer taxpayer a credit against individual and corporate income tax liabilities for expenses incurred in the provision of certain education and training of employees for a trade profession who work or are anticipated to work in Montana for at least 6 months of the year in which the education or training occurs.
HB 254 This bill revises provisions of the Wrongful Discharge Act by clarifying the probationary period and definitions of “good cause” and “leave of absence.” It also clarifies element of wrongful discharge and responsibilities of the employee and employer.
HB 303 This bill increases the Class 8 Business Equipment Tax exemption. It also recognizes and reimburses resulting revenue losses to local government, tax increment financing districts, school districts and the Montana University System.
HB 340 This bill expands the qualified expenses eligible under the MEDIA Act film tax credit and increases of the amount of eligible tax credits under the Act to $250 Million in a calendar year. It will incentivize the development of film infrastructure and workforce in Montana.
HB 394 This bill exempts certain air and water pollution control and carbon capture equipment from property taxation.
HB 481 This bill enacts civil and criminal penalties for persons and entities who willfully trespass on or damage critical infrastructure facilities.
HB 525 This bill revises alcohol concession agreement laws to allow a licensee to enter into a maximum of three concession agreements for each license at any given time and simplifies the compensation arrangement between the licensee and concessionaire. The concession agreement must demonstrate that the licensed premises is a contiguous property that includes the concessionaire’s space and must provide that the licensee retains ultimate control and responsibility for operating the license.
HB 629 This bill creates a tax credit against individual and corporate income tax liabilities to incentivize Montana job growth. An employer that hires qualifying new employees is eligible for an annual job growth incentive tax credit. The amount of the credit is equal to the number of qualifying new employees multiplied by 50% of the taxpayer’s total estimated taxes imposed on the taxpayer each year for the Montana source wages paid to qualifying new employees.
HB 632 This bill provides appropriations and allocations of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. It provides conditions and restrictions on the use of funds, creating advisory commissions and grant programs related to infrastructure, communications, economic transformation and stabilization, workforce development, and health.
HB 651 This bill adds a public hearing at the legislative interim committee for proposed ballot initiatives to allow full vetting of an initiative prior to it being approved for signature gathering. The interim committee vote as to whether it believes the initiative should be placed on the ballot on the signature gathering petition. The bill also requires signature gathering firms to register and pay a fee to the Secretary of State.
HB 705 This bill clarifies that initiatives may not appropriate money. It also provides reasoned updates to and eliminates unnecessary regulation of the alcohol industry. The bill revises premises suitability requirements for all licenses and allows licensees to determine if they want to allow wine on premises for a corkage fee. It also allows approved resort areas with resort and all beverage alcohol licenses to have centralized alcohol storage.
SB 051 This bill provides that fiber optic or coaxial cable installed and placed in service on or after the effective date of the bill is exempt from taxation during installation and for a period of 5 years from the date the fiber optic or coaxial cable was placed in services. Property tax will be phased in at a rate of 20% per year following the 5-year exemption.
SB 065 This bill provides assurance to business owners that they will not face frivolous lawsuits as they navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. It further protects manufacturers that have converted their operations to the production of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to combat Covid-19. It also offers health care providers greater discretion to make appropriate medical decisions related to Covid-19.
SB 118 This bill promotes workplace safety and proper placement of a worker in his or her job by providing that workers who knowingly or willfully fail to disclose medical conditions which affect their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs may result in termination of workers’ compensation benefits.
SB 159 This bill reduces the top individual income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%.
SB 174 This bill protects both property owners and local governments by drawing brighter lines when local governments are considering placing conditions on subdivisions as a part of the plat approval process. It introduces strict scrutiny analysis to the subdivision approval process to reflect that property rights are fundamental rights under the Montana Constitution.
SB 184 This bill establishes the Montana Entrepreneur Magnet Act. It allows employees of a corporation that meets certain entrepreneurial characteristics to have net long-term capital gains attributable to the sale or exchange of capital stock acquired on account of employment by the corporation or while employed by the corporation to be taxed at a single tax rate.
SB 190 Consistent with federal law, this bill allows an employer to impose a tip pooling arrangement for non-salaried employees involved in providing customer service or food preparation. The employer may not participate in the tip pool and employees may not be required to contribute more than the amount received in tips.
SB 224 This bill increases the limits on contributions that may be made to political candidates by individuals and political committees and increases the aggregate contribution limits by political committees. It also revises some reporting deadlines and requirements and repeals naming and labeling provisions for political committees.
SB 251 This bill is a commonsense approach to making Montana’s legal climate more predictable for everyone. It limits a plaintiff’s recovery for medical expense damages to the sums actually paid to the health care providers, ensuring that injured claimants receive full, but not excessive compensation for the medical expenses incurred.
SB 257 This bill prohibits local governments from enacting, adopting, implementing, enforcing, or referring to the electorate any rule, order, ordinance, or policy that includes fees, taxes, or penalties based on carbon or carbon use.
SB 260 This bill is intended to protect constitutional property rights by identifying things in which property interests exist but are not defined in Montana law and providing that the identified property interests are protected private property interests.
SB 262 This bill provides a mechanism to improve the appraisal process and prevent future inaccuracies in appraisal of Class 10 Forestland. It reconvenes a more robust version of the Forestland Taxation Advisory Committee to review and modify the appraisal methodology.
SB 263 This bill provides short term relief from a forestland appraisal that did not take into consideration the recommendations of the Forestland Taxation Advisory Committee. It revises the Class 10 property taxation of forest lands by correcting the tax rate on forest productivity value.
SB 265 This bill provides that venues for arbitration in electrical generation disputes that occur within Montana are not valid unless that arbitration occurs within the state before a panel of three arbitrators selected under the Uniform Arbitration Act unless all parties agree in writing to a single arbitrator.
SB 266 This bill provides that an owner of a jointly owned electrical generation facility in the state who fails or refuses to fund its share of operating costs associated with a jointly owned electrical generation facility is an engaging in an unfair or deceptive act or practice in the conduct of trade or commerce and the Department of Justice may take action against such owner.
SB 297 This bill establishes ConnectMT Act, the Montana broadband deployment grant program. The bill allows eligible applicants for a ConnectMT grant to seek funding for capital expenses for a project area that is without access to broadband service within the minimum speed ranges defined in the bill.
SB 338 This bill revises civil liability law to limit the duty of care owed to a trespasser. The bill establishes that a trespasser enters or remains on the trespassed property without any assurance that the property is safe for any purpose.
SB 348 This bill provides timelines for DEQ to permit the re-use of reclaimed water for snowmaking. The re-use as snow provides a non-consumptive use of the water that will help recharge the groundwater and benefit the water rights holders by ensuring the basins are recharged.
SB 354 This bill allows the owner of land over which an easement passes to place private property signage along the easement boundary. It also clarifies that a prescriptive easement cannot be acquired through the entering or crossing of private property if there is legal access to the public property available within one mile of the alleged prescriptive easement and it limits the extent of a servitude to the purposes provided for in writing.
SB 358 This bill replaces the numeric nutrient criteria in Montana water quality standards with the development of an adaptive management program which provides for an incremental watershed approach for protecting and maintaining water quality that balances all factors impacting a water body, prioritizes the minimization of phosphorus, and identifies the appropriate response variables and impact thresholds in accordance with the beneficial uses of the watershed.
SB 377 This bill establishes a medical care council to oversee emergency medical services in Montana. It transfers licensing and other administrative requirements for emergency medical services and emergency care providers from the Board of Medical Examiners to the Department of Public Health and Human Services.
SB 392 This bill provides direction to the Department of Transportation to work with the Federal Highway Administration to create a policy to allow broadband, communications infrastructure and pipelines in the interstate rights-of-way in Montana in certain circumstances. Using these existing highway corridors for placement of infrastructure reduces environmental impacts and impacts on private property owners.
HB 355 This bill, as amended, provides for the partisan nomination and election of Supreme Court Justices and allows political party committees to contribute to candidates for Supreme Court Justice.
HB 363 This bill provides for levying a tax on digital advertising services with worldwide revenue of $25 million or more. The tax would be assessed on gross revenue derived from digital advertising services in Montana.
HB 465 This bill limits the salary for a school district superintendent not to exceed four times the lowest salary of a beginning teacher.
HB 492 This bill requires internet services providers to offer internet service that does not contain hard-core pornography and requires consumers to choose whether to receive hard-core pornography over the internet.
HB 569 This bill revises nonprofit law to allow the board of directors to fix the compensation of directors and officers of the nonprofit corporation such that officer compensation must be reasonable and not excessive. The bill requires the Department of Revenue to adopt administrative rules setting standards for the reasonable and not excessive compensation of officers of nonprofit corporations.
HB 573 This bill provides for the Public Service Commission to regulate internet access software providers to prohibit internet access software providers from censorship.
HB 587 This bill prohibits censorship by social media site providers, providing for a civil cause of action against a social media site that censors speech.
HB 597 This bill provides for the Public Service Commission to regulate corporations that facilitate communication between persons on a national or international scale, including but not limited to social media companies, video or data hosting platforms, e-mail carriers, and other messaging facilitators. Fines may be levied by the PSC on such corporations for refusing or postponing a message.
HB 702 This bill prohibits all employers, except day care providers, schools, and long-term care facilities, from requiring any vaccination for entry into a business or facility, or for employment at a business or facility. The bill prohibits emergency approved vaccines from being mandated by employers.
HB 703 This bill prohibits the use of vaccination status or immunity passports for the purpose of travelling or for denying services, publicly identifying, or otherwise penalizing an individual for not receiving a vaccination or providing proof of immunity from any communicable disease. It also limits the owner of a space open to the public, like a hospital or large venue from requiring vaccinations.
HB 711 This bill would impose restrictions on any entity that has a website where a consumer may enter any personal information without regard to existing federal regulations of these businesses. The bill intended to protect information of individuals online but would be unworkable for most industries operating in Montana.
SB 086 This bill modifies the coal-fired generation remediation and retirement requirements to include the estimated loss of value of residential or commercial property due to the retirement of a coal-fired generating unit in the decommissioning costs. It allows for rules to be developed to govern the administration of these grants to impacted residential and commercial property owners.
SB 087 This bill revises the legal obligations of coal-fired power plant owners requiring that in the case of remediation the owner must demonstrate lifetime conveyance costs and access to ensure a local government attendant to a coal-fired generating unit is able to cost effectively maintain its water supply.
SB 176 This bill establishes remediation and bonding requirements, as determined by the Department of Environmental Quality, for coal-fired generating units. It establishes responsibility and funding requirements for maintenance and repairs at a coal-fired generating unit. It also prohibits certain retirements and remediation costs from being passed on to ratepayers.
SB 242 This bill prohibits the sale, sharing, or transfer of location data that is recorded or collected from a customer’s personal communication device without the explicit consent of the individual who is the primary user of the device.
SB 292 This bill establishes a utility energy conservation standard requiring public electric distribution utilities to implement energy conservation programs that achieve specific energy savings as defined in the bill. Failed 25-25
SB 391 This bill establishes a new duty for the Public Service Commission, that of regulating internet access software providers. It provides for the Public Service Commission to determine “unreasonable” censorship and establish a complaint process and fines for noncompliance.