As of Thursday afternoon renewable energy advocates can take a deep breath and cheers to victory. The 2019 Legislative Session has come to a close, and advocates can celebrate their successes in protecting key energy policies from yet another session full of attacks. The short story? Nothing good passed, but neither did anything bad. And that's a win.
Good bills die in the Senate - again. For yet another session, the Senate was predictably unfriendly to good renewable energy policies. A number of bills, such as HB22 and HB78, seemed to be well on their way to the Governor's desk. After garnering bipartisan support in the house, both bills made their way to the Senate. As we have seen for the past few sessions, anti-renewable senators stopped them dead in the their tracks. In fact, a few good energy bills were not only killed but nearly hijacked to promote utility and coal interests. Thankfully, those efforts were unsuccessful due to the hard work of our legislative allies and fellow renewable energy advocates.
Win! Renewable energy tax credits survive. In Montana, advocating for renewable energy means playing much more defense than offense. We are often grateful for "holding the line" which, itself, can take a lot of time and resources. The most discussed issue for distributed generation (e.g. rooftop solar) this session were attacks on tax credits. House Bill 144, in particular, was a concept that we have seen before and may see again. HB144 would have repealed a handful of tax credits, including the alternative energy systems credit and energy efficiency credits. The alternative energy systems credit is used every year by hundreds of Montanans to help pay for the rooftop solar and small wind systems. It made its way from the House to the Senate, but with bipartisan opposition along the way. It ultimately died in Senate taxation committee. In the hallways, legislators noted how vocal renewable energy advocates were in opposing this bill. THANK YOU! This is affirmation of our impact and demonstrates how engaged our community is.
Another bill, House Bill 723, is on it's way to the governor's desk. This bill transformed significantly from its original form. The bill repealed all individual and corporate tax credits. It was originally designed to sunset a handful of credits every two years, beginning in 2021. Before the group of credits are due to sunet, the Revenue Interim Committee would be required to study the expiring credits to decide if the Legislature should renew them, change them, or just let them expire. MREA opposed this bill, noting that (like HB144) this bill was going to ensure the repeal of the alternative energy systems credit. On the Senate floor, the bill was amended to remove the sunset dates. The bill still requires the interim reviews, but does not include an expiration date. This is a small victory on a bill that would have certainly resulted in the loss of a key tax credit.
What to expect in the interim. MREA will once again be active in the upcoming interim session, which will begin this summer and run through next September. The interim committees have not yet decided what topics they will primarily focus on. As always, MREA will be monitoring the discussions in the Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee. In addition, if HB723 passes, the alternative energy systems credit will be one of the credits up for review in this upcoming interim. MREA will engage with the Revenue Interim Committee to protect, and perhaps even improve, that important credit.
THANK YOU! MREA works hard during the legislative session to protect good policies, oppose bad ones, and - most importantly - to engage our members and the greater renewable energy community in citizen advocacy to achieve our goals. Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit comments, send emails, make phone calls, and especially to those who came up to Helena in person to testify. Your actions ensured our success this session!
Help MREA continue our success. If you read MREA's Action Alerts, if you saw our posts on Facebook, if you called or emailed our staff, or even if you're just reading this blog post – we would love for you to join MREA as a member. MREA is a small but effective organization. We need to have the resources to do our work, and your membership helps ensure we can continue to have a presence before decision makers to raise our voice in defense of fair and sensible renewable energy policy. As our community grows, our voice gets louder. Join MREA to help ensure Montana's future is a bright one, powered by the sun, the wind, and the earth!