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Proposed laws stack up in advance of legislative sessionPosted on Dec. 26

Proposed laws stack up in advance of legislative sessionPosted on Dec. 26

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HELENA - More than 300 bills already have been drafted in advance of next week's start of the Legislature, including pieces of the governor's policy initiatives and competing Republican ideas.

And many more are to come.

The Legislative Services Division reports that 332 bills had been "pre-introduced" as of Tuesday morning. The total number of bills introduced during the session could climb to 1,500 as in past legislative sessions, said Susan Fox, executive director of the division.

Already there are 1,762 bills waiting to be drafted or waiting for legislative sponsors. Many of those likely will be canceled before they are introduced, though.

"The drafters have been very busy this month drafting steadily," Fox said Tuesday.

Proposals drafted so far include Gov. Brian Schweitzer's proposed $400 property tax rebate - a hot item since Republicans in control of the House by a slim margin want a permanent property tax cut instead.

Also, a number of proposals have been drafted to deal with the state's projected billion-dollar pension shortfall, along with others aim to amend laws to deal with proposed energy development plans.

One measure would set up an energy transmission authority charged with spurring development and coordination among state agencies. Another would legally define "carbon sequestration", a potentially controversial component of Schweitzer's plans to lure high-tech coal development.

Other bill drafts include a requirement that a legislative candidate live in his or her district rather than just the county of the district, and another to require public restrooms to be stocked with paper towels.

Some address recent controversies, such as a bill to clarify the signature gathering process for ballot initiatives that led to a number of court fights before the November elections. Another bans picketing at funerals.

Fox said about half of proposed bills generally become state law.

Lawmakers are allowed to start introducing more bills once the Legislature convenes next week and may continue to do so through February's deadline for general bills, Fox said. After that the focus will turn to spending bills.

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