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Opinions – 2005 (Volume 51, Opinions 1-12)

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Volume & Opinion Number Opinion Held Date Issued
  1. A city council must provide an agenda item for public comment on non-agenda matters only for issues that are of significant interest to the public. Public notice is required for any meeting of the council.
  2. A city council must provide an agenda item for public comment on non-agenda matters of significant interest to the public even when the council meets in informal work sessions where no action may be taken.
  3. The right of the public to comment at a meeting of a city council on non-agenda items extends to matters that may involve an interest in individual privacy. The presiding officer retains the power to close the meeting to other members of the public upon a determination that the right of individual privacy clearly outweighs the merits of public disclosure.
  4. Montana Code Annotated tit. 2, ch. 3 applies to all advisory boards, commissions and committees of the city council subject to the limitation that such entities need not permit public comment on matters that are not of significant interest to the public.
  5. Only an item that is not of significant public interest or is otherwise exempt from the public participation requirements of Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-103 may be added to the city council agenda and acted upon at the same meeting.
  1. A board of county commissioners, in the exercise of its general authority to manage the business of the county and to set compensation for its employees, may offer payment to county employees in lieu of an employee’s participation in a group health insurance plan.
  2. Where an existing term of the collective bargaining agreement is a provision for payments in lieu of participation in a group health care insurance plan, that portion of the agreement may not be altered by the board of county commissioners without the written agreement of the collective bargaining unit.
  3. For a non-union employee, the board may only terminate payments in lieu of participation if the termination is consistent with the employment agreement with the employee.
51-10 Section 69 of the Montana Public Defender Act (Senate Bill 146 of the 2005 Legislature) allows but does not require the Public Defender Commission and the Office of the Public Defender to hire all current city and county public defender employees. The bill allows the Commission and the Office the discretion to decide whom to retain for the new public defender system. 12/06/05
51-9 NA Recalled
51-8 The insurance carrier of an individual involved in a traffic accident is entitled to receive copies of the accident report and supplemental information, including witness statements, whether or not the insurance carrier is referred to or named in the accident report. 08/17/05
51-7 A school district may not claim a refund pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. §15-70-356(2)(a) of taxes paid on special fuels by a company which contracts with the district to provide bus service for the district’s students. 08/04/05
51-6 Before school district trustees may transfer any portion or all of the district’s bus depreciation reserve fund to any other fund maintained by the district, the trustees must have sold all of the district’s buses and submitted the proposed transfer to the electors of the district. 07/15/05
  1. Under the Montana Nonprofit Corporation Act, an authority created pursuant to an interlocal agreement among self‑governing municipalities may incorporate a public benefit nonprofit corporation to operate an electric and natural gas utility.
  2. An authority created by interlocal agreement between self-governing municipalities may exercise only those powers that any of the municipalities might exercise.
  3. Operation of an electric and natural gas utility is a public purpose for which a self-governing municipality may grant funds.
  4. Debt incurred through corporate bonds issued by a public benefit nonprofit corporation incorporated by an authority created by interlocal agreement between self‑governing municipalities is not subject to laws regulating municipal debts or obligations if the municipalities are not legally obligated to appropriate money to pay the debt and the debt is without recourse to the spending power of the municipalities.
51-4 The enactment of Mont. Code Ann. § 17-8-106 by the 1981 legislature placed no enforceable limits on the spending power of a subsequent legislature. 07/05/05
51-3 More than $2 million has been appropriated in a line item from state sources other than the water adjudication account provided in HB 22, § 7, for the purposes of funding Montana’s water adjudication program. Accordingly, HB 22 is not void pursuant to its contingent voidness provision. 06/13/05
51-2 A judicial decision invalidating the county distribution requirements for signatures to qualify an initiative petition for the ballot, as approved in Constitutional Amendments 37 and 38 and enacted in their implementing legislation, restores the language of the constitution and statutes as they existed before the approval of the invalid amendments. 04/07/05
51-1 A public officer or public employee may engage in political speech so long as his or her speech does not involve the use of public time, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, or funds. 01/31/05
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