We have arrived at the midway point of the 66th legislative session with a lot accomplished and a minimum of diversions. Getting things done seems to be the unified goal. Good bills have been passed to benefit a wide range of Montana’s citizens. Bills have been killed that shouldn’t have been brought in the first place.
Bills to prohibit Montana cities becoming sanctuary cities have passed through the House.
Bills are also in the works to lower the cost of prescription drugs. These costs have skyrocketed in past years and are due in large part to the Pharmacy Benefit Managers. Bills for transparency to deal with this have gone through the House.
A resolution has been brought by Senator Mike Cuffe to delist the grizzly from the endangered species list. Also a bill that will expand the number of shoulder season elk tags a hunter can get when the elk population is too large.
We are working to reduce the size of government by eliminating unnecessary FTEs ... full time employees. The governor has proposed adding 76 new FTEs. We are restoring the Governor’s cuts to essential services.
Early in the session, we passed HB175 through the House which gives pay raises to all state employees.
We have killed at least 9 new taxes presented to the House. Several bills have gone through the House that will increase career and technical education. HB567 establishes a school marshal program, ensuring our schools are as safe as possible for our young people.
We have passed several bills benefiting veterans ... bills to establish county service offices, brought by Representative Dave Bedey, revising hunting privileges for purple heart recipients, increasing dollar amounts available for veteran home loan programs. ... the list goes on.
Most of the toughest issues are coming in the second half of the session. The budget. Infrastructure. Medicaid Expansion. There are good, qualified people on both sides of the aisle working on these issues. I am confident that Montana’s best interests are being considered.
I have been working on issues brought by the family law attorneys of the Montana Bar. Bills that will make a difference in grandparents’ rights and in conciliation opportunities for couples facing dissolution of marriage.
These two months have been tough. They’ve been eye-opening. They’ve been good. I would encourage you, if the snow ever stops, to drive over to Helena and watch the legislative process in action. I’d love to give you a quick tour of the Capitol.