Now that the Legislature has wrapped up, I will try to give a bit of a re-cap of the 64th session. First I would like to extend my deep appreciation for your gracious support while I was serving this session. I cannot tell you how many people sent cards, emails and thoughtful notes, and although we did not always agree, I always appreciated hearing from you.
Overall, I am very pleased with the 64th session. Our district definitely had more wins than losses. The biggest win was passing the HELP Act. I am frustrated that media continues to call this Medicaid expansion because its not. In fact, Montana’s plan is the most conservative plan any state has passed and may not be approved by the federal government. It was a collaborative effort spearheaded by Republicans. The HELP Act provides a means for folks caught between Medicaid and the Affordable Healthcare Act to obtain private insurance. It’s far from an entitlement program and I am grateful it passed.
Passage of the Trace Act, or dark money bill, was another win for our district. We witnessed first-hand during this session the full effects of dark money groups’ influence when Americans for Prosperity targeted our district. It was more apparent to me this session more than ever, that we need to reel in dark money groups if we are to maintain integrity in our election process. The bill won’t stop some of the dark money groups from participating but we will at least now know who they are and most importantly who’s funding them.
The disappointment came in the last couple of days when the fringe conservatives locked up, refusing to pass any meaningful infrastructure legislation. Senate Bill 416 was a bi-partisan compromise bill that provided infrastructure across the state. It was a combination of bonding and cash but the bonding part became a deal breaker. Investing in the future of Montana makes sense.
There’s some talk of returning for a special session to address infrastructure needs but I don’t see the point if folks aren’t willing to change their position.
Legislative sessions are always intense and certainly this one was no exception. I worked hard with the other folks from rural districts and in particular central Montana legislators to pass meaningful bills that reflect the needs of our area. Many times that meant going against the ultra-conservative leadership of my caucus and reaching across the aisle to work with the Democrats. Some things are far more important than partisan gridlock.
I am proud of the work that was accomplished and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as your voice. We passed about half the bills that were introduced and killed the rest.