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Guest Opinion: Productive Legislative Session Adjourns

 


The legislature has finished its work after 87 days. The session was filled with many long days at the Capitol but we saw many legislative breakthroughs that will benefit our district and all of Montana. The driving force behind these victories was the Conservative Solutions Caucus.

The Conservative Solutions Caucus is made up of fellow Republicans from all across Montana who believe, like I do, that our constituents expect us to go to Helena to solve problems and work to find solutions and govern, not just vote “no” and go home and point fingers. Montanans deserve more from their leaders.

“Montana First” was the focus of the Conservative Solutions Caucus, and this meant crafting a fiscally responsible budget with adequate reserves to weather occasional revenue dips, reducing the burden of regulation on our small businesses and workers, mitigating the escalating costs of healthcare, providing more opportunities and better outcomes for students, enhancing public safety, and fixing our state’s aging infrastructure.

Conservative Solutions Caucus members delivered the following key victories, to name a few: HB 70 (Increase timber harvest), HB 211 (Rural teacher recruitment), HB 213 (Lower taxes for stripper oil production), HB 351 (Proficiency learning/Workforce development), HB 387 (Education, Career Technical Education, advanced opportunities), SB 28 (reduce taxes for oil recovery that uses CO2 injection), SB 83 (Reduce pharmacy costs), SB 125 (Reduce health insurance costs by forming a high risk pool), HB 393 (Increase truck speed limit), HB 389 (exempt certain agriculture trucks from height restrictions), HB 636 (Protect schools and local governments during tax protests), HB 656 (Return more oil and gas tax revenue to eastern Montana communities), HB 658 (Medicaid Reform and Integrity Act), HB 553 & 652 (Short and long-term infrastructure), HB 660 (mental health crisis intervention), HB 661 (Money for rural airport infrastructure), and the budget, HB 2 (Structurally balanced budget that is $44 million less than Governor’s proposed budget and also cuts 200 full-time government positions).

These results were achieved by prioritizing the needs of Montanans over partisan politics, and also working with the political realities in Helena. Montana has a Republican controlled House and Senate and a Democrat Governor. Passing a bill requires 26 Senate votes, 51 House votes, and 1 Governor’s signature. Solutions that will successfully make it through the 26-51-1 gamut require hard work, finding common ground and working together.

As a legislator that prioritizes constituents and conscience ahead of caucus, party purists and extremists gave me an “F” on their party loyalty scorecards. An “A” is earned by hyper-partisan voting and blindly following the recommendations of ideologues, even if it’s bad for Montana and our district. I didn’t run for office for the soundbites or to get a certain party loyalty rating. I ran to deliver results, to lead, not follow, and to do what’s right for the people of our district and Montana.

I’ve also learned these past months that despite the legislative successes achieved, there will always be the detractors who are never happy and would rather see the gridlock and political dysfunction we’ve seen in past legislative sessions continue. I wouldn’t be surprised if the angry party purists find new ways to attack me, but I did not, and I will not, succumb to blindly voting with that portion of my caucus that does not support my district. Political courage is not easy or for the faint of heart.

Thank you for allowing me to be your Representative. Together we achieved success for House District 35 and Montana at the 66th Montana legislature!

 

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