Chuck Hunter

Montana House, Senate Disagree On Adjournment

Apr 27, 2015
William Marcus

The House today fell one-vote short of the supermajority needed to give final approval to the last major remaining infrastructure bill before lawmakers.Then the House voted to adjourn for the session.

William Marcus

The proposed Flathead Water Compact will come up for a vote in the Montana House Wednesday, but as MTPR Capitol Reporter Steve Jess reports, opponents are trying to put up another roadblock to prevent its passage.

Flickr user Brad Smith (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

The contentious Flathead Reservation water compact appears to be taking the same convoluted path to the House floor as the Medicaid expansion bill did last week.

On Saturday the Montana House gave final approval to a bill expand Medicaid coverage to Montana's working poor on a 54-to-42 vote.

Legislative Roundup: Medicaid Expansion, State Budget Advance

Apr 12, 2015
From left, House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, Rep. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, and Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, debate rules on the House floor April 8.
Michael Wright - UM Community News Service

After wrangling over rules, the last remaining bill to expand Medicaid at the 64th Montana Legislature appears to be headed to the governor’s desk.

William Marcus

The House Rules Committee wrapped up a special meeting Friday afternoon. They were considering a challenge to the Medicaid expansion bill that passed the full House yesterday.

Belgrade Republican Representative Art Wittich was arguing that shouldn’t have happened, because the Medicaid bill was improperly sent out of his committee without enough votes to do so.

MTPR Capitol Reporter Steve Jess explains the rules debate.

William Marcus

A bill to extend Medicaid to Montana's working poor won preliminary approval in the Montana House on a 54 to 46 vote. But before it could, supporters of Senate Bill 405 had to fight off another attempt to kill this bill again in committee.

The last surviving bill on Medicaid expansion has been the subject of numerous procedural fights with the most intense action over whether it could come to the House Floor for debate. That finally happened Thursday.

Medicaid Expansion Bill Survives Another Day

Apr 8, 2015

Democrats won their fight to bring a Medicaid expansion bill to the House floor for debate.  It came with help from 11 Republicans Representatives.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

The lone bill barely alive at the Montana Legislature that expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor is now tangled in a procedural fight over the House rules.

It will be an interpretation of those rules that will determine whether the full House gets to debate this bill on the floor.

This fight over Medicaid Expansion began long before the Republican-controlled House Human Services Committee held yesterday’s hearing on Senate Bill 405.

But it came to a head during executive action held after the four and a half hour hearing on this bill.

William Marcus

One of the biggest bills in this year’s Montana Legislature remains in limbo. Wednesday at noon, the House rules committee will meet to decide whether a committee had the right to kill a Medicaid expansion proposal with a “do not pass” recommendation.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Democrats in the Montana House are fighting to keep a Medicaid expansion bill alive. Tuesday morning the bill goes before the same committee that killed a previous Medicaid bill.

Dems Promise 'Silver Bullet' To Keep Governor's Infrastructure Bill Alive

Mar 25, 2015
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

The fight over how to fund infrastructure projects in Montana continues in the state legislature.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

On this episode of "Capitol Talk": The House passed a budget on a party-line vote after shutting down every Democratic amendment. "It was very acrimonious and quite a contrast from two years ago when the budget bill passed the House by a 100 to nothing margin," Chuck Johnson says.

William Marcus

For the past two days, the Montana House was locked into something that resembled a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day. First, a member would stand up and introduce an amendment to the state budget.

For example, an amendment to add some money for the board of pardons and parole. Then there would be a short debate about the amendment. This would take anywhere from two minutes to an hour or more. And finally the amendment would be rejected on a party line vote.

And, back to square one.

And so on, and so on, a total of 73 times.

State Budget Hearings Begin Wednesday At The Montana Legislature

Mar 17, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Wednesday, the debate at the Montana Legislature begins over the state-wide budget in House Bill 2. The bill gained only Republican support out of committee because it was more than $100 million less than the governor asked for.

Tax Cuts Advance Even As Ending Fund Balance Remains Unknown

Mar 13, 2015
William Marcus

The Republican-controlled legislature is closer to sending another tax cut proposal to Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s desk. The governor has already vetoed one tax cut measure.

Senate Bill 200 would reduce the income tax rates and broaden the tax brackets. The bill also reduces the capital gains tax credit rate.

House Blocks Attempts To Revive Bullock's Medicaid Expansion Bill

Mar 10, 2015
Michael Wright - Community News Service

The Republican-controlled House officially killed the governor's Medicaid expansion proposal. That's because House Democrats failed to convince the Republican controlled chamber to reject the "do not pass" recommendation from the House Human Services Committee on the bill. That action came Friday night immediately after a nearly six-and-a-half hour-long hearing.

Democrats Cry Foul Over Medicaid Expansion Vote

Mar 9, 2015
Steve Jess

Governor Bullock’s Medicaid expansion plan is apparently dead for this legislative session. Republicans on the House Human Services Committee voted to give it a “do not pass” recommendation, an unusual move that make resurrecting the bill very unlikely, and has drawn harsh criticism from Democrats.

Medicaid Expansion Debate Begins At The Montana Legislature

Mar 6, 2015
Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) HD34
Montana Legislature

Before the hearing on Gov. Bullock's Medicaid expansion bill began, the Republican majority took another jab at the bill.

Lawmakers Say Much Work Remains As Legislature Reaches Half-Way Point

Feb 27, 2015
Michael Wright - Community News Service

The Montana Legislature is at the half-way point of the scheduled 90-day session.

It’s more than just the numerical half-way point; it’s a key legislative deadline. All non-spending or non-tax bills had to meet the Day 45 deadline of being transmitted to the other chamber or they died.

Lawmakers will now have nearly a week off before they return to the Capitol to resume their work.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Jackie Yamanaka talked to legislative leaders and the governor about the progress so far, and what lies ahead.

Montana Republicans Unveil Healthcare Plan, Minus Medicaid Expansion

Feb 10, 2015

A conservative group of Republican lawmakers unveiled their plans to address healthcare in Montana that don’t involve Medicaid expansion. It’ s dubbed “Big Sky Health.” The package contains just over 20 bills.

Rules Debates Dominate The First Week Of The Montana Legislature

Jan 11, 2015
Michael Wright - Community News Service

The 2015 Montana Legislature convened Jan. 5, and ceremonial and educational events welcomed the 150 lawmakers from all over the state to Helena.

During the swearing-in ceremonies, the leaders of each party said they hoped the parties would work together to better the state.

“I look around this room and see 50 individuals dedicated to making Montana a better place,” said new Senate President Debby Barrett, R-Dillon. Barrett is the first woman elected Senate president, and she spoke about increasing the power of the legislative branch.

Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) HD34
Montana Legislature

A compromise over the rules in the Montana House gives the minority Democrats a little more power, while preventing a lengthy and acrimonious floor debate.

Tuesday the House Rules committee labored for hours as Democrats brought up a long list of changes to give their pet projects a slightly better chance of passing, or at least not dying in committee. The minority threatened to do the same thing on the House floor Thursday afternoon, until both sides reached a last-minute deal.

Leaders Call For Bipartisanship On Legislature's Opening Day

Jan 5, 2015
Courtesy Montana Legislature

This was opening day for the 64th session of the Montana Legislature. There was the usual pomp and circumstance, but there was also some real history being made.

Republican Debby Barrett of Dillon became the first woman to take the gavel as Senate president. She was selected by her Republican colleagues during caucuses back in November, but the full Senate made it official Monday on a unanimous voice vote.

Barrett suggested that the legislature has lost some of  its stature, and she aims to rectify that.

State Lawmakers Elect Party Leaders

Nov 12, 2014

State lawmakers chose their party leaders for the upcoming 2015 legislative session in Helena today.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Jackie Yamanaka says they’re talking about working together to benefit Montana.

State lawmakers are asking what rights local governments have to charge fees to megaload shipments moving through Montana cities and towns.

These vehicles carry enormous pieces of equipment, blocking traffic as they haul their freight often to the tar sands of Canada or the Bakken oil patch.

The legislature’s Revenue and Transportation Interim committee inquired into the fees Tuesday.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce says the city of Missoula began charging them a few years ago.