MTPR

Fred Thomas

Governor Bullock, with Budget Director Dan Villa. Governor Bullock released his revenue and spending plan Nov. 15 at the Capitol in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney

State revenues have again fallen short of lawmakers’ expectations and could trigger funding cuts across state agencies in the coming months.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R) SD44.
Mike Albans

A big part of this year’s legislative session has been Montana’s Republican-controlled Legislature fighting with Democratic Governor Steve Bullock over tax proposals.

Republicans have passed some of their priority bills, which at times have died with Bullock’s veto. And the governor’s proposals often died early in Republican-led committees. On Tuesday, Republican leadership announced a compromise with just two weeks left in the legislative session.

Senate Bill 354 would boost the cost of packs of cigarettes and cans of chew by at least a $1.50.
Flickr User, Lindsay Fox (CC-BY-2.0)

A significant tax increase to cigarettes, chew and other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, got its first hearing in the House today, having already passed out of the Senate. As the tax proposal moves forward, it faces rising pressure from Senate Republican leadership to kill the bill.

Now that both the full House and Senate have had their a chance to work on the state’s main budget bill, attention is returning to what legislative leaders have said is the priority this session—infrastructure.

Senate Kills Cyclist Bill: 'They Think They Own The Highway'

Mar 13, 2017
A legislative proposal to slap a $25 tax on out-of-state bicyclists visiting Montana turns out to be a big joke, but it's going over like a lead ballon.
PD

The Montana Senate blocked a bill today that would have required vehicles going 35 miles per hour to give cyclists three feet when passing and five feet when going faster. House Bill 267 failed on a 24-26 vote. A motion by Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville to kill the bill indefinitely passed on a 29-21 vote.

Bill To Establish Charter Schools Passes Montana House

Feb 27, 2017
Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

A bill that its sponsor says would provide additional educational opportunities by establishing a public charter schools act passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 55-44 on Monday.

Montana Lawmakers Enter Break With 50 Bills Signed

Feb 27, 2017
Montana Capitol dome, Helena.
William Marcus

There’s a break on the horizon for lawmakers in Helena, with about 50 bills signed into law so far, and over 500 still in the process.

Former lawmaker and now lobbyist Bob Gilbert of Sidney says after the transmittal break, which happens halfway through every 90-day session, he expects a good bit of concentration on money.

Bill Would Create Effective Date For Montana's Marijuana Initiative

Jan 31, 2017
Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, Republican from Stevensville.
Corin Cates-Carney

HELENA -- Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, says his Senate Bill 131, which would correct an error on a medical marijuana initiative, is really about the power of the judicial branch of government.

The bill fixes the effective date of a voter-approved initiative that would repeal a three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers. But, the language in the bill also admonishes a district judge who ruled in December to repeal the limit before the effective date in the initiative.

Senate Republicans Seek To Push Motl Out As Commissioner

Jan 3, 2017
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl testifies in his lawsuit against Republican Rep. Art Wittich, March 31, 2016.
Kimberly Reed

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Senate Republicans who oppose giving Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl a full six-year term in office want to intervene in a lawsuit that aims to do just that.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, told his GOP caucus Tuesday that a resolution will be introduced as early as Wednesday defending the Senate's confirmation process, which set Jan. 1 as the expiration of Motl's term.

Harlowton Asks State Lawmakers To Increase Fuel Tax

Dec 19, 2016
The gas tax increase is expected to bring in an additional $29 million this year, more than half of which will go to cities and counties for local road-related construction.
Rusty Clark (CC-BY-NC-2)

The mayor and city council of Harlowton are asking state lawmakers to increase Montana’s fuel tax.

Earlier this month, Montana’s Department of Transportation said they’ll have to delay almost $150 million worth of road projects across the state due to a budget shortfall.

Montana capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Senate Republicans in Montana released a plan today to tear down Governor Steve Bullock’s proposal for state funded preschool and instead start work on delayed state highway projects.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, Republican from Stevensville.
Corin Cates-Carney

On Thursday, lawmakers got their first look at how much money is likely to be in the state’s checking account as they head into the upcoming legislative session.

It turns out that, even after a year of economic downturn and declining sales of coal, oil and gas, the state’s revenue picture is actually looking up.

Montana Capitol.
Eric Whitney

Republican lawmakers took to the Capitol steps Tuesday to discuss the state’s revenue outlook and criticize Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s administration for the handling of the state budget.

The lone surviving bill seeking to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor will have another hearing tomorrow at the Montana Legislature.

This action comes on the heels of the bill stalling last night in the Senate Public Health Committee.

Eric Whitney

Governor Bullock's bill to expand Medicaid gets its first hearing in the state legislature on Friday. Watching closely will be Montana's hospitals.

To understand why, drop by an emergency room at one of Montana's bigger hospitals, like Benefis in Great Falls.

This ER serves about a quarter of the state's population. And 10 to 12 percent of Benefis' patients can't afford to pay their bills. Last year, that added up to $36 million in unpaid bills, or about three times the hospital's profit margin.

Flathead Compact Survives The Senate

Feb 25, 2015
Montana Senate.
William Marcus

Supporters of the proposed Flathead Water Compact, involving the state, the federal government, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a victory to celebrate. The compact, one of the most contentious issues of the current Legislative session not only survived a debate and vote in the Montana Senate, but did so with a sizable margin.

Taylor Brown: How The Voice Of Agriculture Found His Senatorial Voice

Jan 26, 2015
Michael Wright

Of all the people on the Montana Senate Agriculture committee, there’s one who always seems to be having more fun.

“To me,” said Sen. Taylor Brown, R-Huntley, “that’s like recess.”

Brown, in his second Senate term, serves as the committee’s chair. He knows the issues and the people, and the people know him. For many years his voice reported farm news to every corner of the state for Northern Broadcasting System, which he now owns.

Eric Whitney

Governor Steve Bullock introduced his Medicaid expansion plan this week; one of the most anticipated and potentially controversial bills of the 2015 legislative session.

It would accept federal funding to pay most of the estimated $870 million a year cost of extending Medicaid to about 70,000 more Montanans. Bullock said it was appropriate to introduce the bill on Martin Luther King day.

Medicaid's Western Push Hits Montana

Jan 6, 2015

The Affordable Care Act is on the move in Western states, with the governors of Utah, Wyoming and Montana all working on deals with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid in ways tailored to each state.

But getting the federal stamp of approval is just the first hurdle. The governors also have to sell the change to their state legislators, who have their own ideas of how expansion should go.

The latest example is Montana, where the governor and the legislature have competing proposals about how much federal Medicaid expansion cash the state should try to bring in.

Montana Capitol.
Eric Whitney

A group of nine Montana state lawmakers has put out an alternative to Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s plan to expand Medicaid. They call it the Healthy Montana Family Plan, and it aims to cover more people, without the long term expense of Medicaid expansion.

Montana Legislature

A group of Montana Republicans have released their plan to improve health care and insurance coverage in Montana.

Stevensville Senator Fred Thomas says: “Improving our healthcare system is a far more complicated equation than simply expanding government insurance coverage. Any solution must be a comprehensive plan that does more than just provide health insurance through the Obamacare framework.”

You can see the proposal below.

OBPP

Governor Steve Bullock announced his support Wednesday for a voter initiative to expand Medicaid, called the Healthy Montana Initiative.

Medicaid expansion is an optional piece of the Federal Affordable Care Act, and Republican majorities in the Montana Legislature decided not to approve it in 2013.

State Capitol, Helena
Jacob Baynham, Community News Service, UM School of Journalism

 As Montana moves toward the June primary elections, a deep divide still exists between elements of the state legislature’s Republican caucus.

This split between moderate and conservative Republicans was most dramatically seen in the 2013 Montana Senate, where the GOP held a 29-21 majority over Democrats. The body almost seemed to have three caucuses, though, as a small group of Republicans regularly defied party leadership to side with Democrats on a number of key issues such as campaign spending law changes, school funding legislation, and state employee pension reform.

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. 

Governor's Office of Budget and Program Planning

Analysis of a new ballot measure seeking to expand Medicaid shows expansion would not cost Montana as much as previously forecast, but the state budget would still take a long-term hit from the so-called “Healthy Montana Initiative.”

A ballot initiative which would expand Medicaid in Montana has run into a hang-up after the Attorney General’s office noted a legal issue with the proposal.

Supporters of the so-called “Healthy Montana Initiative” have filed a corrected version to the Montana Secretary of State’s Office.

This will shorten the amount of time the initiative has to gather signatures to be placed on the 2014 ballot.

Republican lawmakers during the 2013 legislature blocked passage of Medicaid Expansion, an optional piece of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The 2014 election officially begins

Jan 9, 2014
Dan Boyce

UPDATE 5:30 PM

The Secretary of State's Office has reported a total of 139 Montana candidates filed to run during the first day they could officially do so.

Republican legislative candidates at a news event Thursday afternoon said Montana voters are tired of what they call failed liberal policies both in the state and in Washington D.C.