MTPR

Jenny Eck

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.

The big state budget bill landed on Governor Steve Bullock’s desk Monday, one of the final acts of the 2017 legislative session, which was gaveled to a close Friday.

MTPR’s Capitol Reporter Corin Cates-Carney joins us for a look at what Montana lawmakers did and didn’t accomplish since convening in January.

Gov. Steve Bullock.
Freddy Monares - UM Legislative News Service

The 2017 legislative session came to a chaotic end this morning. Democrats and Republicans fought until the final hour over funding long-term public works projects.

When the final gavel struck, Republicans leaders said they’re proud of their party’s unity and keeping government growth in check. Democrats also talked up their wins, but expressed frustration in being unable to accomplish their major goals.

Budget Stabilization Plan Outlines State's Response To Future Revenue Shortfalls
Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

At the end of a legislative session defined by the state having less money than initially projected, lawmakers Wednesday negotiated a new budgeting system designed to protect the state against future revenue shortfalls. 

With state revenues down from slumping markets for oil, gas, coal and agricultural products, lawmakers spent most this session arguing over spending priorities in the state budget.

Lawmakers Sit Down With Governor To Talk Bonding

Apr 25, 2017

Lawmakers wrapped up Day 85 of their scheduled 90-day Legislative session with no agreement reached on a bonding package.

That morning, 11 legislators sat down with Governor Steve Bullock, Budget Director Dan Villa and other staff in the Governor's Conference Room to talk about possibilities. Specifically, what would it take to reach the 67 votes needed in the House to pass a bonding bill.

Among the bills put on the table were those dealing with abortion and charter schools. House Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, said if those bills were part of the deal, the Republican majority would lose Democratic votes, which could doom bonding.


Contentious Budget Bill One Vote From Passage At Montana Legislature

Apr 20, 2017
Rep. Nancy Ballance.
Mike Albans

The state’s main budget bill is one vote away from going to the governor’s desk. Majorities in both the House and Senate have now agreed on it and some of its companion spending bills.

For the first time in recent memory, the state's main budget bill won't go to a joint House-Senate conference committee to hammer out any more deals. 

Montana 'Bathroom Bill' Killed In Legislative Committee
(PD)

A Montana legislative panel has rejected a bill that called for a statewide vote on whether to bar transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that don't match their gender at birth.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 11-7 against the bill today. It is likely dead, though it could be revived if enough votes flip in the committee or if a majority of representatives blast it to the House floor.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

The search for nominees to be Montana’s next top political cop ended this afternoon during a short meeting of legislative leaders.

The majority and minority leaders of the Montana House and Senate approved Jeff Mangan, a former Democratic legislator who owns a consulting firm in Great Falls, to join the Commissioner of Political Practices nominee list.

New Republican Infrastructure Proposal Hits A Speed Bump

Mar 22, 2017

House Democrats say they won’t support a new House Republican infrastructure proposal that would issue bonds to pay for rural water, wastewater, some road and school projects.

When it comes to infrastructure at the Montana Legislature even a simple matter over whether there were negotiations on the topic is up for dispute.


Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Montana could see as much as $106 million in additional revenue come into the state than was previously unexpected. But lawmakers are approaching this news with some caution as they create the state’s budget.

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Division is projecting the additional revenue to flow into state coffers over the next three years, as the state recovers from a dip in earnings after a decline created, in part, by lower sales of coal, oil, and gas. 

Montana House of Representatives.
MTPR

The state's biennial budget will get its first debate on the House floor Thursday, the next round of legislative struggle over the state's lighter-than-hoped-for pocket book, which came up short of initial projections largely because of declines in state revenue from sales of coal, oil and gas.

After a first round of spending cuts and denials of spending increases, late last week a Republican controlled committee passed a budget that Governor Steve Bullock is calling "unacceptable."

The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

State legislative leaders are no longer taking applications for the job of Montana's top political cop. They've now started the process of selecting the next commissioner of political practices.

In a meeting this morning, four Montana House and Senate leaders discussed  how to move forward in replacing current Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl, whose term ended in January.

Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

In a party line vote today, Republican lawmakers killed a bill aiming to protect lesbian, gay and transgender people under Montana’s civil rights laws.

Montana Capitol dome, Helena.
William Marcus

At the Capitol today, Democratic Leadership failed to convince Republicans to give them some so-called "silver bullets," like they had last legislative session. 

Montana Lawmakers Call For Civility, Bi-Partisanship On Legislature's Opening Day

Jan 2, 2017
Gov. Steve Bullock being sworn in for his second term, Jan. 2, 2017 at the state Capitol in Helena, MT.
Freddy Monares - Legislative News Service

State lawmakers filled the halls of Montana's Capitol Monday for the first day of the 2017 legislative session. As they entered the legislative chambers for the first time, party leaders promised civil, bi-partisan work, despite upcoming fights over the direction of the state budget and policy. 

An effort by Democratic leadership to get some so-called  "silver bullet" bills this legislative session, like they had in 2015, was denied by Republicans this week in a rules committee.
William Marcus

An effort by Democratic leadership to get some so-called  "silver bullet" bills this legislative session, like they had in 2015, was denied by Republicans this week in a rules committee.

The term "silver bullet" was created in the 2015 session to describe the process of moving legislation from a committee onto the House floor with a simple majority vote. That usually requires a supermajority, which makes it easier for a majority party to block bills they don’t like.

State Budget Top Priority For Montana Lawmakers Going Into 2017 Session

Nov 14, 2016
Montana Legislature
Corin Cates-Carney

The state budget is the top priority for lawmakers and the governor ahead of the 2017 legislative session that convenes January 2. Yellowstone Public Radio’s Jackie Yamanaka and MTPR’s Capitol Reporter Corin Cates-Carney talked to the newly elected legislative leaders and the governor about their priorities going into the 2017 session.

Dems Secret Caucus Plans Raise Concerns

Jan 8, 2016
Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Montana Democratic legislators are slated to gather for a “caucus retreat” at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort next month. According to an e-mail party leaders sent to Democratic lawmakers on Dec. 26, the purpose of the Feb. 6 retreat is to prepare for 2017 legislative session by establishing the party’s priorities ahead of the 2016 election season.

Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

People in Montana who are out of work because of domestic violence will soon be able to get the same unemployment benefits as others who lose their jobs.

Public Intoxication Bill Dies In House Committee

Mar 20, 2015
Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez
Montana Legislature

A bill intended to deal with public intoxication appears to have died in a House committee. It was brought on behalf of the City of Billings. The bill was killed despite unanimous support for several amendments that sought to clarify its intent.

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.

Tie Vote On Death Penalty Bill

Feb 23, 2015
Photosforclass.com

The Montana House Monday came within one vote of approving a bill to abolish the death penalty.

Helena Democrat Jenny Eck read a letter signed by 55 relatives of murder victims, urging the state to do away with capital punishment

“We know that elected officials who promote the death penalty often do so with the best intentions of helping family members like us," Eck read. "We are writing to say that there are better ways to help us. The death penalty is a broken and costly system. Montana doesn’t need it and victims’ families like ours don’t want it."

Rep. Jenny Eck (D) HD79
Montana Legislature

A Democratic lawmaker wants to put limits on the use of solitary confinement in Montana prisons, but the warden of the men’s prison says it’s the only tool he has for dealing with some prisoners.

Representative Jenny Eck of Helena wants to place limits on how long, and for what reasons, a prisoner can be isolated from other inmates. 

Matthew Monforton
Montana Legislature

The House approved Bozeman Republican Matthew Monforton’s proposal to broaden the type of evidence that is admissible in domestic violence and child abuse cases Tuesday.

Monforton argued that juries ought to be allowed to hear about the prior bad acts committed by an accused abuser, acts that are currently considered inadmissible.

Brian Kahn talks with Dana Toole, Bureau Chief of the Children's Justice Bureau in the Montana Department of Justice, and Rep. Jenny Eck, member of the Montana Legislature. The topic: initiatives at the DOJ to improve how the department responds to victims of child sexual abuse, and prevention strategies.

Eck's Bill Would Change Oversight At Warm Springs

Jan 14, 2015
State of Montana

The Montana State Hospital, the state’s only public psychiatric facility, is coming under fire for the way it handles complaints of abuse or neglect. The best known case occurred five years ago, when the state paid $375,000 to settle a complaint by the family of a female patient raped by a convicted sex offender. Democratic lawmaker Jenny Eck of Helena wants the state Department of Justice to handle complaints about the mistreatment of patients

Rep. Jenny Eck (D) HD79
Montana Legislature

The six Democrats on the House Rules Committee proposed a dozen amendments to the House rules, mostly designed to give bills backed by Democrats better odds of passage. 

Jenny Eck of Helena says it wasn’t just about protecting the rights of the minority, but about giving all members an equal say.

“What we were fighting was the ability of a small group to block the larger body from voting on issues that are of importance to the entire body."