It was a tolerable session. The worst of the worst didn’t make it out of committee or off the floor, or past Gov. Bullock’s desk (yet), although nearly 300 bills are headed his way.
Medicaid expansion passed (with work requirements, asset caveats and a sunset date of 2025), bailing out Colstrip and sticking ratepayers with the tab didn’t make it (but not for lack of trying), an infrastructure bill passed (with limits on bonding and debt) and Hanna’s Act passed (addressing missing and murdered Indigenous women). That’s all pretty darn good stuff.
Democrats did a masterful job of negotiating better amendments to bills or killing the really odious language in others.
But I, and I imagine every other progressive Montanan, want more.
Where’s all the green legislation: small and large scale renewable energy, carbon taxes — really anything to address climate change — or an end to single-use plastics and styrofoam, or any decent, updated recycling laws?
Any attempts to increase the minimum wage? Well, yes, but the bill died in committee.
A more progressive, equitable system of taxation? That, too, died in committee.
Equal LGBTQ+ rights? Tabled.
There were plenty of assaults on women’s reproductive rights: HB-500, SB 354 and SB 100. All are headed to Bullock’s desk. (You might want to get a hold of the good governor and ask him to warm up the veto pen.)
I can certainly understand legislators celebrating the end of the 2019 legislature. It was a grueling 87-day session. Working long hours in committees and on the floor with folks from across the aisle, so unless you’re a total jerk, there’s going to be some mutual respect. Like the Stockholm Syndrome, certain relationships are going to be built with your adversaries.
Still, the DeVrieses and Tschidas, Manzellas and Fielders, Skeeses and Saleses, deserve no quarter.
It is imperative their party become the minority in the legislature. That, and a Democrat remain in the governor’s seat. Otherwise, what sort of state will we be handing our children and grandchildren?
Imagine a dirty, private, economic backwater where the less fortunate stay that way, and fundamentalists call the shots.