The 66th Legislative Session was one for the books. Although both houses were controlled by Republicans, the common sense and levelheaded work of Montana Democrats provided our state with an infrastructure package, better protections for children, safer protections for children, and health insurance for thousands.
After all the dust settles and the next race starts, we start asking ourselves, “Who can run in statewide or local races?” and “Who can do the work and who understands our communities and state?” Often times we overlook the very talent that we have right in front of us. We often cast aside the bench and talent that not only understands our communities, but can actually work across the aisle to get stuff done.
This ability is what makes Montana unique. As we see toxic partisanship across the country, Montana works together to get a budget passed. Yes, we do have the fire breathers who’d like everything to go down the toilet. Fortunately though, Montana sends enough genuine people to Helena to cast the partisanship aside. Sure, our legislature didn’t pass every single piece of legislation or issue that each of us wants, but the meat and potatoes continue to get done, well done.
I think it’s important for our state to really recognize this uniqueness. And to recognize the legislators that still reflect Montana. Legislators like Rep. Shane Morigeau, a Montana Indian that grew up in rural Montana. A guy who can set aside differences and find common ground and pass laws with Republicans that make Montana a better place for all of us.
Things that many of us don’t often know about people like Shane is that he passed seven bills this session. He served as a minority whip in both his first and second sessions as a legislator. Shane cast aside his differences to pass bills that addressed the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims and laws to criminalize predators that seek relationships with children in our schools. He carried these through one of the toughest, and arguably most conservative committees, the Senate and House Judiciary committees. He passed a law to allow Montana Tribes the ability to seek board of investment loans for critical infrastructure projects and he passed a bill to advance laws to attract tech companies to our state. He also tag-teamed a bill with Conservative Daniel Zolnikov.
Knowing the landscape of today’s politics, people who garner the trust of both Republicans, Democrats, independents, and others are a rarity. He doesn’t sit back and take credit for everything either. He knows it takes teamwork and trust and he doesn’t shy away from crediting those who help him along the way.
Montana always finds a way to sift the dirt out from the gold. It’s what makes our state so special. We know when someone is a poser. We know when they seek politics for selfish reasons. It’s what really makes Montana the last best place. We haven’t been bought, and we still aren’t for sale.
Shane understands this. He grew up here. Went to school here. Lived on commodities and food stamps. Grew up in a trailer and low-income housing. But you’d never know that. He doesn’t care about the title, he cares about helping people succeed and wants them to have a better life for their families and friends. Shane passed the Montana Promise Act his first session to bring back grants for low-income students to be able to access an education.
As we look across the state for people to run for local commissioner races and statewide races, let’s remember that the best candidates are often right in front of our faces. They work in our communities and volunteer in our communities, they don’t do this for notoriety or to just pad their resumes. They do it for the right reasons.
So, as we consider county commissioner seats and statewide office candidates, let’s encourage people like Shane Morigeau to take their skills and talents to commissioner seats or statewide seats. Seats like county commissioner needs people that can make big changes at the local level. People like Shane to help with climate change, property tax reform, criminal justice reform, healthcare, housing needs, and so much more. If Congress won’t make the changes in DC that we want, let’s elect people locally that have the talents to get our priorities done.