The 2019 Montana Legislature
The 2019 Montana Legislature has ended. As your Senator, I want to share some of our biggest accomplishments – all in bills I supported:
- Balanced budget.We passed a balanced budget (!), as we are required to do by the Montana Constitution. In so doing, we restored some of the vital social safety net programs in our communities that were tragically cut in 2017. I serve on the budget committee and was involved in building the budget.
- Medicaid expansion. We extended health care coverage for 96,000 Montanans (HB 658) by reauthorizing Medicaid expansion, a highly successful initiative that originally passed in 2015. The bill contains the following work requirements: First, the vast majority of those covered are already working, are care-givers, or are disabled; these individuals will not have any additional work requirements. There are some individuals who are covered who need to get back on their feet and into the workforce. HB 658 will support these individuals by providing job counseling.
- Investing in infrastructure. Several bills passed that support infrastructure projects (and jobs!). Of note:
- Building Montana. HB 652 will invest over $80 million to build Montana infrastructure throughout the state;
- Heritage Center. SB 338 uses tourism tax dollars to invest in a new Montana Heritage Center (Historical Society Building), as well as give grants to local history museums across Montana;
- Roads. The state budget includes about $700 million per year for Department of Transportation projects for roads, airports, and more;
- Local road maintenance. I was the main sponsor of a bill (SB 243) that will help local governments with street maintenance by providing them access to low interest loans (see photo below).
I also had the opportunity to help colleagues on many good bills, including Hanna’s Act to address the problem of missing and murdered persons in Montana, especially among our Native American population (HB 21); provide reimbursement for peer counselors who are providing affordable and effective support to help many individuals kick addiction and lead productive lives (SB 30); increased tools to reduce suicide among young people (HB 660); and increase investments in state parks and trails (SB 24), which are so important to Montana’s growing outdoor recreation economy.
In terms of energy and conservation, there are two measures worth noting – ONE I SUPPORTED AND ONE I DID NOT:
- Retiring energy infrastructure. I was a co-sponsor of a bill (HB 467) that will allow electric utilities to apply for lower cost bonds when retiring infrastructure or utilities (under certain circumstances). This should save taxpayers money.
- NorthWestern Energy bill defeated. I wanted to assure everyone that the Colstrip-NorthWestern Energy bill (that had several numbers) did NOT pass. I actively opposed this bill.
And that concludes my summary of the highlights for the 2019 Legislature. Let me know if you have questions. Also, please feel free to reach out with your concerns and ideas!
Senator Janet Ellis
P.S. I will serve on three interim committees: Legislative Finance(monitors the state budget), State Administration & Veterans Affairs(works on a variety of issues, including campaign finance reform, pensions, veterans’ issues, etc.), and Energy and Telecommunications.