Experience Matters

With the state of Montana facing a tight budget, we need experienced legislators to champion our issues.

During both the 2015 and 2017 Montana Legislative sessions, Janet served on the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee that oversees all the natural resource agencies and the Department of Transportation.

Janet on House floor1

Janet at her desk on the House floor.

First time legislators often compare learning the legislative process to drinking from a fire hose. It’s a good analogy. That’s why Janet’s experience as a legislator–and as a longtime citizen advocate–is especially important. Her two-terms in the House will enable her to be successful in the 2019 session as a Senator.

Republicans controlled both the Montana House and Senate in 2015 and 2017. Nevertheless, Janet was able to work across the aisle to protect important state programs, even in a tight budget year. For example, in the 2017 session, she was able to repel an attempt to cut $200,000 from a program that ensures Montanans have clean drinking water when it comes out of our faucets. The subcommittee she served on also tried to raid an account for state parks; Janet was able to restore $2 million of those funds for public health and safety maintenance projects. The funds will be spent in our parks, replacing failing septic systems, updating dangerous electrical wiring, and replacing fuel tanks that do not meet safety standards. Important work!

HB 177 Signing Photo 2 2017-cropped

Governor Bullock signs HB 177.

Janet also passed House Bill (HB) 177, which will make it easier for senior citizens and others to protect themselves from pneumococcal bacteria that can threaten health and sometimes life. This bill increases the number of vaccines that pharmacists can provide, making them more accessible for vulnerable patients.

Overall, there were many successes in the 2017 session. For example, Janet supported the most comprehensive package of criminal justice reform bills that passed in years. She also supported the successful passage of the Earned Income Tax Credit; this bill allows thousands of working Montana families to keep more of their paycheck. In addition, Janet supported the successful bill that requires insurers to cover mental health treatment at the same level they cover physical health—a big step toward reducing the stigma around mental illness and increasing access to care.

There were losses too. The majority party’s refusal to consider any new sources of revenue left state government in a financially precarious position—and threatens services on which thousands of Montanans rely. Another difficult defeat for Janet and others who served in the 2017 Legislature was the inability to pass an infrastructure bill that would have put Montanans to work across the state on crucial projects: school repairs and upgrades, improvements at college campuses, a loan to complete a new veterans home in Butte, and more. This infrastructure “package” also included funding for the much-needed Montana Heritage Center in Helena, with a majority of the money coming from out-of-state visitors. It’s too bad that these bills did not pass—for the entire state. An infrastructure bill will be important to pass in the 2019 Legislature.

Much work remains to be done! That’s why it is important to have leaders like Janet working to further the issues Montanans care about—during the session and interim. Janet relies on your communication to help her understand the impact of the hundreds of bills considered each session, so please let her know what’s important to you!