What the Helena: Week 14 Midweek Update
April 18, 2019
It’s not Sunday, but I’m sliding into your DMs anyways because the equivalent of a week’s worth of updates has been crammed into TWO DAYS OF LEGISLATING. I wanted to give y’all a Wednesday update on some big wins! We’ll make it brief. Let’s go.
Medicaid Expansion Passes
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to preserve the health insurance of 96,000 Montanans by continuing Medicaid expansion in our state! HB 658 will now head back to the House, where it already passed once, for a couple more votes and then will be off to the governor’s office to be signed.
I know I’ve asked you to make approximately ONE MILLION phone calls about Medicaid this session, but now I’m asking for one more: a thank you. Yeah, yeah, I’ve gone all motivational speaker on you. But, twenty-eight Montana senators voted in favor of the program, including a few of our targets, and we should drop them a line to let them know we appreciate them hearing us. That’s what this shit is all about, right? Call (406)444-4800 or leave them a message here.
Fighting for Farmers & Ranchers
HB 431, which will provide debt assistance to young farmers and ranchers, passed the Senate! It also needs another vote in the House because of a few amendments. This bill will help young folks who graduate from the Montana University System break into agriculture by reducing their debt burden, preserving the future of both our state’s largest industry and my hungry belly.
However, some legislators who represent students voted AGAINST this bill. Your guess is as good as mine. Sen. Dick Barrett, who represents Missoula’s university district, was a no, as were Sen. Cary Smith and Sen. Doug Kary of Billings.
Shooting Down Risky Coal Investments
Ding, dong, the witch is dead. (Hopefully.) SB 331, the bill that would’ve put Montanans on the hook for NorthWestern Energy’s continued investment in Colstrip (and its clean up), was voted down in the House on Tuesday. Legislators recognized that while opportunities for communities like Colstrip are important, NWE shouldn’t be able to invest in dying industries with zero accountability to protect their customers. I wrote about SB 331 extensively in Sunday’s WTH. Check it out for more info.
Segments of this bill could very well resurface in conference committees on other bills, so we’re still wary. Sen. Duane Ankney told reporters that “there’s a possibility it may rise again. After all, it is Easter.”
Ok, Duane. I don’t even have a good joke to make about that.
If you’re still interested in this issue, you should read up and comment on NorthWestern’s procurement plan — i.e. the plan they have to release about where Montana’s going to source our energy when they’re sticking with the usual regulatory processes (as opposed to trying to circumnavigate them in the legislature!). You can read FMT’s Conservation Outreach Fellow Caitlin’s summary here!
Protecting Indigenous Women and Girls
Hanna’s Act passed the Senate! This bill, which started out so strong, was briefly stalled in committee and stripped of its funding. But today it sticks to the original intentions — creating a position within the Department of Justice to handle missing person cases and providing $100,000 to pay for it. This is a first step towards dealing with a crisis, and it acknowledges that this is a statewide problem, not just a problem in our reservation communities.
There have been some seriously downer moments this session, but I’m so happy to get to share these moments of victory. THANK YOU for all your hard work and all your phone calls. We kicked some ass — and made Montana better for it!