What the Helena: Week 3
January 25, 2019
Week 3, baby.
Let’s start with some good news.
Senate Bill 143 took a brief run at ending election-day voter registration before it was tabled in committee on Wednesday, which means it’s more than likely dead. Montanans voted overwhelming in favor of Election Day Registration in 2014, but apparently we have to keep reminding some legislators that voting should be accessible and equitable. Goodbye, bad legislation. You will not be missed. And a HUGE shout-out to everyone who contacted their legislators. Your voices were heard!
Raise the Roof
A bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee that would give all state and university employees a 50-cent-per-hour raise each year for the next two years. Public schools could also get a $78 million dollar funding boost from a bill that passed its first vote in the House 97-3.
Cue “Just Got Paid” by NSync.
More money for teachers! Bipartisan support! I want to wrap myself up in these bills like a blanket and nap until May.
Settle in for a Long Infrastructure Battle
I’m having a strange feeling of deja-vu. This is the fourth consecutive legislative session where Governor Steve Bullock has proposed a major infrastructure package, and undoubtedly it will spark just as much debate this time around as it did in the last three. In 2015 and 2017 the infrastructure bill came down to the last day of legislative session — and both times it failed. So what I’m saying is we’re in for a long one here. The obvious flash points are going to be renovating Romney Hall at MSU and a new Montana Heritage Center, which each cost a cool $32 million.
As the Montana Free Press points out in this article, there are a lot of smaller infrastructure projects, like affordable housing, that aren’t included in the bigger bill but are worth keeping an eye on because they will have a huge impact on the daily lives of Montanans. #BrokeAF
Last Saturday, around 500 people gathered at UM for a candlelight vigil in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women. Native women are far more likely to experience violence, including sexual violence, than other groups. Twenty-four Native women went missing in Montana in 2018.
HB 20 passed the Montana House requiring all legal authorities, including tribal authorities, to report missing children directly to the state’s missing child information program. Family members of missing children will also be allowed to submit missing children reports.
HB 21 is a bill in the House Judiciary Committee that would allow the Montana Department of Justice to assist in missing person cases and assign a specialist to those cases.
You can follow our friends at Western Native Voice for updates on MMIW legislation and ways to get involved.
Excuse Me, What?
Billings Representative Rod Garcia wants to spend $500 million to buy the Colstrip coal power plant to… prolong its inevitable demise? Demand for coal has plummeted, coal power is more expensive to produce than alternatives AND the Colstrip plant is already ageing out of usefulness. Imagine how far $500 million could go in investing in renewable energy sources that could create long-lasting jobs for Montanans.
School Choice Rally
You know how Goldfish crackers have been successfully branded as a healthy snack even though their nutritional content is actually equivalent to a Cheez-It? That’s how I feel about school choice. Proponents say they are all about choice and freedom and the best opportunity for every child. But in reality, offering public funding for parents to put their kids in private schools only diminishes the quality of our public schools. Investing more in public schools is better for all children and Goldfish crackers are a delicious lie.
Leg Lesson: Young People Making Change!
Can you believe that in 1999 there were fewer than five Montana legislators who were under the age of 35? This legislative session, there are 19 young legislators — more than six times the number there were in 1999. #YoungPeoplePower
Our generation is the most diverse in history and it’s no coincidence that with an increase in young people, there’s an increase in female legislators & indigenous legislators! This is rad for a lot of reasons, but the one we love at FMT is that our decision-making bodies are closer to reflecting our actual communities — and that means that better policies that actually address the lived experiences of Montanans will get proposed & *fingers crossed* passed.
It’s a newsletter, inside a newsletter, inside another newsletter…
You probably already knew this, but I am not the only one sending out updates on the legislative session! (It is likely that I am the one doing the most swearing.)
- Planned Parenthood is keeping you posted on all bills regarding choice and healthcare.
- Montana Women Vote is all over Medicaid expansion and other key issues.
- Montana Conservation Voters will send you updates on everything conservation, from utilities and pipelines to plastic bags.
- The Montana Nonprofit Association gets into the weeds of tax codes and all legislation that will affect nonprofit organizations.
- The Ripple Rousers blog and newsletter offers in-depth explanations of how the legislature works.
I’m sure there are more. If I didn’t mention your newsletter, I promise it’s not personal. Send me a sign-up link!
If you’ve made it this far, you must like learning about legislative issues.
Did you hear we did a legislative tele-townhall with young lobbyists and activists? You can listen to it here.
Last but not least, live footage of me avoiding the debate about plastic straws.
Thanks for reading. Subscribe! See you next Sunday.
Margaret Grayson is Forward Montana’s Legislative Communications Fellow. A recent graduate of University of Montana, Margaret spent three years with the Montana Kaimin as a reporter and editor and interned at the Missoula Independent (RIP). Now she writes jokes for the internet and works to educate young folks about the legislative session.