Legislative update

A large percentage of the state budget is appropriated or controlled with House Bill 2.

By Sen. Matt Rosendale

A large percentage of the state budget is appropriated or controlled with House Bill 2. HB 2 is broken into five sections, and each section is evaluated and amended by a Joint Sub-Committee of House and Senate members. Each of the sub-committees is chaired by a House member and has a senator as the vice chair. The members of those sub-committees spend the first 40-45 days evaluating and amending the budget, HB 2, and then it must be approved by the House Appropriations Committee. Once the House Appropriations Committee approves HB 2, it must be passed by the full House and then sent to the Senate for concurrence.

The Senate took possession of HB 2 this past week and job one was to review it with each of the Senate vice chairs of the sub-committees. This upcoming week the House chairs of the respective sections will present their section to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee. This is my second session serving on Finance and Claims and as a result, I also serve on Section C which is the Natural Resources and Transportation joint sub-committee.

After we complete the review and make any necessary amendments in Finance and Claims, HB 2 will be sent to the Senate floor for approval by the entire Senate. After approval by the full Senate, it is returned to the House for their acceptance of any amendments that may have been added. If the House accepts HB 2, it goes to the governor for approval. If not, the House and Senate appoint a conference committee to try and resolve their differences so they may gain approval from both chambers.

I truly enjoy the deliberative and thorough vetting the legislature not only promotes, but requires. That is why I am so troubled by the way SB 262 (CSKT Water Compact) and SB 405 (Expansion of Medicaid and Obamacare) have been handled. These two pieces of legislation will cost far more than any other legislation that I have considered. Their impact to our state and region cannot be clearly identified. There are a few things that we know. Between the two pieces of legislation, Montana will be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in new entitlement programs, and rights to state waters west of the Divide will be in question. Yet, we were told that we could not amend these documents with one single word. In the case of the Water Compact, we were told that the commission and the tribes worked this out.  In the case of the Montana Made Obamacare, we were told that the (Federal) Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not approve any changes. How is that a Montana made solution? The legislature made many attempts to amend these bills, but in the end all attempts failed. As far as I am concerned, this was unacceptable legislation passed with an unacceptable process.

The three proposals that Republicans brought forth in the House to cover those with disabilities on waiting lists, those below the Federal Poverty Limit, and veterans not yet receiving benefits, were all defeated in the House this week. Hopefully, some of the other free market solutions that have been passed this season will be signed by the governor.

Mr. Lance Olson brought his seventh and eighth grade students from Lambert to Helena this week. What a treat to have my office packed with these bright young students asking questions about government and business. Clearly, Mr. Olson has a school full of future leaders on his hands. The visit from eastern Montana only makes me more anxious to get back to the ranch for Easter!

As always, you may reach me at:

mattrosendale@midrivers.com or 406-444-4800.