Time to get to work in Helena

Print Article

The 66th session of the Montana Legislature convenes Jan. 7 in Helena. Over the course of the next four months, our elected representatives will be tasked with taking on a bevy of pressing issues: funding for infrastructure, debating the merits of a local option sales tax, Gov. Steve Bullock’s preschool proposal, revamping Montana’s DUI laws, and of course — the $59 million gorilla in the room — the looming sunset of Montana’s Medicaid expansion program.

That’s just a sampling of the heavy agenda awaiting the Legislature’s arrival Monday. And with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and a Democrat governor, the prospect for so-called gridlock on many of these issues is highly likely.

As three-term state legislator Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, described it, the chance of Republican legislators and the governor butting heads is “only always.”

“It does provide challenges,” Garner told the Inter Lake. “It’s not supposed to be easy… but we must be careful to not make it impossible.”

Garner is spot on here.

One look to Washington, D.C. is all it takes to see how it shouldn’t be done — ugly personal attacks, partisan polarization and yet another government shutdown.

Garner is hopeful that Montana can avoid those pitfalls, and advises that keeping the dialogue open and respectful will be “critical to our success.”

“We’re starting off with some hard conversations, but in all 65 [legislative sessions] we’ve passed a balanced budget, and the good news is we’ll do it again.”

Garner points to Medicaid expansion as possibly the hardest of those hard conversations to come, and according to a few local legislators we talked to, this is where the gridlock is likely to set in like concrete.

“Steering clear of gridlock at what cost?” Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, asked.

“Medicaid expansion… has taken away a lot of resources for those it’s intended for. If that’s the gridlock, that is something I’d gridlock.”

Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, suggested gridlock can actually be good if it stops bad legislation from passing.

We’re certainly not asking legislators to set aside their political convictions heading into this session. They should always vote for what they believe is best for their constituents.

But we do remind our legislators that the best way to maximize their productivity while in Helena is to be mindful of respectful debate and to vigorously pursue common ground when it’s within reach. Give a little — reach across the aisle when the opportunity arises — and potentially gain a lot for everyone in Montana.

“It’s our job to find the common interest,” Garner said. “It’s always a challenge, but we always find a way.”

It’s once again time to get to work in Helena. Let’s make it a productive, and respectful, session.

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Joyful homecoming for 495th troops

March 21, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake There were lots of cheers, tears and hugs as the Montana National Guard 495th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion arrived back in the Flathead Valley late Saturday night after a nine-month deploymen...

Comments

Read More

Bill takes aim at foreign ‘dark money’

March 17, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake A bill has been introduced to the Montana Legislature that would ban spending and contributions in state elections by foreign entities. Missoula Democrat Sen. Nate McConnell is the sponsor of the bil...

Comments

Read More

Foundation’s work focused on suicide awareness

March 14, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The first Nate Chute snowboard races were held 20 years ago on Big Mountain as a way to remember a friend who tragically took his own life. Today, the event is thriving in participation and has bloss...

Comments

Read More

Permits for North Fork worth studying

March 10, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake American Rivers pulls no punches when describing the upper North Fork of the Flathead River. It’s a “recreational paradise for anglers and paddlers,” they write, where “emerald water flows past a see...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X