By Dennis Swibold
University of Montana School of Journalism
For all the early talk about bipartisan cooperation, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock heads into the session’s second half with little to show for his agenda so far. Lee newspapers’ Charles S. Johnson reported that Republicans have sidetracked the governor’s ideas on business and property tax cuts and his plan to increase number of Montanans hired on state and local public works projects.
But it’s early, and Johnson reminded us of the governor’s veto power and the ability for rally public support for the remaining big ticket items on his wish list: Medicaid expansion, pay raises for state workers, and $100 million worth of new buildings and renovations on college campuses and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Johnson’s colleague, Mike Dennison, reported on the Republican push to cut taxes, which has Democrats wondering just how much money would be left for spending and savings. Clues could come later this week as 21 lawmakers decide what to include into the session’s main budget bill.
In a similar analysis, Great Falls Tribune correspondent John S. Adams focused on the budget and tax debates to come. He also noted that of the 1,005 bills introduced so far, 612 are still kicking.
It’s not always about money, though. The Associated Press reported Sunday on a small herd of bills about an icon of the Old West: bison. The most contentious of the bills, AP says, is a Scobey Republican’s proposal to allow year-round hunting and more permits to kill buffalo that leave the safety of Yellowstone National Park. Sen. John Brenden and others also aim to restrict the transfer of Yellowstone’s surplus bison to new areas in Montana.
For a good discussion of the session at halftime, listen in as Montana Public Radio’s Sally Mauk interviews the Lee Bureau reporters in her weekly “Capitol Talk” show. And speaking of Montana Public Media, grab a virtual cookie and check out our recent celebration of Public Media Day at the Capitol.