By Dennis Swibold
University of Montana School of Journalism
A coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans pushed the session’s major budget bill through state Senate Saturday after reaching a deal to restore funding for family-planning services in exchange for a ban on filling 500 vacant state jobs. Mike Dennison of Lee newspapers reports that the coalition had enough votes to fight off attempts by conservative Republicans to made deeper cuts in the $9 million bill. Another vote is expected early this week.
The spending in that bill and others could frustrate plans for major tax cuts this session. Lee’s Charles S. Johnson reports that with just two weeks left in the 2013 Legislature, the Republican majority’s hopes of passing hundreds millions of dollars in tax cuts are fading. He offers a rundown of the tax-cut bills still kicking.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the Legislature’s failure to ratify a water-rights compact may lead to a lawsuit from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.
In other news of statewide interest, the AP reports on Friday’s Montana Supreme Court hearing on a government-sponsored conservation effort to transplant Yellowstone National Park bison to tribal reservations in Montana. Supporters of that move argued that a state judge erred in blocking the relocations.
Looking ahead, University of Montana journalism student Keele Smith previews Monday’s scheduled votes on two possible referendums that could mean big changes in the way Montana does elections.
Finally, in case you missed it, check out Montana Public Radio’s weekly Capitol Talk show. News director Sally Mauk interviewed Lee’s Johnson and Dennison about the week’s legislative events.