This week represents the mid-point in the legislative session and is the deadline for which most general bills must make it to the other chamber to stay alive.
“Move fast and break things.” – Mark Zuckerberg
After what’s been a whirlwind of activity, we’ve officially hit transmittal week at the Montana Legislature. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, this week represents the mid-point in the legislative session and is the deadline for which most general bills must make it to the other chamber to stay alive.
We’ve been keeping you updated about proposals that we support which line up with the recommendations in our Montana Recovery Agenda. Here is a run-down of where they stand:
- SB 101 follows Frontier recommendations to permanently authorize Direct Patient Care, creating a definition in state law. This is a huge step forward allowing affordable, quality options for healthcare in Montana. I expect this bill to receive wide support as it moves to a vote in the House.
- HB 43 permanently expands access to telehealth in Montana, following Frontier recommendations to lock in regulatory flexibilities that were allowed during the pandemic. HB 43 passed the House 100-0 and looks poised to easily pass the Senate.
- HB 231 repeals anti-competitive healthcare Certificate of Need laws, something we’ve recommend as a way to boost market competition and drive down healthcare costs. This bill received strong support on the House floor and will now be heard in the Senate.
- HB 158 creates a legislative committee that asks a simple question – “if regulations had to be waived during the pandemic, were they necessary in the first place?” This bill follows our recommendations for lawmakers to gather stakeholders together to review regulations on our books.
- HB 479 expands privacy protections for digital data – something that we’ve noted Montanans overwhelmingly support. This bill follows our recommendations to update our law in order to provide more protections for data stored in the cloud and safeguard against dragnet mass data collection by law enforcement. This bill passed the House this week and now will make its way through the Senate.
- SB 203 draws from our recommendations to update Montana’s Constitution to specifically protect electronic data from illegal law enforcement searches. This bill passed the Senate unanimously and looks poised to sail through the House.
- SB 212 requires more transparency about local governments, empowering taxpayers to actually restrain the growth of local governments. This bill passed the Senate this week and is on to the House.
There will certainly be more to come, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed!
- Recent op-eds have disparaged tax cuts as a tool for growing the economy, pointing to Kansas as an example of a state which cut taxes in 2012 and mostly ended in disaster.
Our Take: Kansas certainly had a lot of problems, but most of them resulted from self-inflicted implementation issues. To put it plainly, politicians failed, not the concept of tax relief. Tax cuts do appear to have coincided with higher GDP growth in Kansas.
At the end of the day, spending control is the key to successful tax relief, and Kansas failed to control spending growth. In fact, General Fund spending increased and set several new records between 2012 and 2017.
Montanans can learn from Kansas’ mistakes. Don’t cut taxes while increasing spending. Build a plan that shows how budgets can be balanced by making better use of taxpayer dollars.
In Case You Missed It
- Read our latest Lee Newspapers Column calling for responsibility in local governance. Commentators have recently criticized the Legislature’s attempts to preempt some harmful local government policies as an affront on “local control”.
Let’s set the record straight: The point of local control is to better ensure fundamental rights to life, liberty and property are protected by a responsive government close to home. It is not a blank check for government run amok. Checks and balances on local policy are necessary to prevent skyrocketing property taxes and government growth beyond what taxpayers can reasonably afford.