The 16th week of the session was shortened by the Easter break but proved to be a very big week for important projects. Those who called for sine die and leaving before Easter really didn’t understand the work that was still to be done if we were to leave with a clean slate.
April 18 proved to be the day for big bills to reach each house. HB 668 (Medicaid) by Ed Buttrey passed the House 61-38 and is on its way to the Governor. HB 652 (Bonding) by Mike Hopkins passed the Senate 40-10. It contained funding for the renovation of Romney Hall on the MSU campus. That one building had sunk the infrastructure bill the last two sessions and it is wonderful to finally get it off our plate.
HB 10 (Long range IT projects) a bill I carried passed the Senate 45-5. It contained several long range projects that were critical to the departments including one that will allow the Montana Department of Transportation to match up with the federal government to get the funds necessary to maintain our highways.
SJ 10 (Day of the Cowboy) by Bogner passed 74-22 after being pulled from the dead file based on a previous vote. Nothing is really dead up here unless it fails to meet a transmittal date or is still around when we sine die for real.
One more bill SB 338 is still in the process. It is the funding source for building the new Historical Center in Helena and help several small museums around the state. It passed second reading in the House 56-44 and was sent to Apropos, due to the dollars included in the bill. Its life will depend on how the committee looks at the funding.
The budget looks very good even though the funding is now looking below what was projected. We are currently projecting an ending fund balance of around $210 million with another $65 million in the Budget Stabilization Account. I believe by passing the Medicaid bill we have averted a special session unless revenue drops drastically after we leave.
Over all, this has been a very productive session and the cooperation between the parties has been excellent. We had ongoing discussions with both parties included and the open dialogue was very important to us achieving the big advances mentioned above. I believe the state of Montana is better because of the accomplishments.
I believe the session will end next Thursday, the 87th day, leaving us three days open if needed during the next two years. No one hopes for a special session but we must plan for it just in case it happens.