With Governor Bullock past the time to veto bills, it is time to give a high level wrap up of the session. I say past the time to veto bills because he has 10 days from the day he gets the bills on his desk to decide to sign, allow to become bill without his signature or veto a bill.
He vetoed 36 bills, all carried by Republicans, allowed 1 to become law without his signature and signed 481 bills. There was a total of 1309 bills introduced and 111 resolutions adopted by the legislature. A total of 676 bills died during the process in both houses. There is currently one bill in the process of voting onto override Bullock’s veto.
As you may well know, a wide divide between factions of the Republican Party existed this session. The group Eric and I worked with the most is the group that believed we were sent to Helena to solve problem so we refer to our group as the Conservative Solutions Caucus (CSC). The other faction felt it was there calling to prevent anything from happening. Governor Bullock is taking credit for all that was accomplished this session but if you look at the name of the primary carrier of all the major bills it has a CSC name attached to it. All the major bills passed this year were on our plan put together before the session where all members of the CSC had input.
This report will give a very high level explanation of what we consider major legislation that was successfully carried through the process. As time permits, in future weeks, I will delve more deeply into the bills during the interim. I am not trying to rank the bills since everyone has their opinion as to the ranking.
HB 175 carried by Julie Dooling. Early in the session it was decided to pass two very important bills and HB 175 was one of them. It provided for state employee pay increase of 50 cents per hour each year of the biennium.
HB 159 carried by Bruce Grubbs. This is the second bill we passed early. It provided for the inflationary increase for K-12 which called for $77.1 million in general fund dollars on top of their base amount. It provided for a 0.91% in FY 2020 and 1.83% in FY 2021 and that became the base for other increases in other bills due to inflation.
HB 658 carried by Ed Buttrey. This is the Medicaid Integrity and Reform Act that continued the Medicaid into the future. The cost of the bill is forecast to be $154.2 million from the general fund and state special funds. Revenue is forecast to be $114 million. Many changes were made to the Medicaid bill of 2015 but they would take up this entire report so more on it later.
HB 2 carried by Balance. This bill is the general appropriations bill for the state of Montana and is all general fund, in other word, your tax dollars. It is $2.1 Billion in 2020 and $2.2 Billion in 2021 out of a $10.3 Billion budget.
HB 652 and HB 553 by Hopkins and E. Moore. They worked as a team with Eric carrying the framework and Hopkins carrying the bonding portion of the bills. These bills together are referred to as the infrastructure bill and is the first passed in 14 years. Eric Moore took the lead on this issue and is to be commended for his work on the bill.
HB 661 carried by Custer. This revises aviation fuel taxation that provides funding to match the federal 9 to 1 match for small airports that can’t get enough funds to qualify for the match.
HB 10 carried by Holmlund. This bill provided funding for long range IT programs for state IT.
It is important to understand that prior planning was necessary to make sure the funds were available for these important bills plus all the others that came along with appropriations in them. This planning was done in large part by Nancy Balance and Llew Jones with help from Senator Ryan Osmundson. As a direct result of this planning, we were able to end the session with an estimated $210 M ending fund balance and funds in the budget stabilization fund in case an unexpected emergency arises and the fire fund has enough to cover a regular fire season. We balanced the budget and were able to do several important bills that had not been passed in the recent past