On this week’s Face the State, MTN’s Jill Valley is joined by Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison and Reporter Jonathon Ambarian to discuss the 67th Montana Legislative Session coming to a close.
The 2021 Session concluded on April 29. This was the first legislative session in 16 years with a Republican in the governor’s office, and the Republican majorities in both houses saw it as an opportunity to achieve some of their long-held priorities that they hadn’t been able to get through with a Democratic governor.
Some of the highlights from this year include a law-- which is currently being challenged-- that allows the governor to directly appoint judges to fill vacancies, several bills that limit abortion in the state and how recreational marijuana will be implemented.
The 67th Legislature also made significant cuts to the state budget and passed legislation that reduced the state’s top income-tax rate from 6.9 percent to 6.75 percent.
On Friday, Republican leaders praised other measures that passed through the Legislature:
- Up to $1 billion in infrastructure projects – especially the expansion of broadband internet connectivity – paid for with money from the federal COVID relief bill
- Credits to encourage trades education, and incentives for school districts to raise teachers’ pay
- Lifting regulations to allow more flexibility in health care
- Bills eliminating same-day voter registration and tightening voter ID requirements, which leaders said would ensure election integrity
- Expansion of the ability to carry concealed firearms
Democrats, the minority in both houses, were critical of the majority. In statements over the final day of the session, leaders argued Republican tax proposals favored the wealthy, that many of the bills the Legislature passed were infringements on Montanans’ rights that would be challenged in court, and that the Republicans spent too much time on an investigation into perceived political bias in the judiciary.