Saturday, May 02, 2009

Adjournment Plus Four

It's Saturday, May 2, four days after the 61st Montana Legislature adjourned. On Tuesday, we called to order twice and passed legislation for the federal stimulus dollars, companion bills to the state budget bill, and House Bill 2, the state budget bill itself, fulfilling the only constitutional requirement that each legislature do: pass a balanced budget.

I'm proud to say we did better than that: Montana has a balanced budget and an ending fund balance, one of only three states in the nation not in a terrible deficit spending situation. We funded Healthy Montana Kids, a ballot initiative passed by more than 70% of Montana voters last year to enroll all eligible kids in the Childrens Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. We funded projects in the Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) for water and sewer systems for Montana towns. We allocated the federal ARRA (stimulus) dollars so that roads and bridges will be built (or rebuilt), so that three of our communities can use dollars for debris removal after terrible events there: the Bozeman downtown explosion and fire, the Whitehall explosion and fire, and the Miles City fire. We allocated dollars for community mental health centers, for forest fires, for greater and extended unemployment benefits, for job training. And we funded our Montana public schools and our state universities.

I'm back in Bozeman, glad to be home, and jumping right back into work here: I serve on the Greater Gallatin Watershed Council Board of Directors and attended the board meeting Thursday. There are amazing things happening in our Gallatin watershed, with volunteer water quality monitoring, measurements of impaired streams for TMDL (total maximum daily load) monitoring and improvement, and other efforts to keep--or make--our waters clean.

Yesterday, May Day, I celebrated my niece's birthday (she's 11!) and last night had dinner with friends to celebrate the wedding on Monday of one of our number. We ate at a popular restaurant downtown on Main Street, across from the explosion site. There was a street festival in appreciation of MSU, with barbecues and music on Main Street. We Bozemanites embrace our town. A nice moment, too, as I walked to my table of friends, to pass a couple who thanked me for my work in Helena. It's good to be home, and good to be at work in the service of the poeple of Bozeman and of Montana.

There's much still to do: I'll write soon about an amicus brief to the Montana Supreme Court supported by legislators for state policy (in lieu of state law, as of yet) for death with dignity, or physician-assisted death.

As always, I'm truly honored to serve. It's good to be home. More soon.

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