Friday, February 08, 2013

Week 5, 2013 Montana Legislature


  Hello, friends!
  The work of the 63rd Legislative Session is moving along, and for the first couple weeks, most of the bills were easy code clean-up and enjoyed little controversy and bipartisan support. But now, tougher issues are coming before us. We've heard proposals to limit voting rights and voting access, and to control at the state level public school curricula. The House passed (without my support) using silencers for hunting big game, a resolution to change the redistricting model to favor Republican changes (gerrymandering), and to deny overtime pay to computer professionals. Yes, that's a real bill.
  There has been some good work, too; I serve as Vice Chair of the House Taxation committee, and we consider policy on income tax, property tax, and revenue at the state level for all of the services that we Montana citizens expect and enjoy. It is the duty of the House Taxation committee to consider the revenue estimate for the next two years, and to recommend to the legislature as a whole our budget number. We passed the revenue estimate Wednesday, and that's an important step for the legislature to fulfill its one duty: to pass a balanced budget. House Tax considers the revenue estimate, and the House Appropriations committee appropriates, or spends, that money. Each Montana household must balance its books and live within its means, and so does state government.
  The House Tax committee has heard individual tax policy ideas, too. A proposal to offer income tax relief sounds like a good idea, until you learn that it would offer just $27 to taxpayers. That bill failed, and other, more meaningful tax relief bills will be proposed in coming weeks. We'll consider them all, always with an eye toward balancing the budget.
  Visitors grace the House chamber each day. We had some junior fiddlers entertain us at the start of our floor session, and we've heard the State of the State address from Governor Bullock, the State of Education address by Superintendent Juneau, and the State of the Judiciary address by Chief Justice Mike McGrath.
  Thanks, everyone, for all your messages on legislation. The work is intense and frequently difficult, but I love the work! I'm honored to serve you, and please be assured, I'll always do my best for you!

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