For eight years, I had the honor of representing Kalispell in the Montana House of Representatives. When I ran for office, I pledged to the voters of Kalispell that I would do what is best for the people of Montana.
For me, that meant I would decide whether to support or oppose a piece of legislation based upon the merits. I don’t believe the people of Montana are served by engaging in political games or “gotcha” maneuvers in the legislative process. When I decided to support a bill, I did so because I believed the legislation would help Montanans. Conversely, when I voted against a piece of legislation, I did so because I believed it wasn’t in Montana’s best interest.
For the most part, I believe most legislators want to do the right thing. Throughout my tenure in the Legislature, I was able to work with Republicans and Democrats to move important legislation benefiting Montana. Even when I disagreed with someone, I was confident that those disagreements were based on their heart-felt beliefs, and I knew that just because we disagreed didn’t mean we couldn’t work together on other issues.
As I watch this legislative session unfold, it seems, the dynamic in the Montana Capitol has changed. On several occasions, Freedom Caucus members of our legislature have teamed up with Democrats to stop legislation that would benefit the people of Montana. While the reasons for this voting behavior may be different, the outcome is the same – everyday Montanans are going to be hurt by the acts of these legislators.
In the past few weeks, members of the far-right voted with Democrats to stop HB 321. It’s a bill that would establish a fund that would use existing tax revenues to pay for school maintenance and the costs associated with conservation districts while reducing property taxes! It’s a bill widely supported by education and conservation groups that would benefit Montanans for generations.
Another example from a similar coalition is HB 269, a bill to create a fund for disaster preparedness. Under HB 269, the State of Montana would create a fund to obtain matching grants from the federal government to build things such as levies along rivers to prevent flooding. In Montana, we look for out each other. By stopping this bill, those legislators made a strong statement that they aren’t prioritizing the health and safety of their neighbors.
These votes have left many of my Republican friends asking me when Republicans stopped supporting infrastructure investment and the basic needs of our communities and my Democrat friends asking me when Democrats decided to align their views on education funding with the far right.
I know most legislators want to do the right thing, but it won’t happen without your help. Please contact your legislators and let them know you don’t want them playing political games with our future and that you want them to put Montana first. Your voice can make a difference.
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