Common ground found in 66th session

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Montana’s 66th legislative session wrapped up late Thursday after lawmakers passed a $10.3 billion budget. We’re pleased to see the gears of bureaucracy grind out a balanced budget — as required by the state constitution — without talks spilling over into another contentious special session.

In fact, this session offered a number of shining examples of legislators seeking middle ground and working together for the betterment of all Montanans.

At the session’s closing, both Republicans and Democrats were touting a $2.7 billion infrastructure deal. A part of that package includes a bill allowing the state to sell up to $80 million in bonds to fund the work on road, bridge and sewer projects.

Common ground was also found on Hanna’s Act, legislation calling for the state Department of Justice to hire a missing persons’ specialist to work on missing person cases. This epidemic has been brought to the forefront in recent months, and we’re glad to see bipartisan support to finally put more resources into these cases.

Gov. Steve Bullock praised the legislation, saying “Our work together is not yet done – but this is the first step in preventing future tragedies.”

The debate around Medicaid expansion also saw both sides working together to preserve critical health insurance for about 96,000 low-income residents. Democrats pushed to keep the program alive, while Republicans sought to rein it in with more stringent work requirements.

Of course, there was some unfortunate political gamesmanship as this bill was tossed around in the House, but ultimately it passed and is now headed to the governor’s desk for signing.

These are just a few examples of the important bipartisan work that came out of Helena this session.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas called it “one of the more innovative” sessions he can remember.

It was “very productive for things that we could work on together with Democrats and hopefully the governor does see it that way, as well.”

This is how government works best — when each side gives a little for the common good. The folks in Washington, D.C., could learn a thing or two from Montana.

And thank you to our local legislators who put their own lives on hold to spend the last four months in Helena representing their constituents. Their public service is meaningful and appreciated.

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