2018 Session will not rest in peace divert these

By Brad Molnar
Thursday, June 20, 2019
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Rep. Vince Ricci

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Political Potpourri

Headlines continue to unfold about vetoed/unvetoed bills awaiting court rulings and radio ads continue to ask us to contact Governor Bullock on bills relegated to the trash bin. But political grandstanding has subsided to a dull roar. Senators and Representatives have filed legislative re-cap articles with their local newspapers but with legislators now running for statewide offices most big issues will not die. What is spoken publicly is often not what is discussed amongst hard-line observers. And so it was at the last Big Tent dinner.

Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R) reported on his bill that holders of Conceal Carry Permits will no longer need to report to their local sheriff if they move. Zolnikov’s banner legislation is that, after two years researching prostitution masquerading as therapeutic massage parlors, Zolnikov figured how to shut down the bad actors without affecting legitimate masseuses. With that he created a two-man task force to coordinate a statewide effort keeping the illegitimate massage operations from moving elsewhere in the state once shut down.

Rep. Peggy Webb (R) took a different track and shared her frustrations. Webb labeled Republicans, often described by the press as “moderates,” as “trans-partisans” focused on passing bills to address current problems regardless of long term consequences. Webb is also frustrated by knowing that only 11percent of parents on welfare cooperate with Child Protective Services or other agencies to identify fathers that owe child support. She said such cooperation is necessary to bring the ever growing budget to support those children under control, yet state action is not forthcoming.

Sen. Roger Webb (R) (married to Peggy Webb, they are Montana’s first married legislative team), not a stranger to political controversy, chaired the Taxation Committee and bragged that it soon earned the reputation as a “kill committee” for bills creating or expanding taxes. Because of this reputation the bill adding to the hotel/ motel bed tax to pay for a new historical museum, was heard in the Business and Labor committee. Webb said that 45 percent of the bed tax is paid for by Montanans working or recreating in Montana, not tourists.

On a positive note Webb said that, after many sessions of trying, mobile homes on permanent foundations, with wheels removed, will now be taxed as family homes which will save precious dollars for many Montana families. Not so positive was the news Glacier County is saddled with $5 million in debt and no way to pay it. Also, Glacier County “borrowed” $2.5 million from federal and state education funds to cover daily operations. According to Webb, “There is no legal mechanism to

appropriated funds so they must pay the money back.” “All counties are supposed to undergo audits to show their books are balanced. Glacier County has not undergone an audit for years. A review shows many counties have also not performed the audit so no one knows the depth of the problem.”

Webb warned, “Everyone thinks the legislature balances the budget. In fact we balance the checkbook.” His example was that every man, woman, and child in Montana owes $20,000 due to unfunded liability to the Teachers Retirement Fund, and that is but one fund with massive unfunded liabilities.

Rep. Vince Ricci (R) Laurel, chaired the Legislative Administration Committee and reported they killed the Medical Leave and the $15 Minimum Wage acts. On the Medicaid Expansion tug-of-war Ricci pointed out the Democratic vice-chair voted to table the plan put forward as the Democrat’s plan. Ricci reminded us that in 2015 Medicaid Expansion promised to lower medical bills and lower insurance premiums. But, instead, it has raised patient room rates by $19 million to access $200 million in federal funds to be given to the hospitals.

Apparently, out of 270,131 floor votes these were the highlights.

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