Rep. Ricci’s legislative wrap-up

Rep. Vince Ricci
Thursday, May 9, 2019
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Guest Commentary

On the 87th day, both the House and Senate voted to Sine Die, marking the end of the 66th legislative session. This was my third session serving House District 55. I am proud to say we made many accomplishments benefiting this district and state of Montana as a whole.

One of our major successes was stopping many of the tax bills proposed, which is a difficult task when we have a Governor and other legislators heavily supporting tax and spend policies. Some of the taxes we rejected include raising individual income taxes, a tax on carbon, a tax on rental cars, tobacco tax and a tax on alcohol. All of these taxes and more amounted to over a billion dollars that we were able to stop from affecting our taxpayers.

Again this session the Governor proposed increasing the size of the government, and again Republicans said ‘no.’ We refused bills that threatened government overreach and threatened to hurt our small Montana businesses.

As Vice-Chair on the House Business and Labor committee I saw testimony against many unnecessary and overreaching government mandates. One of these mandates was the proposed Family Medical Leave Act.

In this act, employees would pay into a program which would allow them to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave. However, it would mandate employers to pay these absent employees and guarantee them an equivalent position with equal pay upon their return. Forcing employers to hold open a position for up to 12 weeks would put a heavy burden on our small businesses.

Another proposed mandate was an increase in minimum wage. The passage of I-151 in 2006 allows our minimum wage to automatically increase with the Consumer Price Index.

While many large businesses such as box stores and fast food restaurants are pledging to increase their minimum wages past our current state minimum wage, Montana’s small businesses only employ on average 3-4 people and gross less than $600,000 a year. For our small mom and pop shops, this increase in minimum wage would threaten to put many of them out of business and force the surviving businesses to increase their prices.

Again this session we saw the Medicaid expansion bill. In 2015 we were faced with the Montana Medicaid expansion bill for the first time. This expansion promised to lower insurance premiums and healthcare cost. Now, in 2019 I have yet to see those benefits promised. Medicaid expansion failed to deliver what was promised while it continues to cost us millions biennially.

In the end, Medicaid expansion passed, but with some work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults; enhanced asset testing; premium increases for long term beneficiaries; and a sunset date to re-evaluate program effectiveness.

This session, on behalf of the Attorney General’s office I carried HB 86 to help curb opioid abuse in our state. This bill calls for photo ID requirements for prescriptions, limits on first time opioid prescriptions with exceptions, and requires mandatory use of the drug registry. This bill in no way affects patients who use opioids for chronic pain. Most of the medical associations in the state were supportive of this bill and worked with us so we could pass the most comprehensive form of this bill. While this only addresses a portion of the substance abuse epidemic in our state it is a good step forward.

This session I also carried HB 285 to Establish a Pearl Harbor Veterans Memorial Highway in Yellowstone County. I have had the honor of getting to know many Laurel veterans and I brought this bill on behalf of them. I am proud to say it passed and was signed by the Governor in April. To all our Montana Veterans, thank you for your service.

Republicans have had many wins this session and I am glad I was able to represent you in our fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedoms. I am honored to have once again served you in the Montana House of Representatives. Thank you.

The Laurel Outlook


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