It is strange, after serving 14 years, to be a “freshman” representative in the House. However, as a “senior” freshman, I chair the Joint Education Finance and vice-chair Full Appropriations committees. These familiar committees are where I held leadership positions in the Senate, thus it was a good first week.

While the discussion was contentious, the substantial rule reform I strongly advocated for was adopted by the 66th Legislature with overwhelming support of the body (88-12).

Key reforms include:

•A single leader (speaker) can no longer prevent debate on bills by refusing to schedule hearings.

•The body of the House, with a simple majority vote, can change committee appointments when concern arises that the appointment system is being misused.

•Bills, with a simple majority floor vote, can be reassigned to a different committee if there are indications that the bill was inappropriately assigned.

•Bills that are not progressing timely through the body can, via a simple majority floor vote, be placed on a faster schedule.

•The required votes for moving a tabled bill from committee to the House floor for debate was reduced to 58.

I want to personally thank legislators who stood firm for these critical transparency reforms, despite being publicly attacked by lobbyists, party bosses and others who hoped to benefit from centralized power.

I am grateful the Pondera, Teton, Toole and Glacier Republican central committees understood the need for reform and had our backs. I was dismayed that my advocacy for this policy change resulted in my family and I becoming the targets of personal attacks, including a character assassination smear campaign from an anonymous website. And, of course, it hurts in that there are those who believe the smear. Politics is emotionally brutal, especially when one’s family is attacked. As I have always put my conscience and constituents ahead of the party cabal, and politics has never been a bed of roses for me. In the end, I was ecstatic that the elected Republican majority saw the wisdom in adopting transparent principled fair rules.

Numerous Glacier County residents made the trek to Helena to advocate for SB19 (which would revise laws related to local government budgeting and accounting). I have the utmost respect for the Glacier residents who worked extensively with the Local Government Interim Committee to develop this proposal designed to help mitigate the fiscal crisis their community faces. They too have been falsely smeared, including being accused in the recent public hearing of acting out of racial bias. This is nonsense. Basically, this legislation defines a path for citizens to receive state intervention when it is apparent that current local government financial management is not meeting the fiscal stewardship standards required by law.

This bill looks to build on previous legislation that Rep. Rob Cook and I passed last session making the current forensic audit possible. Recent fiscal findings in Glacier County have made it evident that more aggressive steps are needed. The challenge is to grant state intervention power in a manner that does not inadvertently weaken local control unnecessarily. I will work hard to ensure a viable solution for Glacier County is found.

The 66th Legislature is in the priming stage as bills are prepared to be heard. I will keep everyone informed on topics that matter to our area. My goal this session is to be radically transparent and radically open-minded.

If you have concerns, please share them. I certainly have had my mind changed before by a good argument. My quote, “If you earn and keep the respect of the person in the mirror, then character attacks from others mean nothing.”

Thank you for letting me be your representative.

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Llew Jones, a Republican from Conrad, represents House District 18. He serves on Joint Education Finance and chair of Appropriations committee. Jones can be reached at llew.Jones@mtleg.gov by email or by phone at 406-271-3104.