(Editor’s note: The following is a legislative report from state Rep. Christy Clark, R-House District 17. This is an opinion piece, written from Clark’s perspective, not a regular news article.)
As the Legislature nears the end of the second week, I’m excited to report that our goal of “more work and less politics” is still making progress.
The Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel began his term by saying he wanted to make the session more about work and less about political games. In the first week, we heard addresses from Sen. Max Baucus and Sen. Jon Tester and both of them echoed that call.
Senator Baucus also expressed support for building the Keystone XL Pipeline in Eastern Montana and North Dakota Ñ a position that most Montana legislators of both parties enthusiastically shared.
Coming up soon, we have addresses from U.S. Rep. Steve Daines and Gov. Steve Bullock. Daines should be particularly interesting, since this is the first time Montana has had a brand new member of the House of Representatives in a long time.
On the policy front, proposals to fix the state pension system are working their way through the process. As you may have read, the state government has been promising its employees a pension when they retire for many years. Now, because of some poor performance from the stock markets and because of some questionable decisions made in the past, the account that pays those pensions is in financial trouble. We have to fix the problem going forward, so this never happens again. Whatever that solution, it must also honor the promises made in the past. We can’t go back on our word.
Toward that end Speaker Blasdel, along with Senate President Jeff Essmann, appointed a bipartisan committee from both houses to come up with a plan we can pass before we adjourn.
As he appointed his part of the committee, Blasdel said, “Addressing the shortfall in Montana’s pension fund is one of our biggest job this year. Working on the problem through a joint bipartisan subcommittee is a good way of making sure we’re focusing on work, not on politics.”
Another success we saw last week was the passage of our first piece of wolf legislation. Two bills were introduced to the committee, one was amended and the sponsor of the other joined as a sponsor on the bill that moved forward. The bill will make it easier to hunt wolves, using electronic calls and lower license fees and has an immediate effective date. It not only had the blessing of the FWP, but it also passed the house unanimously. It will still take some time to get through the Senate and to Governor Bullock’s desk but so far everyone seems to be in favor of this bill.
Next week, you should also see a major step forward in long-term tax reform. By then a bill should be ready that will help reduce our property taxes, which is something everyone should agree on. I hope to be able to bring you that news in my next report.
One thing is for certain, working to represent you, my friends and neighbors, in this legislative session has been an honor so far. It’s also been fun. If you have any input about specific bills, please don’t hesitate to call 444-4800 and register your opinion. I have enjoyed hearing from some of you. Please feel free to contact me anytime.