The informal “Conservative Solutions Caucus” (CSC) has been in the news lately, thus further clarification is needed. The CSC, a subset of the Republican majority, is focused on providing working solutions for their constituents across Montana. The emphasis is on crafting conservative legislation that “can pass” the Legislature and “be signed” into law by the governor. The members plan and execute strategically with this goal in mind. CSC members tend to avoid the endless political sound bite games and “gotcha” maneuvers. Much of the real work that occurred in the background over the last decade was done by CSC members.

This session, CSC members are again focused on bills directed at benefiting Montana. We are working with several pieces of legislation designed to enhance career and technical (CTE) opportunities for the 41 percent of Montana students that do not attend college. Electricians, plumbers, automotive technicians, diesel technicians, computer technicians, welders and construction technicians are just a few key areas we hope to enhance.

As infrastructure is the base of our economy, CSC members are determined to depoliticize the debate by creating an ongoing responsible infrastructure investment plan. CSC members are working to ensure local hospitals stay open and viable, and that our state work force, while kept small and efficient, is fairly treated. Jobs, education, school safety and affordable accessible healthcare are all critical CSC topics. On the revenue side, given that the provision of services by cities, towns, and schools consume 98 percent of all property taxes, CSC members are investigating what options exist to mitigate this ever-growing tax burden. I have several personal “solution” bills:

•HB 213, the bill I sponsored on behalf of the local stripper oil producers, passed out of committee and will be heard on the House floor next week.

•HB 211, a bill designed to help mitigate rural educator shortages by offering some school loan repayment to teachers that take and retain jobs in rural communities, will be heard Monday. I have met several times with city/county representatives and members of the governor’s staff, looking to define a “solution” bill for Glacier County. There is progress here. I am also in the early stages of negotiation with the Department of Revenue toward a “solution” for the problem communities face when centrally assessed businesses protest taxes. To be considered a viable solution, a pathway must exist where the bill can become law. I have numerous others bills that I will discuss in later reports.

While I rarely sponsor, I do sometimes vote for soundbite bills if the message is important. For example, I will probably vote for the wall funding bill even though I am aware the governor will likely veto. Why? My constituent contacts strongly (80 percent) support a message that enhanced border security is important.

While success in politics is often correlated to a mastery of soundbites, Montana is best served when politicians work hard finding real solutions to problems. My quote for this week is, “Solving real problems for people has lasting benefit whereas the fame generated by coining a popular soundbite has fleeting effect.”

• • • Llew Jones, a Republican from Conrad, represents House District 18 and can be reached at llew.Jones@mtleg.gov or at 289-0345 for voice and text.