“Put Montana First” was the focal point of the Conservative Solutions Caucus (CSC) in the 66th session of the Montana Legislature. (I am a founding member of the caucus.)

The plan: create a fiscally responsible budget with adequate reserves to weather short-term revenue dips, reduce the burden of onerous regulation on our small businesses and workers, mitigate the escalating costs of healthcare, provide more opportunities and better outcomes for students, enhance public safety and continue to repair or replace our state’s aging infrastructure. “Put Montana First” concentrated on creating an economic and recreational environment that supports sustained success and opportunity for all Montanans.

The CSC came through for Montana. Key victories by members include: House Bill 70, increase timber harvest; HB 212, rural teacher recruitment; HB 213, lower taxes for stripper oil production; HB 351, proficiency learning/workforce development; HB 387, education, Career and Technical Education, advanced opportunities; HB 412, combat organized shoplifting; SB 83, reduce pharmacy costs; SB 125, reduce health insurance costs via forming a high risk pool; HB 172, increase veterans’ services; HB 275 and SB 167, increase veteran hunting opportunities; HB 393, increase truck speed limit; HB 389, exempt certain truck height restrictions; HB 636, protect local schools and governments during tax protests; HB 658, Medicaid reform and integrity; HB 533 and 652, short- and long-term infrastructure; HB 661, money for rural airport infrastructure; HB 715, state saving account and drug interdiction team; and the big bill, HB 2, structurally balanced Montana budget while cutting 200 full-time equivalent government jobs. There are many more, but space is short.

The CSC never wavered from its focus on providing real Montana solutions, always prioritizing Montanans’ needs ahead of partisan politics. Montana elected a Republican Legislature and a Democratic governor. Passing a bill requires 26 Senate votes, 51 House votes and one governor’s signature. Real solutions can only be achieved by working together (26-51-1). Real solutions require hard work and compromise. I wish Washington, D.C., had a CSC.

As a CSC legislator who prioritizes constituents and conscience ahead of caucus, party purists grade me an “F’” on their party loyalty scorecards. An “A” is earned through hyper-partisan voting, even if bad for Montana. For those who prefer angry, soundbite, party line legislators, I am not your man. I have no use for D.C.-style chaos.

My legislative seniority, my willingness to put in long work hours and my ability to engage both sides of the aisle allows me to promote and pass real legislation. A partisan extremist legislator could not have passed a bill cutting taxes for local stripper producers (HB 213) or protected local schools from large tax protests (HB 636).

My legislative success, combined with the success of the Conservative Solutions Caucus, has generated some nasty political attacks. Political party attack trolls now blog and tweet, suggesting that I am involved in all forms of skullduggery, from being a “person of interest” by the FBI, to a crooked mobster politician. Unable to win on the facts, the trolls now work to assassinate my character and reputation.

Well, if my legislative success, which translates to north-central Montana’s legislative success, earns me a troll or two, I can live with that. Party trolls don’t attack “lemming” legislators that put their caucus before their constituents, and I won’t go there.

The 66th legislature is over. Montana Republicans, especially members of the CSC, truly did “Put Montana First.” The comprehensive package of regulatory revision, healthcare reforms, enhanced educational opportunities and infrastructure investment passed places Montana, and its citizens, on the pathway to enduring economic success.

Over the next months, I will entertain myself learning what new skullduggery my attack troll suggests I am involved in. I also expect that someone will again be recruited to run against me, armed with all the “dirt” my troll has to offer. Politics is not a game for the faint of heart. Thank you for allowing me to be your representative. Together we stood tall and did great work in the 66th.

• • •

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.