As we celebrate summer graduations and holidays that honor our service men and women, and parents and families, it’s a good time to point out how our shared Montana values shaped lawmaking in the recent legislative session – values like the equal opportunity of public education, healthy and hard-working families and communities, and service to country and each other.
Here are a few examples of laws passed that reflect these values. The HELP Act will provide access to health and mental healthcare for thousands of working Montanans – veterans, neighbors, friends and family members who struggle to make ends meet but cannot afford healthcare, a basic human right. We passed several mental health bills, including suicide prevention training in schools, community based services, and one bill that I sponsored to eliminate stigmatizing language about mental illness from Montana Code Annotated, the state’s official law book. Legislators funded public education and froze tuition at state colleges and universities. So when you congratulate a high school or college graduate, be proud that your tax dollars helped them get there. I don’t think there’s a better graduation gift or better way to give back money to taxpayers than this priceless investment in people, our human capital.
Legislators passed the CSKT water compact that honors and shares our most precious natural resource. We passed a tax benefit for Montana’s National Guardsmen and women on active duty. The campaign finance disclosure law shines light on dark money, makes it clear that Montana votes are not for sale to the highest bidder, and ensures that voters can know who stands behind a candidate. We passed the state budget to fund essential services and fuel our state’s wonderful quality of life. It includes fair compensation for state employees who administer those services like maintaining our roads, parks and public lands, protecting our public health and safety, and educating our kids.
Sure, there were times during the 87 days of session that we held our noses to make sausage, engaged in heated debates, bad bills became law, good bills died, and much more still needs to be done. Yet, for the most part, the majority of legislators dropped ideology and partisan labels, and worked together with each other, dedicated staff and members of the public to serve our great state. We identified those common values that Montanans hold dear.
Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell
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