Guest Column

Legislative Achievements

The first half of the legislative session has gone very well

By Mark Blasdel, Cary Smith and Jason Ellsworth

During the first half of the 67th Montana Legislature, the Republican majority logged important achievements, keeping the promises we made to our constituents.  

We tackled the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing the first hybrid session in Montana history. This hybrid model allowed both legislators and the public to participate remotely. Our COVID-19 Response Panel hired a dedicated contact tracer and implemented testing protocols. As a result, the pandemic situation continues to improve in Helena, allowing Lewis and Clark County to relax restrictions twice during the session.

We passed and continue to work on legislation that grows Montana’s economy, creates good-paying jobs, expands access to affordable health care, protects individual rights, increases government accountability, and provides Montana’s kids with a quality education.

We worked with Governor Greg Gianforte to lift the statewide mask mandate by quickly sending Senate Bill 65 to his desk. This legislation protects Montana’s businesses from frivolous lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic, an essential element to getting Montanans back to work and restarting our economy. 

We passed tax reform bills that cut taxes for ordinary Montanans, made our state more attractive to business investment, and established incentives for businesses to create good-paying jobs. Every Montanan earning more than $18,400 should see a reduction in their tax bill. 

We passed bills to build rural broadband, providing more Montanans with access to reliable, high-speed Internet. We also raised starting pay for new teachers, which will help urban and rural school districts attract quality educators.

Senate Republicans passed legislation allowing doctors to work directly with patients, cutting out insurance middlemen and providing access to more affordable health care. We also expanded access to telehealth, improving rural Montanans access to quality physical and mental health care. 

Governor Gianforte signed into law a bill protecting and expanding Montanans’ Second Amendment rights. The Senate sent to the voters a constitutional amendment that will protect the privacy of Montanans’ electronic data and communications. Bills that protect college students’ rights of free speech and association are moving forward. And three bills that protect the unborn are headed to the governor’s desk. 

Numerous bills checking the power of the executive branch, providing oversight of unelected local officials, ensuring election integrity, easing burdensome regulations, helping agricultural producers, securing Montana’s energy future, and addressing the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons are moving forward. 

The first half of the legislative session has gone very well. We will maintain this momentum in the second half, passing a conservative budget that provides essential services without raising taxes on ordinary Montanans. We welcome your feedback and input as we continue to work through this historic 67th Legislature. 

Senator Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, is President of the Montana Senate. Senator Cary Smith, R-Billings, is the Senate Majority Leader. Senator Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, is the Senate President Pro Tempore.