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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Legislative Compromise Gives Hope To Dems, Heartburn To Speaker

Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R)
Montana Legislature

A compromise over the rules in the Montana House gives the minority Democrats a little more power, while preventing a lengthy and acrimonious floor debate.

Tuesday the House Rules committee labored for hours as Democrats brought up a long list of changes to give their pet projects a slightly better chance of passing, or at least not dying in committee. The minority threatened to do the same thing on the House floor Thursday afternoon, until both sides reached a last-minute deal.

"In exchange for not bringing a tremendous amount of amendments to the floor and not belaboring the point, to the point where we’ll be out there all afternoon, we are going to adopt one amendment offered by Representative Hunter to give both parties what we call silver bullets. We’re going to give each party six.”

Speaker Austin Knudsen told his caucus the silver bullets are six chances to “blast” any bill out of a committee to the floor for a vote, with just a simple majority of 51 votes. Once all six bullets are used up, Democrats would need sixty votes to blast a bill to the floor, which is difficult because Democrats hold only 41 seats in the House.

“There’s some heartburn about this," Knudsen said. "I’ve got some heartburn about this, but at the end of the day this is going to make the process go a lot smoother today. It’s going to prevent a lot of unnecessary bloodletting on the floor”

With partisan fights looming over issues like Medicaid expansion and preschool funding, the compromise means slightly better odds that those issues will reach the House floor, instead of languishing in committee.

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