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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

'Capitol Talk': GOP Health Plan, U-System Funding, And 'Open War' Between Republicans And The COPP

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on "Capitol Talk":

Montana Republicans unveiled their alternative to Gov. Bullock's Medicaid expansion plan. The so-called "Big Sky Health" plan is a package of 20 bills that would cover fewer people than the Governor's plan. It also contains restrictions on welfare and food stamps, tort reform and more. Mike Dennison says, "this is a big stew-pot of legislation that they're just rolling out. Some of it has been introduced, some of it hasn't, but it's going to be front and center on their agenda for the rest of the session."

Higher education officials were pleased to get a funding increase that will allow the University System to freeze tuition for two more years. One Democrat noted that faculty pay has yet to be addressed at the legislature.

There's a partisan divide over a school expansion bill that would allow some elementary school districts to build new high schools. Many Republicans are supporting the bill. Its Democratic opponents worry that it will result in less money for existing schools.

Sally Mauk notes that "a budget subcommittee made some drastic cuts to the State Commissioner of Politcal Practices office," including elimination of the in-house attorney and a cut to the Commissioner's salary. Chuck Johnson says, "this is the closest thing we've seen to open war between the Republican majority and the Political Practices Commissioner Jonathon Motl ... The big battle yet to come is over whether Motl will be confirmed or not in his position." Motl has investigated several Republicans for campaign violations, and some Republicans feel he has been biased against them.

The most talked about story this week revolved around an indecent exposure bill and the comments of its sponsor, Rep. Doc Moore of Missoula. Following the bill's hearing, Moore said "Yoga pants should be illegal in public," and he wouldn't have a problem with people being arrested for wearing provocative clothing. He later claimed these comments were jokes, taken out of context, but not before the story spread across the country. The bill was later tabled in committee.

"Capitol Talk," our weekly legislative news and analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the legislative session. MTPR's Sally Mauk is joined by Lee Newspapers reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

Retired in 2014 but still a presence at MTPR, Sally Mauk is a University of Kansas graduate and former wilderness ranger who has reported on everything from the Legislature to forest fires.
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