Montana Republicans' dominance on election day included winning a stronger conservative majority in the statehouse for the 2021 legislative session. Republicans appear to have flipped several seats in Montana’s House of Representatives, and at least one seat in the state Senate, making the Republican majority in both chambers ironclad.
Republican Speaker of the House Greg Hertz, who will move over to the state Senate next session, said Republicans are looking forward to working with the newly elected Republican governor, current Congressman Greg Gianforte.
It’s the first time in 16 years Republicans have held a majority in the Legislature and the governor’s office. Hertz said they'll work to create more high-paying jobs in the state by cutting regulations for natural resource industries, like logging and mining.
"That’s a high priority to all of us."
Hertz also said he’s looking to bring back a bill that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed last session that would have revised the property tax appeals process.
In fact, several bills that were previously vetoed could reappear next session now that the threat of Bullock’s veto pen is gone.
Some Republican lawmakers have already requested drafts of bills that restrict access to abortion and loosen gun control laws, although that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be introduced. Gianforte has said he’d be supportive of both these policies.
State Sen. JP Pomnichowski, a Democrat from Bozeman, said her fellow party members will push back against these bills like they have in the past.
"Bills that propose to take people’s rights away and restrict people’s freedoms, we will vigorously fight against those."
However, with fewer seats in their control, Democrats' sway will be weaker.
Pomnichowski said Democrats can still be part of the "working majority" in the legislature. For example, she points to Democrats and moderate Republicans passing a Medicaid expansion bill last session.
But a number of moderate Republicans lost their seats to more conservative candidates in the primary election, meaning Democrats will have fewer willing dance partners across the aisle.
Pomnichowski said her hope for next session is that lawmakers can focus on the budget and public health amid the pandemic.
The direction that each party takes in the coming legislative session will become more clear once party leaders are elected later this month.