MTPR

Lawmakers Look To Advance Colstrip, Preschool Bills In Session's Final Days

Apr 24, 2019

The Montana Legislature is in a holding pattern entering the final days of the session as behind the scenes deals are being worked out in rooms at the state Capitol.

Lawmakers are attempting to advance politically contentious policies over preschool funding and the  future of Colstrip as time in the 2019 legislative session runs out.

On Wednesday, lawmakers rejected a proposal to amend a state budget companion bill to include a $16 million spending plan for public, private and Head Start preschool systems. Companion bills are often vehicles for tying up loose ends of legislative appropriations or do end of session political horse-trading. 

The new preschool proposal was similar to one that was rejected earlier in the session, which would have created a new Department of Early Childhood. 

Dennis Parman with the Montana Rural Education Association opposed the effort Wednesday, along with other public education groups.

“We have a concern that it’s April 24 and rumor is you won’t be here by the end of the week and we’re talking about something with that significant of a fiscal impact.”

Democrats say they will bring another amendment to continue funding for the current pilot preschool program.

Last ditch efforts are also underway to revive elements of the so-called Montana Energy Security Act of 2019, which would encourage NorthWestern Energy to buy a bigger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.

The Republican sponsors of that failed bill are attempting to insert key elements of it into another piece of legislature that’s still alive. Draft amendments of their plan were written Wednesday and worked on through the day.

The legislative session is scheduled to wrap up in less than three days.