Montana Public Radio

Fred Thomas

This week, Montana lawmakers gaveled into the second half of the legislative session. Republicans are advancing major conservative priorities, including a tax cut package. It harkens back to the last time the GOP controlled both the Legislature and governor’s office.

“During the session people will put out buttons for their bills sometimes," says retired 43-year government reporter Chuck Johnson as he rummages through drawers and drawers of political buttons in his Helena home.

“This was a button that came out memorializing the passage of deregulation in a bad way.”

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R) - Stevensville
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

An effort by Republican state lawmakers to change how the Montana Legislature operates has failed.

Lawmakers part of the Joint House and Senate Rules Committee met on Monday to review a poll taken of the entire Legislature regarding three rules proposed by Republicans. The rules would have changed how the lawmaking body conducts business during the session and in the interim. 

Montana Capitol.
Shaylee Rager / UM Legislative News Service

Republican lawmakers met Thursday to discuss changing the 2021 Legislature’s rules for operating amid the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats boycotted the meeting, saying it was illegitimate, and threatened legal action.

Montana lawmakers on June 9 formed a bipartisan working group to consider the possibility of a remote 2021 legislative session. Legislators also sparred over the importance of wearing face masks during physical meetings amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Fred Thomas On Deregulation, Term Limits And Three Decades In The Capitol

Jan 22, 2020
Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R) - Stevensville
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

Last week, state lawmakers gathered in Helena for the first-ever Legislative Week, a five-day series of training sessions, interim committee meetings, and social gatherings aimed at maintaining connections between legislators during the 20-month break they typically take between legislative sessions.

Gov. Steve Bullock is joined by Rep. Mary Caferro, a Democrat from Helena, and Rep. Ed Buttrey, a Republican from Great Falls, and other lawmakers for the signing of HB 658, May 9, 2019. The bill reauthorizes the state's Medicaid expansion program.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

New work and public service requirements for certain Medicaid expansion enrollees were signed into state law Thursday.

Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill to continue and change the health coverage program for low income adults, during a crowded ceremony in the east wing the state Capitol.

Montana Capitol building.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Legislature passed 375 bills before it adjourned late last week. Gov. Steve Bullock must now decide which of them he will sign or veto.

At an end of session press conference Bullock sounded pleased.

“Dang near every proposal that I asked this legislative body to seriously consider will be making its way to my desk." he said.

The House chamber at the Montana Legislature during the 2019 session.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Legislature adjourned Thursday, sending a $10 billion state budget to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. Republican and Democratic leaders say their parties each picked up political wins and loses.

The two Republican Majority leaders in the House and Senate struck different tones in their final messages of the 2019 legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas (R) - Stevensville
Mike Albans / Montana Public Radio

The bill to continue Medicaid expansion in Montana passed out of the state Senate Tuesday after teetering on the edge of a deadline for end of session negotiations.

The reauthorization of the health coverage program for low-income adults, packaged with new work and public service requirements for certain enrollees, passed 28-22 in its final Senate vote.

Updated and expanded 6:40 p.m.

A bill to continue Montana’s Medicaid expansion program has passed a critical vote in the Senate by a one vote margin. The  26-24 vote Monday afternoon lifted House Bill 658 from its multi-day stall ahead of a Tuesday deadline for bills to pass. That means the bill faces one more Senate vote Tuesday.

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