Greg Hertz

Montana House of Representatives.

Montana’s 2019 legislative session is at the halfway point, and lawmakers will now break for a week as policy bills are transferred between the House and Senate.

During the first 45 days, the Legislature signed off on a $77 million K-12 school funding package, reached an apparent compromise on long fought-over infrastructure spending, and started laying the foundation for the next state budget.

Gov. Steve Bullock making a statement on Tuesday about the benefits of Montana's Medicaid expansion program for Montana businesses. Jan. 8, 2019.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

Medicaid expansion saves Montana businesses a lot of money, Gov. Steve Bullock said Tuesday. He made that point as the state legislative session opens, because if state lawmakers don’t vote to reauthorize it, Medicaid expansion will expire in June.

Bullock released a new report today saying Medicaid expansion provided health insurance to 16 percent of Montana’s private sector workforce in 2016 and 2017.

Members of the Montana House of Representatives are sworn in to the 2019 legislative session Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.
Eliza Wiley / Montana Free Press

Editor’s note: This story has been updated following Monday’s vote.

HELENA — Hours before Montana lawmakers gaveled in the 2019 legislative session, Republicans appeared to have struck a deal on House rules.

Rep. Greg Hertz (R) - HD12. Hertz is the speaker of the House at the Montana Legislature.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

The 66th meeting of the Montana Legislature gavels in at noon Monday setting the 90-day timer for major state policy debates. An early conflict will be over a proposal to change to the rules of the House in way  that could reset the political balance-of-power in the Capitol.

Hearing room at the Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

There is a fight brewing in the Montana Legislature over how much power House leadership should have to keep bills they don’t like from going forward. It’s revealing lines between conservative and moderate factions in the Republican caucus; and how it plays out could determine the way high-profile policy is made.

“There’s a lot at stake in this game,” says Derek Skees, a Republican party whip in the House.