Montana Public Radio

Llew Jones

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.

Gavel.
(PD)

The Montana Supreme Court Wednesday struck down a 2015 state law allowing tax credits for donations to private religious schools.

The court’s 5-2 ruling voids the dollar-for-dollar tax credit, up to $150, which passed, largely along party lines, out of the 2015 Montana Legislature.

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.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Republican lawmakers failed to get enough support to call a special session to consider referenda to counter two proposed ballot initiatives.

the 2017 Rice Ridge Fire near Seeley Lake
Inciweb

The State’s fire fighting savings account started this month with the second lowest balance since it was created a decade ago.

There’s only about $4 million in the fund’s reserves for this fire season. That’s about a fifth of what the state needs to cover an average fire season bill.

The Montana Capitol
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Republican state lawmakers are debating whether to call a special session of the Montana Legislature this July.

Republicans hold enough seats in the state Legislature to call a special session without any support from Democrats. But to do so, they need at least 76 of their 90 plus members in the Legislature to agree to it.

Office of the governor, budget and program planning.
William Marcus

Following the collapse of the state budget last year, lawmakers are considering changing how the state plans out its budgeting process. However, a proposal from the state budget director on the topic doesn't seem to be receiving support from Republican finance leaders.

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

Numbers in a new state revenue report mean Montana could likely restore some of the cuts made during last year’s budget crisis. At least that’s how one prominent Republican state lawmaker is interpreting them. 

The Montana Capitol in Helena.
Mike Albans

Governor Steve Bullock has rejected a budget bailout offer from the state’s only private prison in exchange for a revised and extended contract to house Montana’s inmates.

The Montana Legislature Subcommittee on Taxes and the Changing Economy, Jan. 17, 2018.
Corin Cates-Carney

When it became clear that state revenues were falling short of expectations during the last legislative session, state lawmakers agreed they should start studying Montana’s changing economy.

Earlier in the session, revenue forecasts from legislative and executive branch analysts said the state’s economy was strong. But revenues ended up coming in way short and state lawmakers are starting to ask why.

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