Phil Drake Great Falls Tribune
Published 12:35 PM EST Mar 1, 2019
From the dome to your home. Ramblings, mutterings, keen observations and things you ought to know out of Helena from the mind of Phil Drake.
HALFWAY THERE: As you read this, the state Legislature will be in transmittal, which, as best as I can figure, is when bills move from one body of the Legislature to the other.
The Senate broke on Wednesday and is to return eight days later. The House broke Friday morning, and most members will have the following week off. I thought it was touching that Friday’s House floor session broke with a prayer wishing a safe journey.
Is a break needed? I don’t know about the Legislature, but I sure could use one.
But I don’t think it’s a total rest for all. I know Great Falls-area lawmakers have some meetings planned with city, county and education officials, and I plan to attend one of those meetings at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Gibson Room at Great Falls Civic Center, Great Falls Civic Center, No. 2 Park Drive South. That is of course, unless another 10 feet of snow is dumped on the area. Then, if possible, send out a search party along the I-15 to find me. And hurry, most likely I will have eaten all of my food provisions within 10 minutes of being stuck.
So what can I say about this session? I think the tone is considerably less tense than 2017. I believe everyone showed up angry in Helena for that session ready to deal with budget woes.
I am fascinated by the work going on in infrastructure and bills being passed on missing and murdered Indigenous women and children and child sex crimes. Officials tout passage of employee pay House Bill 159, a $77 million education plan as accomplishments so far.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said this is the third legislative session in a row that this bill has been signed by transmittal break.
Lawmakers approved an employee pay plan early on that increases salaries for state employees by 50 cents in 2020 and 50 cents in 2021. According to the fiscal note, the cost of the increase is $8.8 million in 2020 and $26 million in 2021.
Also, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 71, legislation proposed by state Auditor Matt Rosendale, to lower prescription drug costs. That now moves to the House.
Much or some of that has happened during the first half. And of course, Medicaid expansion and completing the budget seem to be everyone’s minds as we get ready for the rest of the session. And I imagine Colstrip will continue to be debated
As they say, it hasn’t all been kumbaya. But it is different.
SOUNDING THE ALARM: Rep. Jasmine Krotkov, D-Neihart, had a bill heard in committee recently on something I reported on a few years ago.
In full disclosure, her bill had nothing to do with my story.
House Bill 464 was to create a hazardous spills response task force to study readiness of the state should a major disaster occur, such as a train wreck. A state report had found there were certain parts of Montana where it could take as long as 12 hours for help to arrive.
I watched the hearing over TV in the Capitol. I thought she made some good arguments, which were countered by folks who said there were plans and safeguards in place for such situations.
I saw where the House Natural Resource Committee tabled it soon after the hearing. Well, maybe next time.
QUIRKY BILLS: There are some bills I’ve been watching just because they strayed from the path.
Sadly, I believe everyone knows the “Hippy Hippy Shake” bill died an agonizing death on the House floor the other week. The bill would have made the song written in 1959 by a Billings teen and recorded by fabled musical artists, the Beatles, the state’s official rock ‘n’ roll song. It got stomped in the House chamber, and we never got to the second chorus.
I don’t want to talk about it.
I did some coverage on a bill prohibiting plastic straws in restaurants, which quickly fell by the wayside. I don’t use plastic straws out of a phobia I will suck myself inside the glass. So now I tell myself I don’t use plastic straws out of respect to Sen. Sue Malek, who proposed the bill.
I see the Senate Joint Resolution to join some other states in designating the fourth Saturday in July as National Day of the Cowboy is still alive, I believe.
And there was a third bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan, to make media print a statement on their front page If they are owned by out-of-state interests.
I never quite understood the intent of the bill. I am fairly sure that readers of this paper know the Tribune is owned by the Virginia-based Gannett Co. and is part of the USA Today network.
The bill did not seem to take note of the Montana presence in newspapers. How many University of Montana graduates are working in newsrooms and other media in Montana? There was no mention of the financial impact of what employees spend and the commitment some make to their communities.
I had people tell me not to take it personal, but I can’t help it, it is deeply personal.ANONYMOUS VS. UNANIMOUS: I had sort of an awkward moment with Rep. Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield the other day.
I was trying to say a vote in his committee on a bill had been “unanimous,” but it came out of my big fat yapper as “anonymous.” I think Doane, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, raised an eyebrow and then I think I began a “unanimous/anonymous” blitzkrieg trying to figure out what the heck I meant.
I believe it was a GOP spokeswoman standing off the side who told me I meant “unanimous.”
So who was that person who saved the day? I will let her remain “unanimous,” oops, I mean “anonymous.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Wendy McKamey, R-Great Falls, circulated a joint resolution honoring the 100th birthday of the American Legion in Montana.
The resolution calls for 2019 and 2020 to “be recognized as the Centennial of the Montana Department of The American Legion and that communities across Montana be encouraged to recognize and celebrate the service and many contributions of the more than 12,000 members of The American Legion in Montana.”
It notes the Montana Department of The American Legion has been a positive
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Dome Lights appears Sunday, unless the villagers catch me. Email me at [email protected] or call 406-422-0772. I’m based in Helena. Mail me at P.O.Box 1601, Helena, MT 59624.
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