The debate is now underway at the 2023 legislature. And there are seemingly endless bill topics: What is the appropriate provider rate for nursing homes? Is there an amount that keeps the doors open yet protects the taxpayers’ pocketbooks? What should be changed in mental health delivery? What is the cost? What represents the best of practices? How do we ensure that money sent to schools reaches teachers in the classroom? How much of the one-time surplus should be returned to taxpayers as a rebate versus how much should be directed to infrastructure projects such as roads, water, sewer, bridges, etc.?
The list goes on.
If a bill proposal spends tax money or cuts revenues, it will eventually be heard in the Appropriations Committee I chair. In any proposal there are always potential unintended consequences and costs. For example, a bill to discourage the theft of vehicles was just presented. The bill proposes to make the theft of a motor vehicle a felony rather than the current misdemeanor. Seems simple and certainly creates a greater deterrent. However, as felonies propose jail time, a public defender must be assigned to the accused, and the cost of possible incarceration calculated. The passage of this bill is estimated to cost taxpayers around $800,000 annually, and, as Montana’s prisons are full, potentially require prisoners be housed out of state. If the Legislature continues to make more crimes felonies, then there will need to be another taxpayer funded prison built. However, not acting does transfer costs to the victims of these crimes. What is the right choice? Is there
another option to help deter vehicle theft? The Appropriations Committee will weigh in on this and a ton of other bills.
The “sausage making” process of the Legislature can be contentious. My goal as chair is to make the debate civil and respectful. D.C. chaos needs to stay in D.C. In future reports I will speak to hot topics and some of the key legislation I am proposing. Thank you for allowing me to be your representative.
Rep. Llew Jones, a Republican, serves the 18th District of the Montana House of Representatives.