Controversy surrounding the inclusion of larger projects such as the Romney Classroom renovation or the Helena Cultural Center formed the basis for much legislative debate. The water, sewer, and irrigation projects critical to local communities are not controversial enough to make news. These critical smaller projects must be shepherded through the process to survive.
Sen. Bruce Gillespie, Rep. Ross Fitzgerald, and I worked very hard to ensure North Central Montana’s critical needs were included.
Here are some area successes, not including highway projects. This list details the total support, which represent a combination of grants, state loans, and bonds (HB-5, HB-6, HB-8, HB-11, HB-652, SB-338).
•Teton County–Power well and chlorination projects, $2.6 million.
•Dutton water system improvement, $1 million.
•North Central Regional Water Authority (Teton), $1.4 million.
•Conrad Water Treatment Plant improvements, $800,000.
•Pondera County Conservation District turnout automation, $135,000.
•MSU Western Triangle Ag. Research Center, $500,000 (Greenhouse for new crops, etc.)
•Swift Dam Rehabilitation, $150,000.
•North Central Regional Water (Pondera), $1.4 million.
•Shelby Water System improvements, $1.6 million.
•North Central Regional Water Authority (Toole), $1.4 million.
•Cut Bank–Replace water lines/coat storage tank, $2.4 million.
•North Central Regional Water Authority (Glacier), $1.4 million.
•St. Mary Canal Drop 2 replacement, $1.8 million.
•St. Mary Diversion Federal Match authority, $40 million.
•Local Assistance Grants City/County, $10.75 million.
•Local Assistance Grants Schools, $10.75 million.
•Habitat Maintenance, $100,000.
•Historic Preservation Grants, $2 million.
(Still has a final vote needed as of press time.)
North Central Montana is well represented in the final successful funded mix.
I also supported the MSU Romney Classroom renovation project as education is critical to future economic success. I was not initially a proponent of the Helena Cultural Center project, but, when support for Historic Preservation Grants statewide (local museums) was included, I became a reluctant yes.
Urban legislators control most votes; thus, the rural areas cannot get their priorities passed without accepting urban projects into the mix.
All in all, the 66th Montana Legislature did good work on providing infrastructure support statewide, albeit there are those that fought hard against the final package.
This was a heated, emotional week. The Medicaid Reform and Integrity Act (HB-658), which was overwhelming requested by my area, passed, but not without anger. It was the only viable alternative brought forth, thus I voted yes.
HB658 includes a six-year sunset, so perhaps there will be a better federal option by then.
I want to thank everyone for their personal support, especially Cherie Taylor and Jeff Billman, who spent endless hours advocating for HB-658.
Thank you for allowing me to be your Representative.