This past week was a rush to get bills from the Senate to the House and vice versa to beat the deadline for the final move forward in the 2019 Legislature.
An interesting issue to note is that some bills do not make it over on simple technicalities. For example, if an amendment was placed on a bill too late, there may not be enough time to get everything moved and posted before the deadline. Therefore, even a small error in punctuation could cause a bill to miss the deadline and die.
No doubt, when you read this, news of Medicaid expansion, infrastructure bonding and Colstrip bills will still be making headlines as the deadline looms.
Up or down, the answer to the question will be time. Time will tell if a law ends up doing what was intended.
HB 658, the Medicaid expansion bill, has put a pile of responses on my desk and to my phone. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to contact me, and I try to get back to those constituents as quickly as I can. As helpful as the calls are to receive, please also keep in mind that intimidation, threats and sarcasm are not ways to positively influence a legislator.
I have had constructive questions and conversations centered around the asset test for this bill, which is an assessment of assets to determine eligibility for the program. The question being addressed is will the test move 40,000 folks off the program who can pay for insurance and who did have insurance before Obamacare. Should there be a co-pay? Why does the work element need to be there? What type of income verification is going to be needed and why? These and many more questions have hit in the last week.
Only time will tell, as the law is written and departmental rules are made.
No matter how the vote goes, I’ll lose favor with some constituents, friends and relatives.
A bill dealing with counties’ entitlement share for public defender contributions had passed the House and was sent to the Senate. As it looked to me, local tax dollars go to the state for this and the state wants the counties to pay an additional share of what is already being paid by taxpayers at the local level.
Every county from my district called about this bill, so it’s obviously an issue.
If you have questions on this, call one of your commissioners, as it may not matter now since the bill was put down on the Senate floor.
I do want to wish everyone a Happy Easter!
Russ Tempel is the senator from Montana Senate District 14. He can be reached by email at russ.tempel @mtleg.gov.