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Public invited to hearing

Week three in the legislature, we are officially ahead in the number of bills introduced from this time last session. It is imperative that we move forward with essential funding bills so we can quickly fund the programs that rely on us. The school funding bill we were able to pass out of committee last week was one example, and this week we were able to introduce the state employee pay plan.

This session, Republican Representative Julie Dooling, R-HD70, presented a bill to increase state employee pay to the House Appropriations committee. Every session this bill is negotiated, and if the budget allows, our Montana state employees are able to get a raise. In a year where the current budget projections look good, this is a reasonable outcome. This year, the raise is a flat dollar amount with a 50- cent an hour raise in 2020 and a 50-cent an hour raise in 2021. The flat dollar amount, as opposed to the percentage raises we’ve seen in the past, equates to just over $1,000 a year and goes a long way for the middle and lower wage earners.

My committee assignment in this session will be in appropriations, and my sub committee is Natural Resources and Transportation. The sub committee listened to presentations from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Livestock and the Department of Environmental Quality.

Week four, we will hear from Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. During week five, we will be hearing from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Week six will be the last department hearing for Montana Department of Transportation. Then we will begin finalizing our committee's section in House Bill 2.

I have included the definition of appropriations.“ The appropriations process, or the process whereby moneys are set aside for specific uses, is two-fold. First, it involves determining the amount of revenue available. Secondly, it involves appropriating money for the operation of state government and for various other uses.

On Feb. 1, there are hearings scheduled in both House and Senate committees from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The public is wecome to come and testify or just observe. We are expecting some interesting bills that day on some diverse topics such as wolves, sanctuary cities, taxes, timber harvest and prescription drugs.

You can find more information about the specific bills to be heard at www.leg.mt.gov. Also, Senator Steve Daines will be here to address the legislature at 1 p.m. You can watch from the gallery above the House floor. At 1:30 p.m. both chambers will have a floor session. There will also be “free lunch” at noon. Come to the “people’s House” on Feb. 1 and experience what a day at the legislature is like

Just so you know there is no such thing as a free lunch. You paid for it.

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