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Bill to reform Workers’ Compensation being heard

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By the time you read this, Representative Reichner from Bigfork will have presented his bill to reform our Workers’ Comp system. Montana has the highest workers’ comp rates in the nation. In fact, 60 percent higher than the U.S. average. All of our neighboring states are below the U.S. average.

Reichner has been working on this for many months. Statistical analysis has gone to the national experts and his plan will put us in the middle.

Thanks for all the excellent advice and answers to my questions last week. The bill to raise the dropout age from 16 to 18 died in the Senate Education Committee.

I get the most comments for and against medical marijuana. These comments range from repeal the entire thing to make it a business and tax it, and everything in-between.

The bill to have Montana join the lawsuit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee and should be on the Senate floor this week. As of now, 26 states are taking part. I think we should join in, but will not decide until I hear the debate in the house.

Wonderful students from Polson showed up last Thursday to support HB20 that will authorize county social host liability ordinances. I was very proud to be from Lake County. Representative Gordon Hendrick from Superior gave all of the credit to the young people that supported, helped write and showed up to speak for the bill.

Another plus for our area is Senator Carmine Mowbray. She will do an excellent job for us. It is too late to introduce bills, but there are some drafts in the works that she could carry if she wishes.

We are still in debate with the governor about the revenue estimate. This is a healthy discussion on Montana’s economic picture. The legislative fiscal division estimate is about $150 million below the governor’s.

Our unemployment rate is about 7 percent, well below the U.S. average. But one very troubling statistic is that 3 percent of our work force has left the state.

I am still getting asked about legislator compensation. We do not vote on our compensation. For health care we are part of the plan negotiated by the governor and the public employees union. I do not agree and will try to amend this downward, but then every union employee will be angry.

Your legislators have not had a pay raise in five years. We make about $83 a day, whether it is a 5-hour or 14-hour day and there are many 14-hour days. Our expense money is more than that, but apartments or hotels are very expensive in Helena.

Travel to and from Helena for four total trips is the state rate per mile. I do not know any legislator that is in this for the money. In fact, a school teacher from Missoula told me that he loses nearly $10,000 serving during the session years.

Please keep contacting me. Call (406) 444-4800 to leave a message, my cell (406) 253-8766, email or my website, 

I never forget that I work for you.

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