Status of major issues as 2013 Legislature takes a break

2013-02-28T17:00:00Z 2013-02-28T23:59:19Z Status of major issues as 2013 Legislature takes a breakGazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
February 28, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

HELENA — Here’s a quick look at the status of major issues before the 2013 Montana Legislature:

State Budget: The House Appropriations Committee starts acting on the major budget bill next week. Its preliminary version increases state spending on most programs, but is below what Gov. Steve Bullock proposes in some significant areas.

Tax policy: Majority Republicans are pushing forward with across-the-board cuts to property or income taxes, while ignoring Bullock plans for more targeted tax relief.

Medicaid expansion: Bullock plans to introduce his bill soon to expand Medicaid next year to cover an additional 70,000 Montanans and bring $750 million of federal money into the state the next two years. Republican leaders oppose the expansion.

School funding: A major bill to increase state funding for public schools and cut local school property taxes has passed the Senate and is before the House.

School choice: Bills granting state tax credits that benefit children attending private schools are alive, but the House killed a bill to create public charter schools in Montana.

Social issues: The House has passed bills to require minors to get parental consent for an abortion and to outlaw assisted suicide. The House Judiciary Committee killed bills to abolish the death penalty and create anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians.

Public-employee pensions: A joint House-Senate panel has heard many bills addressing the state’s financially troubled public-employee pension funds, but has yet to act on a possible solution.

Oil-gas impact funding: A bill is being drafted to set up a special fund to help local governments deal with the impacts from oil-and-gas development in eastern Montana. It’s expected to have support from Bullock and lawmakers from both parties.

State pay plan: The House Appropriations Committee has yet to act on proposals to raise state employee pay but is likely to do so in the next two weeks.

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