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Rep. Eric Moore

Rep. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, highlights parts of the infrastructure bill he expects to generate bipartisan support during a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

The state House on Wednesday gave a strong nod of bipartisan approval to a new proposal to set the framework for how the state of Montana goes about picking and paying for infrastructure.

Rep. Eric Moore's infrastructure plan creates limits on how much debt the state could take on to do projects, how high debt payments could reach and dictates that maintenance and repair work must come before erecting new buildings. It also lays out that money for infrastructure could be used to stabilize the state budget in tight times.

Moore, a Republican from Miles City, said while he doesn't believe debt is inherently good or bad for the state to take on, some members of his caucus have opposed bonding to complete infrastructure projects because it wasn't clear how much was an appropriate amount. House Bill 553 answers that question, Moore said Wednesday.

Democrats in the House,who have been more supportive of bonding to build projects around the state, said they think this proposal will help get related bills that contain projects and funding across the finish line this session. 

Some of the proposals by Gov. Steve Bullock that contain specific infrastructure projects are expected to be overhauled or scrapped and replaced by Republicans as the second half of the legislative session starts next month.

Montana has failed to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package since 2011 because of disputes over using bonding versus cash for projects.

While the House will continue work through the end of week, the Senate adjourned Wednesday for a transmittal break that marks the midway point of the 90-day session.

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Before completing their work, the Senate passed a bill that would go after the middleman in the pharmacy-patient relationship in an attempt to help keep prescription drug prices in check.

While the bill was opposed by insurance companies at a hearing, Senate Bill 71 cleared the Senate on a 37-13 vote Wednesday. It's one of several packages that look at prescription drug prices that have cleared the Senate, including a bill focused on the practices of benefit managers that is on its way to the governor for his signature.

Another bill to establish a state reinsurance program to help lower the cost of coverage for people with high health insurance needs is also progressing through the Senate.

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