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As speaker of the House, it is a goal of mine to have unity within the Republican Caucus and a positive working relationship with the minority party. At the halfway point of the 66th legislative session, we are hitting those marks.

Another goal of this session, was to put the K-12 funding bill on the governor's desk very early in the process. In other sessions this bill was often used as a political football late in the session, sometimes as late as May. We passed it out of the House in January and it has been signed by the governor.

Success in the Legislature is not always about passing legislation, rather it is often measured by killing bad legislation. So far this session we have been able to stop several pieces of bad legislation including: a tax on fireworks, a carbon tax, multiple sales taxes and limiting a restaurants ability to use plastic straws.

The House of Representatives has been able to pass out several pieces of good legislation including several gun rights bills. One of these bills would allow people with a concealed weapon permit to move to a different city or county within the state without having to notify law enforcement. Another Second Amendment bill would prohibit local governments from regulating private sales and the carrying of a concealed weapon.

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One of the most important issues every legislative session is the state budget. The governor submits his budget proposal to the legislature at the beginning of each session. This session the governor’s budget included $150 million in new taxes on the backs of Montana families. It also included a 10 percent increase in spending and growth of government by 76 full-time equivalents. The Republican-controlled Legislature soundly rejected those ideas. We can live within our means and restore the governor's detrimental cuts to essential services, such as provider rates, while at the same time balancing our budget. We can do all of this without increasing taxes on Montana families.

The session is only half over and we still have work to do. We will need to finalize the budget, work on Medicaid reform and come to an agreement on an infrastructure plan.

As Republicans we, are unified behind the ideas of no new taxes, reducing the size of government, demanding accountability in our government agencies, expanding job and educational opportunities, increasing access to hunting opportunities and protecting the rights of private landowners.

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Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is speaker of the House.

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