The Montana State legislature has adjourned for the session and, unless a special session is called, will not reconvene until January 2017.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in House District 57 for allowing me to be your representative in Helena this session. I learned a lot during my first session and served with some amazing people on both sides of the aisle.
One positive was that nearly $100 million of infrastructure projects was passed in House Bills 6, 7, 8, 11, and 403. However, another major infrastructure bill, SB 416, failed to pass.
While I voted in favor of SB 416, which would have provided $300 million in cash and bonds for various projects, I believe there were some major factors that led to its failure. Because bonding was included in the bill it required a 2/3 majority to pass.
Furthermore, big capital projects were funded while other important programs, such as the Quality Schools Grant, were left out. The governor’s office repeatedly refused to prioritize funding Quality Schools, and I believe that was a main factor in the bill’s demise.
The Quality Schools Grant would have provided funds for maintenance of school facilities across the State. I worked to get the program funded and supported an amendment which would have done so. However, that amendment was defeated.
In the end, I supported SB 416 even though I thought there was too much bonding when the State had money in the bank, because infrastructure improvements are needed across the State and delaying these improvements will exacerbate the problem.
The Governor’s insistence on maintaining a $300 million ending fund instead of reducing the bonding proposed, funding Quality Schools, or even signing a tax relief bill is undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments of the session.
I will be staying active after the session. I have been appointed to the State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Interim Committee and to the Land Information Advisory Council and am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that will be coming.
As always, I value input from those I represent. The best way to contact me is by email at Rep. Forrest.Mandeville@mt.gov, or by phone at (406) 690-1933.