Elinor Smith

HELENA (UM Community News Service) -- In a surprise ending to a chaotic session, the 68th Montana Legislature adjourned late Tuesday.

The Senate unexpectedly adjourned in the afternoon and the House of Representatives worked into the evening, taking final votes on the more than 50 bills before adjourning at 9:15 p.m. on a 89-7 vote.

When the Senate adjourned, the House had yet to vote on the final version of House Bill 2, which holds the state budget for the next two years. In the end, the House passed the more than $14 billion budget with Senate amendments on a vote of 88-8.

Lawmakers this session debated and passed policy that addresses issues like housing, taxation, mental health, child care and red tape relief for businesses in the state. They also debated hot-button issues and passed legislation on abortion, transgender rights and health care.  

Democrats like Flowers expressed frustration with the Republican supermajority and a lack of collaboration during a press conference Wednesday. They said they were proud of what they were able to do, but were frustrated, saying  housing, social issues, taxation and more -- could’ve been handled in a more collaborative manner.

Rep. and House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, D-Helena, said her caucus spent the majority of the session pushing back against GOP policy. 

“The main thing I think that I want to say is that every day Republicans showed up to attack the rights and freedoms of Montana's families, parents, kids, and really prioritized out state corporations and the wealthy over the working people. In our communities and, you know, Democrats in our caucus, we came with 32.  But as you know, Representative (Laurie) Bishop said yesterday on the floor, we punched above our weight and every day when we showed up, we fought to defend the rights and freedoms of Montanans -- the right to privacy, the rights of healthcare,” Abbott said. 

Republicans, however, said they were generally happy with how the session ended. They touted tax cuts, healthcare expansion, housing initiatives and protecting Montana’s children as their main achievements this session.

Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Knudsen spoke about the GOP’s successes and responsibilities as a Republican supermajority during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Last November, Montana sent a very clear message of what they expected us to accomplish this session when they elected 68 Republicans to the house, each with their own unique experiences and knowledge. They sent us here from the far reaches of our state to represent the people, all of those people at home. And that message was clear. We were expected to come here and apply our Republican principles to the budget, to the surplus, to ever rising taxes and to ensuring that their rights were not infringed upon. I believe Montanans will be proud to know we accomplished these things,” Knudsen said.   

Lawmakers introduced nearly 1,700 bills and passed 748 bills since the start of the session in January. The Legislature is set to reconvene again in 2025. 

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