Montana Senate sets deadline for package of infrastructure bills

The Montana Senate Chambers. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – The Montana House has until Friday to pass a package of infrastructure bills.

On Thursday, the Senate set a deadline for Senate Bill 367 and House Bill 8.

Both bills would allow the state to bond, or borrow, and use local matches for a total of roughly $123 million in infrastructure projects across the state. Borrowing money has been a point of contention this legislative session, with Republicans saying the state needs to live within its means while Democrats say the time to borrow is now.

Senate Bill 367 was two votes short of clearing a final vote Thursday, but was later revived by a motion to reconsider the bill on Friday. That effort was led by Rep. Mike Hopkins, R-Missoula.

“I think it was all put together in incredibly good faith after being reviewed for a very long time, and I think that the people here on the House floor deserve the opportunity to have another vote on it,” Hopkins said.

Rep. Scott Staffanson, R-Sidney, compared the motion to reconsider to hunting a deer and landing a “gut-shot.”

“Maybe we’ll follow it over the hill the next day, and knock it down again. But it could always get back up, because it only takes a 50 percent majority to do this,” Staffanson said. “I say let’s hit it in the head and let’s go home.”

Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, also motioned to have a final vote on House Bill 8.

“I would like to move that we take House Bill 8, I feel those are very important projects,” Cuffe said. “I realized this is a big reach, we’ll need a vote to bring it back.”

The motion failed on a 44-56 vote, putting the bill on Friday’s agenda for the House. Cuffe’s motion was an attempt to fast-track the bill, and transmit it to the Senate, which has yet to have any discussion on the bill.

The Senate gave the House the deadline of 1 p.m. Friday to transmit both bills, as the Legislature nears the end of its 90-day session.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.