Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to share breakfast with two groups of amazing young leaders: Montana 4-H, and the Young Stockgrowers of Montana. I’m proud to say the Young Stockgrowers had a formidable north-central Montana delegation. I appreciated the chance to listen to their fresh perspectives, and plans for their futures. Talking to them was a great reminder of what I heard when I knocked on doors and talked to community members last summer. The legislative session is about getting things done for Montanans, not playing party politics.
The second week picked up quickly with bills on property reappraisal, education reform and lowering health care costs.
One thing I appreciated this week was the bipartisan tenor of our first property reappraisal hearing in Senate Taxation, as well as subsequent committee discussions. This constitutionally mandated process often comes with anxiety and frustration, but I feel that Democrats and Republicans on the committee are truly grappling with the issue so that we can make sure the process works better for all Montanans.
To better help local taxpayers and parents, I sponsored a bill this week to increase the state’s share of transportation costs for our public schools. Also important is our Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau’s proposal to raise the dropout age of 18. Given the average income of high school graduates is vastly higher than high school dropouts, if I have the opportunity to vote for this legislation I will. It will make sure our kids get the very best start in life.
On the Health and Human Services committee, we heard testimony on how Patient-Centered Medical Homes can increase patient health outcomes while lowering cost. This method of patient care prioritizes primary-care physicians and preventative care. Supporters of the bill pointed out that this care often helps avoid long hospitalizations and emergency room visits, making it effective at lowering costs and delivering strong health care results. We’re still looking into the issue, and I haven’t made a final decision on how I’ll vote, but the initial discussions have been very positive.
Finally, we heard a bill to expand the definition of small businesses who can participate in Insure Montana. I intend to keep a close eye on this bill because small business owners from both political parties have already called and emailed me sharing how Insure Montana could help them afford health insurance for their employees. I appreciate the feedback from my constituents and plan to support this legislation.
As always, I’m interested in listening to your thoughts and ideas on the legislative process. Your input ensures that citizens continue to run our democracy.
Please email me online at http://leg.mt.gov/message/, call me at 406-444-4800, or write me at Montana State Senate, PO Box 200500, Helena, MT 59620.
Thanks for reading — until next time.
(State Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, represents SD 17, which includes Hill and Blaine counties. During his 31 years of service as a state senator and public service commissioner, Jergeson has served north-central and northeastern Montana, including Liberty, Hill, Choteau, and Blaine counties. He’ll be sending a weekly “Hello from Helena” update to keep the Hi-Line informed.)