Imagine you were told, as you headed onto the field, that your team would have nearly one-third fewer players than the opposing team … and that the other team would get to set the rules that you would have to play by.
For Democrats in the 2017 Legislature, that has been our reality.
As the minority and the loyal opposition, our mission is clear: to be a voice and a vote for what is right, and to fight every day for the people who sent us here, all the while knowing that the odds are not in our favor. This session, that was ourcall, and we are proud of our caucus for answering that call with absolute resolve and determination.
In order to get good things done, Democrats worked hard to reach across the aisle and bring others on board. We did this successfully in numerous issue areas and found others who were willing to set aside political differences to pass good legislation. Together with a group of reasonable Republicans, Democrats led the way on legislation that will benefit Montanans for years to come. Here are some of the highlights:
• Criminal Justice Reform: We passed the most comprehensive package of criminal justice reform legislation in a generation -- more than a dozen bipartisan bills that give judges and prosecutors the tools to make our system smarter, save money, reduce recidivism and get people the help they need.
• Earned Income Tax Credit: One of the most progressive anti-poverty tax bills in years, the Earned Income Tax Credit will help thousands of working families in Montana keep more of their hard-earned money.
• Apprenticeships: We helped Montana workers and businesses with a tax credit for businesses that hire and train apprentices – and a double credit for hiring veterans in an apprenticeship program.
• Mental Health and Suicide Prevention: It’s imperative that we reduce the stigma around mental illness and make care and treatment more available. We established that insurance companies must cover mental health on the same level as physical health. We also dedicated $1 million for local communities and school districts to develop their own suicide prevention programs, with particular emphasis on rural areas, Native Americans and veterans.
• Early Childhood Education: We know that when we invest in kids through early education, we improve their prospects for graduating from high school and beyond. We were finally able to make some headway on this front by providing funding for preschool pilot programs across the state.