Speaker reflects on 66th legislative session

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The 66th legislative session has come to an end. As speaker of the house, it was my goal to uphold the integrity of the House. As a leader in my caucus, it was my goal to foster unity, not conformity. We can be united behind the primary ideals of our party without losing individuality. It has been an honor to be selected by my peers to fill this roll.

In looking at our accomplishments this session, several positive actions stand out. First, it was a goal of ours to keep taxes low, and we were successful in stopping over $1 billion in increased taxes or fees proposed by the governor and legislators who support a tax-and-spend policy. Some of those taxes included raising individual income taxes, a tax on carbon, a tax on rental cars, tobacco tax and a tax on alcohol. In addition to these proposed tax increases, we were able to stop an elimination of the capital gains credit.

A Republican goal for the session was to look for waste in state government and trim in those areas. Our Republican-led Appropriations Committee took aim at waste in state government agencies in the form of vacant positions. We cut over 200 vacant positions which had been vacant for more than a year. This resulted in a savings of over $12 million a year. It was, in effect, a slush fund and poor management.

Republicans were leading the charge to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums and prescription drug costs. We sent the governor two bills aimed at transparency by prescription drug middlemen, and reducing the cost of prescription drugs. We also passed a bill seeking to reduce individual health insurance premiums by 12-to-14 percent.

We authorized federal, state and local spending of over $1 billion for infrastructure needs across the state. This includes needed water, sewer, bridge and road projects.

We were able to send the Governor several pro-life bills including, a ban on abortions after a baby can feel pain, at 20-weeks. As well as the Infant Protection Act which simply stated that an infant born alive could not be deprived of medical care.

We sent the Governor several pro-gun bills, a bill to reduce taxes on seniors living on Social Security, bills to improve the business climate like The Good Neighbor Authority which will provide jobs and reduce forest fires. Finally, we passed bills to address the critical problem of missing indigenous woman. Time will tell if the governor will accept or veto these good pieces of legislation.

This was my fourth and final session serving in the House of Representatives. It has been one of my greatest honors to serve my district and the state I love.

— Rep. Greg Hertz, Montana Speaker of the House

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