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Republican leadership celebrates successful legislative session

by MARK BLASDEL, CARY SMITH and JASON ELLSWORTH
| June 18, 2021 7:00 AM

Montana voters spoke clearly last November. They elected Republicans up and down the ballot, giving legislative Republicans a clear mandate to make good on our campaign promises of protecting the Montana way of life, improving economic opportunities, protecting citizens’ rights and preventing government overreach.

The fear mongering about the 67th legislative session started up shortly after the election with certain folks making dire predictions about COVID-19 at the Capitol and demanding the Legislature not meet. We responded that grocery store workers, law enforcement officers, our dedicated health care professionals and so many others had shown up and done their jobs during the pandemic.

We promised we’d do the job voters elected us to do and we’d take precautions to do it responsibly and safely.

We made promises during our campaigns and promises about how we’d run the Legislature. Now that the 67th legislative session has concluded, we’re proud to say: “Promises made, promises kept.”

The first in-person and virtual “hybrid” legislative session in Montana history took place with only a few isolated COVID-19 cases, zero outbreaks and minimal interruptions to normal business. The public had more access and opportunities to weigh in than ever before due to the remote participation option.

The policy successes were also historic. With unified Republican control of the legislature and the governor’s office, conservatives, moderates, business Republicans, libertarians, Trump Republicans and social conservatives all got wins this session. We even had a number of bipartisan achievements that Democrats can be proud of.

We implemented the legislation needed for Gov. Greg Gianforte’s Montana Comeback Plan to improve our state’s economy, create good-paying jobs and allow Montanans to prosper.

We passed comprehensive tax reform with about $120 million in total tax cuts while enacting a balanced, conservative budget that funds essential services. We made major long-term investments in infrastructure, schools and access to reliable, high-speed Internet.

We cut unnecessary regulations, put new leadership in place across state government, created incentives to raise starting teacher pay and increased trades education and employment, and expanded access to affordable health care via telehealth, Direct Patient Care and prescription drug reform.

Republicans ended the obstruction of past administrations and passed many popular bills that had been vetoed by former Democratic governors. We protected the right to life for the unborn, expanded Second Amendment rights and pushed back on President Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda, protected the rights of free speech and free association, and further secured the integrity of our elections. Republicans limited the power of the executive branch, reined in abuses of power by local governments and started looking into troubling conduct in the judicial branch.

Working across party lines, Republicans created the most controlled, responsible adult-use marijuana program in the U.S., passed a massive expansion of telehealth with 100 percent unanimous support, put a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot to protect the privacy of Montanans’ electronic data and communications and funded key conservation programs.

We’d like to thank our Republican members, minority Democrats, the House of Representatives, the governor and especially our staff for their roles in making this historic legislative session a resounding success. We kept our promises, we’ve laid the groundwork for the governor to lead Montana’s comeback, and we look forward to seeing another, even more successful legislative session in 2023.

Blasdel serves as the senate president, Smith the senate majority leader and Ellsworth the senate president pro tempore