Senator Welborn’s 2023 Session Wrap Up
In my final wrap up, first I'll address why we voted to adjourn Sine Die in the
Senate, prior to the House being finished with their business. To start with the
session didn't end as a result, but it did stop any further amendments from
being attached to bills that were still alive, the House either could pass them out
in their most recent form, where once in Free Conference, literally any measure
that was previously dead, can also be added back at last minute, by a select
committee, which members are selected at discretion of Majority leadership, but
often times this takes away the people's voice, resulting from little to no public
input. Let me be clear, when done properly, the Free Conference route is a
valuable tool to put finishing touches on complicated legislation, but it also very
problematic, when things aren't done in a measured, thoughtful and transparent
Myself, and several other Senators, both Republican and Democrats alike,
shared our collective concerns that it wasn't being done in a way that benefits
everyday people. All of our concerns were nevertheless dismissed, at the hands
of a top down leadership style, of the Senate President and Majority Leader.
Montana tax payers, are the ones who really lose, in this instance, as I've seen
happen in recent sessions. It's also how short sighted laws get passed, again
our Senate Leaders chose to take this path on several instances, and therefore
Sine Die become the best option in the minds of a simple majority. It only takes
a simple a majority vote to Sine Die, and in the Senate, with All Democrats, 5
Ultra Conservative, and 5 Moderate Republicans making up the 26-24 vote. I
also recognize that some good bills also died in the process, which is the
downside to our action.
Now lets shift gears, with recent actions on the House Side, making national
headlines, and the Senate introducing and passing numerous controversial
medical choice, personal freedom, and cultural divide policy proposals, together
have over shadowed so much of the good work we've done this session. From
addressing the mental health crisis, and more adequate nursing home
reimbursement rates, to the aging infrastructure at our State Hospitals, and
Correctional facilities, to a whole slew of things that were approached with a
once in a lifetime opportunity, due to budget surpluses. We took up the task of
increasing the budget on provider rate for nursing homes. Medicaid
reimbursements, although still barely adequate, as several elder care facilities
have closed in recent months, however we were able to fill most of that gap,
which is a big step forward for our aging population, and hiring specialized staff
to do the work that matters to so many families.
I'm also happy with the $300 million investment, in long overdue mental health
funding, we passed in the Senate, with all Republican and Democrat, budget
members voting unanimously for, and with House concurrence, should more
adequately address the mental health crisis in Montana. This will help
everything from crisis intervention, to long term solutions, to better treatment
options. We were also able to address road and public infrastructure
maintenance for County and Local Governments.
On a more local basis we were able to pass funding for several, over due
construction projects at UM-Western, add back in full inflation adjustments for
Youth Challenge, and many other local endeavors, its all now in Governor's
hands, so hopefully politics don't get in the way of sound fiscal policy for rural
I do feel that we also missed other good opportunities, for saving a much bigger
part of the surplus money for a rainy day, by leaving too much discretionary
spending authority for the executive branch, over the next twenty months, until
we meet again, but the votes were, what they were, and I also respect that.
I will also go on record as saying, many of the social, and personal choice bills
that were passed mostly, but not entirely along party lines, and signed by the
Governor, will most likely be challenged in the courts, both state and federal,
and if deemed unconstitutional, or run afoul of federal laws, could cost Montana
upwards of 7.5 billion dollars, or half of our entire budget, that comes from
federal dollars flowing into our State, by way of human service, education,
transportation, and wildlife habitat funding, all hanging in the balance. I can only
hope I'm wrong.
This would also make a special session unavoidable should federal funding
evaporate from our budget, by throwing it out of structural balance.
We have two duties as elected Senators, as do the House Members, one is to
uphold the constitution, the second is pass a balanced budget.
Thanks for reading and following along over the past four months, with what we
did in the the people’s branch of government.