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Senator Welborn’s Weekly Review

The 68th Montana Legislature is officially underway, and we just finished up our second week

of business. I’m happy to see Senate Republicans, and some Democrats alike, getting to work

on enacting common sense policy for our state.

The last time the Legislature met, we successfully passed a conservative & balanced budget,

cut taxes for individuals and businesses, secured our Second Amendment rights, invested in

public access to our public lands, promoted high speed broadband, and further secured our

elections. We also put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ensure Montanans’

electronic communications are protected from government intrusion, which voters

overwhelming adopted in November’s election.

Although, we took strides moving our State forward, there is always work to do, let’s start with

hunting, wildlife management, and landowner relations. We recently had the first hearing on a

bill that will double the annual cap on money that private landowners can receive for allowing

public hunters onto their properties via the Block Management Program. Senate Bill 58,

introduced by Senator Steve Hinebaugh, a Republican from Glendive, will sustain and improve hunters’ access to many prime hunting grounds located on private property, while benefiting landowners who participate in block management. The bill is a win for taxpayers because block management is funded by hunters, not general taxpayers. It’s also a win for conservation because it allows the state to more effectively manage our wildlife. SB 58 drew universal support in its first committee hearing.

Since the last legislative session, three major things have happened that will impact the current session in monumental ways. The first is that Montana now has a record budget surplus in the neighborhood of $2 billion. The second is that Montana’s housing market went from very hot in certain areas to completely unaffordable and unsustainable across much of the state. The third is that voters elected a supermajority of Republicans to the Legislature, something that had never happened before.

All of this means we’re entering what we expect to be another historic legislative session. Top

of mind for me is providing financial relief to Montanans who are suffering from current inflation and the high cost of living. Perhaps the “worst kept secret,” as Governor Gianforte has put it, is that we’re going to cut taxes again. With our massive budget surplus, we’re looking to pay down the state’s debt to get rid of those existing taxpayer obligations. We’re also working on the specifics of returning hundreds of millions of dollars back to Montana resident taxpayers, whether it be in direct rebates, tax credits, or backfilling programs, and funding projects that will keep tax increases and future spending at a minimum. What ever mix we come up, will be a benefit to you, the tax payer.

I’m also working with a bi-partisan group of fellow lawmakers, and a broad group of

stakeholders on a long term funding source for both habitat enhancement work and

conservation district funding. Most likely looking at a mix of budget surplus, existing habitat

program dollars or perhaps marijuana tax dollars to stabilize these programs that are vitally

important to rural Montana, over the long haul.

We’re also working with the governor on a massive Red Tape Relief project to get rid of

unnecessary government regulations that stifle businesses and prevent Montanans from

achieving their full potential. On the housing front, we’re again working in conjunction with the

governor on a suite of legislative options to make housing more affordable and attainable.

I expect to see more state constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters to consider. It

takes 100 out of 150 legislators to propose an amendment, and a majority of voters in the next

election to actually amend the state’s constitution. Both of those are big hurdles to meet,

meaning that amendments need to be clear and have broad support. I most likely won’t be

supporting most, if of any of these proposed constitutional changes being proposed, our

constitution is for most part working very well as it is, and change sometimes comes with

unintended consequences.

The Legislature will consider hundreds of additional proposals in the coming months. Every

member is there to represent their specific constituents and every lawmaker has their own

individual goals and priorities. But the ones I’ve mentioned here are the big ones for the people I represent, and also the ones I expect to define this legislative session.

The Legislature is the most transparent and most accessible branch of Montana’s government. It’s also the branch that’s closest to you, the people.

Please Testify on bills you care about, whether in person at the Capitol or remotely via Zoom.

Make your voice heard by logging in to

Or simply shoot me a text or and email, letting me know what is important to you.

Thanks for your time, and please check back again next week, for more from the 68th

Legislative Session.

Senator Jeff Welborn

Montana’s 36th District

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