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The 12 days of Christmas, legislative edition

by Jason Ellsworth
| December 27, 2023 12:00 AM

We’re all familiar with the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” In recognition of the holiday season, I’d like to share some of the good work your state lawmakers accomplished in the legislative session at the beginning of the year, in a shortened format of the song.

Without further ado, here are the Twelve Days of Christmas, Legislative Edition. The Legislature passed: 

TWELVE major infrastructure and investment bills (SBs 536 and 294, HBs 267, 6, 424, 883, 817, 569, 332, 355, 479, and 856). These included investments in roads and bridges, water and irrigation systems, wildfire fighting, the state prison, law enforcement pensions, teacher health insurance and more. 

ELEVEN education-related bills, other than charter schools, to benefit students and teachers (SBs 373 and 444, HBs 15, 588, 245, 408, 393, 587, 203, 257, and 214). These bills increased education funding, incentivized raising starting teacher pay, increased trades education, helped special needs students, and increased flexibility in learning at work-based programs, online, or in a different district, among other reforms. 

TEN energy and natural resources bills, ranging from regulatory relief to lowering timber taxes to building electric transmission capability to opposing the removal of hydropower dams (SBs 557, 3, 208, 228, and 274, HBs 971, 114, and 576, SJs 10 and 16). 

NINE election bills (SBs 117, 197, 254, 93, and 498, HBs 173, 196, 335, and 712). These new laws strengthen the integrity of our elections by banning outside money in election administration, increasing post-election auditing, banning election machines from connecting to the internet, cleaning up voter lists, and more. We also passed NINE pro-housing bills dealing with zoning and infrastructure, and NINE additional housing red tape relief bills. 

EIGHT bills to benefit our active duty military members, their families, and veterans, among which are a 50% tax exemption on retirement pay and pay increases for National Guard pilots fighting wildfires. Those bills are SBs 104, 40, 221, and HBs 583, 336, 63, 427 and 81. 

SEVEN pro-life bills, including legislation to ban taxpayer funding of abortions, protect viable unborn children, and more. SB 154 and HBs 862, 544, 937, 575, 625 and 721 are the bill numbers. 

SIX each of pro-family and pro-firearm bills. The pro-family bills (SB 339 and HBs 225, 200, 556, 187, and 213) assist in adoption, increase access to childcare and more. The pro-gun bills (SBs 359 and 423 and HBs 356, 584, 631, and 674) restrict government from infringing on Second Amendment rights, prohibit the backdoor financial tracking of gun sales and help in preventing firearm suicides. 

FIVE tough-on-crime bills to make our communities safer. SBs 38, 265, 491, and 13, as well as HB 112, crack down on sex trafficking, human trafficking and sexual predators, and more. 

FOUR bills to protect Montanans’ privacy in the age of technology. SB 397 restricts the government’s use of facial recognition technology. SB 384 protects Montanans’ online data and SB 351 protects our genetic data. SB 325 creates special protections for electronic communications between spouses. 

THREE bills that provided nearly $900 million in property tax and income tax rebates to Montanans, up to $3,850 per family (HBs 192, 222, and 816). Those are just the one-time tax relief bills, several other bills provided hundreds of millions more in permanent tax cuts on income, property, business equipment and more. 

TWO bills that allow different models of charter schools to be created in Montana, expanding educational options for students (HBs 562 and 549). 

ONE bill that strengthened the ethical requirements in state law for both legislators and judges (HB 412). It’s not often that you hear about politicians mandating stricter ethics for themselves, but that’s exactly what your Republican Legislature did this year. 

Those 102 bills make up the Legislative 12 Days of Christmas. In the holiday spirit, all are meant to protect our rights, strengthen families, make our communities safer, improve our children’s futures and make life more affordable. 

Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, is the president of the Montana Senate.

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