The Halfway Point: Legislative Report

February 23, 2009

Dear House District 54 Neighbor,

We have reached the half way point of the 61st legislature, and we have heard a lot of great legislation. I am continually optimistic for Montana and Yellowstone County.

While the entire nation is feeling economically squeezed, Montana is in much better financial shape than many other states and our state budget (HB 2) is still on track. I am happy to report that we are living within our means. House Democrats and Republicans are working together to make sure we end up with some money left over to cushion our budget for the next biennium. While we are still able to protect critical programs, we are not adding significant new spending during these uncertain economic times. We are moving ahead with an effort to keep Montana moving forward. 
Rep. Margie MacDonald

Stream Access Passes House 97-3

It’s easy to take for granted our wild places here in Montana. However, in recent years multiple lawsuits by a few wealthy private land owners have tried to close us out of some of our most cherished hunting and fishing areas. We know that we have some of the world’s greatest trout streams and it is also our right to have access to those streams.

HB 190 sponsored by Rep. Kendall Van Dyk (D – Billings) will guarantee these rights to everyone. With bi-partisan support HB 190 had the approval of both agricultural and conservation groups. Montana’s wild places are part of what defines us, and I proudly vote for this bill in order to help secure our outdoor heritage for fishing and water recreation for the future.

 Fighting for Children’s Health Insurance

In November, Montana voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly passed I-155, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program. All 56 counties, and 73% of voters in HD 54, voted for passage of I-155 sending a clear message to their state and local government that the health of Montana’s children should be taken seriously. HB 157 sponsored by Rep. Chuck Hunter (D – Helena) implements the funding for I-155. This bill narrowly passed the House with the strong support of every Democrat, however it recently failed to pass the Joint Appropriations Health and Human Service Subcommittee with a 4 – 4 tie vote, with all 4 Republicans voting no. This is unconscionable to me. Montana voters were very clear in their intentions and I will continue to fight for this bill and uphold our end of the deal.

Expanding Medicaid Eligibility

I’m proud to have sponsored House Bill 214, short titled “Revising Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women.” This bill overwhelmingly passed the House the week of Feb. 9, and was transmitted to the Senate. HB 214 will help to insure critical health care for pregnant woman and for infants.

This bill will not burden Montana tax payers in any way. HB 214 simply clarifies and standardizes language describing eligibility requirements only. The language change will not expand eligibility above the budgeted level, consequently, there would be no fiscal impact.

I proudly presented HB 214. Women with access to healthcare are half as likely to terminate a pregnancy. The overwhelming support in the House is another example of the 61st legislature caring for our fellow Montanans.

Increasing Montana’s Energy Independence

Fuel costs are on the rise again, and while they haven’t reached the levels they were at last summer, they no doubt have an impact on our financial health. I have proudly sponsored two bills this session, both of which aim to help Montanan’s offset the cost of imported fuel. HB 415 “Regulate micro-processing of biodiesel” and HB 416 “Exempt certain biodiesel from state tax” promote local sustainable use of Montana’s resources. These bills will promote a more energy independent Montana and reduce the burden of rising fuel costs on smaller farmers and ranchers throughout the state by allowing them to produce their own fuel.

Legislation Status Update

Sponsor, HJ 16: Analyze state implementation of pay related to equal pay for comparable work and develop guidelines to eliminate pay discrimination. Addressing comparable worth for women in the workplace addresses one of the root causes of poverty and confronting issues like this head on will help to lift many families out of poverty in the state. Heard Feb. 17th.

Sponsor, HB 407: Protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Heard Feb. 18th.

HB 478 and HB 290: Promote local food production and marketing by raising exemptions for small producers for produce and nursery plants.

More legislative updates at

Back Home in Billings!

We are citizen lawmakers in Montana which means that I am home in Billings, for the most part, except for periodic interim committee meetings in Helena. You can call me at 652-6625 and leave a message. I like to hear how laws that we pass make a difference or impact you. I also like to hear your ideas on how to make our communities stronger and better. I will be attending community meetings and events to keep my ear to the ground for the needs of our neighborhoods and city. Please come up and say "Hello" when you see me around town.


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