The GOP Will Control Montana’s State Government For The 1st Time In 16 Years

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Greg Gianforte, now Montana’s Republican governor-elect, and President Donald Trump shake hands on stage during a campaign rally on Oct. 18, 2018, in Missoula, Mont.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

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  • Hertz says the state can create jobs by cutting down on regulations around natural resource industries, such as logging and mining. Montana, known as the Treasure State, has long propped up its economy with an abundance of coal, hardrock mining and timber.

    «Republicans have always believed that we can develop our natural resources responsibly and make sure that we protect our public lands and assets. That’s a high priority to all of us,» Hertz says.

    Gianforte has said he plans to replace the leaders at the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Natural Resource Conservation to streamline permits for these industries.

    Hertz also says he is looking to bring back a bill that Gov. Bullock vetoed that would have revised the property tax appeals process.

    Democrats respond

    State Sen. JP Pomnichowski, a Democratic leader, says her fellow party members will push back against these bills like they have in the past. But with fewer seats in their control, Democrats’ sway will be weaker.

    Pomnichowski says her party can still be part of the «working majority» in the state legislature, pointing to Democrats and moderate Republicans working to pass a Medicaid expansion bill last session.

    But a number of moderate Republicans in Montana, along with several other states, lost their seats in the primary election to more conservative candidates, meaning Democrats will have fewer willing dance partners across the aisle.

    «We need to get down to serious work about budget, public health and public health care in this state during a pandemic,» Pomnichowski says.

    In 2020, Gubernatorial Elections Are All About COVID-19

    Montana is seeing a surge in new daily COVID-19 cases at one of the fastest rates in the country.

    The state’s current Democratic governor has led the state through the pandemic by leaning heavily on county public health officials to make decisions for their own communities, but also through statewide mandates, like requiring people to wear masks in public spaces.

    Gianforte has been vague in his exact plans for responding to the pandemic but has said he doesn’t think statewide mandates are the right approach. During his victory speech, he named the pandemic one of many issues he’ll tackle.

    «We face some real challenges. We need to defeat this invisible enemy that is COVID-19. We need to get our economy going again. We need to soberly address the state’s budget. We need to overcome the scourge of addiction and meth,» Gianforte said.


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