Committee to examine all amendments to state budget bill in one day

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip)

House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip)

The House Appropriations Committee has been looking into the state’s massive General Fund Budget Bill all week. Subcommittees have been looking at pieces of that bill for the last two months, like Education, Corrections, Health and Human Services, etc.

The full appropriations committee now needs to broadly consider the entire, $3.5 billion  House Bill 2 as well as any amendments before voting to send it to the House floor.

 And there are a lot of amendments being proposed to House Bill 2–about 100 of them as of Friday afternoon.These range from several being requested by the Montana University System to Title X funding for family planning.

In recent sessions, the appropriations committee would consider amendments at the same time they examined that section of the budget; i.e. examining amendments regarding K-12 schools when discussing education.

House Appropriations Committee Chair Representative Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) is trying a different tactic this year. He is examining the sections of the budget piece by piece. For instance, the committee is looking at the education portion of the bill today. But instead of dealing with amendments during the time their respective section is being discussed–the committee will be looking at all the proposed amendments in one marathon meeting on Monday.

“It’s gonna be hectic,” Ankney said, “it’s gonna be mind-numbing, but Appropriations is mind-numbing so it’s just another day at the office.”
This hasn’t been done for awhile, but Ankney says the tactic has been used before by the committee. He says it allows for lawmakers to specifically focus on each section of the budget and hear from all the stakeholders without the emotion the involved  with debating and voting on amendments oftentimes determining the fate of millions of dollars of state funds. In theory, the lawmakers would be able to digest this information and then more efficiently move through the amendments Monday. Ankney does not believe this method will result in particular amendments not getting a fair shot.
The House Bill 2 budget is very close to the budget proposed by Governor Steve Bullock, with the Republican-crafted bill exceeding Bullock’s proposal by one percent. In an interview Friday, Bullock said some of his priorities were removed from the budget and he’d like to see those make it back in on Monday.
“Whatever the process they choose is less important to me than the end result,” Bullock said.
Bullock specifically advocated amendments to fund universal enrollment software for the Montana University System and money for certain veterans services on college campuses.

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