This past Wednesday, we finished up our work at the legislature. On Friday, I was back in my classroom at Sentinel talking to my students about our latest lessons on genetics and minerals.
I’m grateful to be able to serve my neighbors at the state legislature in Helena for four months every other year. Coming home really reminds me that when we can keep our focus on important things like job opportunities and quality education, we can do good work for Montana families.
As a teacher, I appreciate good lessons. This session taught me a few. Earlier this year, emails were leaked that showed Republican party leadership strategizing about the best ways to get rid of moderate members of their caucus, and how to avoid the Democratic governor’s veto. One lesson I learned this session is to always be open to working across party lines, instead of grasping onto ideological differences.
This session, I’m proud to say that I voted with Republicans who were willing to work on tough issues: first, to increase education funding, then to work for campaign finance reform, and finally to balance the budget. Together, we found ways to work together on policies that normally divide us, and I know that folks back home have appreciated the results.
We were able to work on a bipartisan budget that invests in job opportunities, keeps a rainy day fund, and doesn’t raise taxes. To get to this point, Democrats and Republicans worked together – despite partisans on both sides. I’m proud to be a part of the group that put aside ideology and voted for a good compromise.
I also learned that hard work pays off. This session, I was honored to be able to stand with the governor and a broad coalition of community members as he signed into law a bill that ended the classification of intimacy between two men or two women a felony. Montana’s Supreme Court had ruled the law unconstitutional over a decade ago, but the language stayed on the books. I’ve sponsored this bill for several sessions, and have a great appreciation for the dedication and work it took to achieve this step toward equality.
Sometimes there are tough lessons. Like what happens when you lose focus on the people you’re supposed to be representing. This session, the House Republicans lost their focus on jobs and killed an effort to increase access to healthcare for over 70,000 Montanans. It had the potential to create 14,000 jobs, and would bring $650 million into the state. Talk about a smart investment – I just wish it would have been able to show its returns.
While the legislative session may be over, I’m still here to represent and learn from you. Please email me at email@example.com or call me at 240-4242 so we can keep working together – and keep focus on Montana’s priorities.
Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, represents Senate District 48 in the Montana Legislature.