This week we reached our transmittal break, marking the halfway point of the 68th Legislature. Probably the most-discussed legislation so far is our tax relief package, which we refer to as the “8 pack.” We’ve also passed a number of technology-focused privacy bills, dozens upon dozens of red tape relief bills, and several bills to improve the integrity of our elections.
The “8 pack” tax relief package includes two bills providing one-time income and property tax rebates to Montanans, two bills providing permanent tax relief to individuals, two bills permanently reducing taxes on Montana businesses, one bill paying off the state’s debt, and one bill investing in road and bridge infrastructure to prevent future tax increases. Altogether, the bills add up to $1 billion in tax relief, making this the largest tax cut in Montana history.
Several bills from Senate Republicans protecting Montanans’ right to privacy have been advancing through the legislative process. Banning the state from using continuous facial recognition surveillance technology drew bipartisan support in the Senate. The Genetic Information Privacy Act would require companies that work with genetic information to be transparent about the usage of that information. The Consumer Data Privacy Act requires companies to obtain consent prior to gathering or using Montanans’ electronic data and gives Montanans the right to have their data deleted.
The Legislature has been working in partnership with Governor Gianforte to help get government off the backs of hardworking Montanans. In total, 185 Red Tape Relief bills have been introduced this session, with 12 having been signed by the Governor already and another 41 headed to his desk for his signature. Another 104 have already passed their first chamber. These bills cover a variety of regulatory areas, but one thing they have in common is that they make it easier for people to live, work, and recreate in Montana.
On the topic of election integrity, we’ve advanced a bill that would double the number of precincts and elections that receive a post-election audit. Another bill would remove the exemption that prevents counties that don’t use counting machines from performing audits. A third bill would prohibit state and local governments from using outside money to conduct elections. Many more election security bills have advanced as well.
The halfway point of the legislative session is a good time to reflect on what’s been accomplished. Although I’ve only highlighted a few areas that we have been working in, we have and will continue to deliver on the promises that we’ve campaigned on. Securing our elections, protecting our privacy, reducing regulations, and providing financial relief to Montanans are just a few examples of us keeping those promises.
Jason Ellsworth represents Senate District 43 in the Bitterroot Valley and is the president of the Montana Senate.