Posted: Jan 7, 2013 9:28 AM by Marnee Banks
Updated: Jan 7, 2013 9:50 AM
HELENA - The 63rd session of the Montana Legislature starts in Helena on Monday.
Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and Senate President Jeff Essmann (R - Billings) says their number one priority is balancing the budget.
"We need to be very conservative in our budget process because I do not expect federal money to continue to flow to the state of Montana as freely and loosely as it has in the past," Essmann explains.
Essmann says they will spend the 90 days focusing on bills which encourage natural resource development. He says he is urging his caucus to focus on bills which have broad application to all Montanans.
As a businessman, Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel (R - Somers) says House Republicans will focus on legislation which helps small business owners.
"We want to remove barriers and regulations and increased burdens that have been put forth on us," Blasdel says. "So that we can make the decisions of how to move forward and make our business more successful."
Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso (D - Butte) says Democrats are focused on job creation and that begins with educating a workforce.
"We have to invest all we can in higher education and try to freeze tuition for Montana families and our students, so they can afford to go to school here in Montana," Sesso says.
But with a 61 - 39 majority in the House, and a 29 -21 majority in the Senate, Democrats will likely be relying on Governor-elect Steve Bullock (D - MT) to help provide balance.
House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter (D - Helena) says education and economic development are top priorities.
"We all heard as we campaigned around the state, a desire for the parties here to work together better than they have in the past. And I think that will be conscience effort on our part to reach our across the aisle," Hunter says. "But we need a willing partner, a partner who is willing to work with us and be active as well."