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MEA-MFT 2007 Legislative Voting Record

How did your local legislators do in the wild and wooly 2007 regular and special legislative sessions? The MEA-MFT Voting Record tells all. Read on, and check legislators' voting records.

 

HB = House Bill SB = Senate Bill

 

R = Right vote according to MEA-MFT position
W = Wrong vote according to MEA-MFT position
A = Absent (did not vote)
E = Excused absence

 

House Voting Record

 

Senate Voting Record

 

VOTING RECORD GUIDE

 

HB 2, Motion (Parker) Consideration of Governor's Budget.

Of all the mishaps of the 2007 regular session, none was more significant than the demise of HB 2, the funding bill for all state government services.

 

After 10 months of budget and policy review by the executive branch, six weeks of legislative hearings, testimony from over a thousand Montanans, and legislative subcommittee actions, the House Appropriations Committee met in executive session and tabled HB 2.

 

To take its place, Appropriations chair John Sinrud and Republican committee members introduced a series of eight separate budgeting bills that disregarded all the above and 30 years of state budget policy and practice. Worst of all, the newly introduced bills cut millions of dollars from essential state government services.

 

After one of the most contentious fortnights in modern legislative history, MEA-MFT member and House minority leader Rep. John Parker moved to revive HB 2 and place it on the House agenda for debate. His motion failed.

 

The failure to revive and pass HB 2 was the major factor behind the legislature's inability to resolve the 2007 regular session.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Vote: Motion, House Floor, 3/15/07.

 

Status: Motion failed, 50-50. HB 2 was never fully restored and no budget bill ended up passing during the regular 07 session, leading to the call for a special session.
 

HB 13 (Sesso) State Pay Plan. HB 13 contains the pay plan negotiated by MEA-MFT and other state employee unions through extensive bargaining with the Schweitzer administration.

 

HB 13 provides average salary increases of 3% in the next two years while also providing another .6% in each year for additional salary enhancements. It also includes historic levels of funding for the Montana University System, reversing a decade of decline in the state's investment in university system employees.

 

In the midst of the 2007 session, House Republican leaders sought amendments to the pay plan that would have substantively changed the negotiated agreement. MEA-MFT worked with Governor Brian Schweitzer's administration to defeat hostile amendments and win passage of the bill.

 

MEA-MFT Position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor 2/21/07; passed 79-15. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 3/14/07; passed 31-19.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

HB 63 (Musgrove) Teachers' Retirement System Funding. HB 63 provides additional state revenue to ensure the financial solvency of the Montana Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). HB 63 also clarifies provisions in TRS regulations to protect the system from actuarial losses.

 

Without passage of this bill, TRS would have remained underfunded and in violation of Montana's constitutional requirement that public employee retirement systems be funded "on an actuarially sound basis."

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor 3/29/07, passed 87-11. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 4/16/07, passed 44-6.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

HB 95 (Olson) Funding for University System Faculty Retirement Accounts. HB 95 is MEA-MFT's latest effort to address the Montana University System's next-to-last-in-the-nation status when it comes to retirement contributions for faculty.

 

Since 1993 (when the legislature mandated that all new faculty join the TIAA-CREF defined contribution retirement program), the state's contribution level has been stuck at a terribly noncompetitive 4.96%.

 

Coupled with the low salary levels of Montana higher education faculty relative to their peers across the country, retirement security has become one of the university system's most significant recruitment and retention issues.

 

HB 95 provides a state-funded 1% increase for all U-system faculty members in TIAA-CREF. The positive effect of this relatively small change will be felt for decades to come.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor, 3/28/07, passed 87-13. 3rd Reading Senate Floor, 4/16/07, passed 38-12.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

HB 164 (Koopman) Cheap and Easy "Solution" to Montana's Teacher Shortage. HB 164 sought to amend Montana's collective bargaining act to "make it easier" for Montana teachers who might like to work for nothing and "provide them a tax incentive" to do so. This is in spite of the fact that Montana teachers can already work for free; and should they choose to do so, they would already receive a large tax incentive.

 

To make matters worse, the bill would have made licensure and endorsement optional for volunteer teachers, along with most provisions of any bargained employment contract. The bill was a thinly veiled attempt to bust MEA-MFT and eliminate contractual protections (not to mention teacher licensure) that we exist, in part, to protect and enhance.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 2nd Reading House Floor, 2/27/07.

 

Status: Bill failed, 38-62. RIP.

 

HB 204 (Kasten) Taxpayer Bill of Rights Revisited. Frustrated by their inability to prevail in court or at the ballot box with their fraud-infested, out-of-state scheme to limit state spending, backers of the failed CI-97 (TABOR) introduced HB 204 for legislative consideration.

 

Like CI-97, HB 204 would have placed an arbitrary cap on state spending divorced from the realities of human concern and effective public policy.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading House Floor 2/17/07.

 

Status: Passed the House on a party-line vote 51-49. Tabled in Senate Finance and Claims.

 

HB 230 (Koopman) Anyone Can Teach - Cheap and Easy Part II. As MEA-MFT member Rep. Holly Raser put it best, this bill was "a slap in the face to the profession of teaching in Montana." HB 230 would have allowed school districts to employ and license to teach anybody with a college degree, regardless of state licensure or endorsement.

 

Worse, it required the state to honor local "licenses" issued by local school boards. HB 230 would have eliminated statewide standards, licensure, and accountability from the teaching profession.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 2nd Reading House Floor 2/10/07.

 

Status: Bill failed, 24-76.

 

HB 492 (Himmelberger) Less Than Minimum Wage. HB 492 would have established a tip-credit as a portion of Montana's minimum wage law. It would have taken away the ability of thousands of hard-working Montanans to earn at least a minimum wage on an ongoing basis. The ability to receive tips from customers is not a guarantee of income, and Montana does not treat it as such. MEA-MFT was pleased to work with AFL-CIO to defeat HB 492.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading House Floor 2/26/07.

 

Status: Passed the House 51-49. Tabled in Senate Taxation.

 

HB 609 (Hamilton) Stealing From Health Benefits Reserves Not Allowed--Ever! MEA-MFT wrote HB 609 and got it introduced. The legislation makes it illegal for school districts to dissolve employee health benefit reserves and then use the money to pay for general fund expenses completely unrelated to employee health benefits.

 

School employees often forego salary increases to maintain health benefit reserves. To simply redirect these dollars when a reserve is dissolved is taking away a benefit that has already been earned by the employees.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor 4/12/07, passed 92-8. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 4/5/07, passed 37-13.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

HB 701 (Glaser) Tax Cuts to Improve School Funding? HB 701 claimed to provide over $200 million per year to Montana schools. However, over $140 million of this funding came through a property tax cut that provided no new money to schools. The bill also sought to eliminate the quality educator payment (QEP) that was achieved by MEA-MFT and education advocates in the 2005 special session.

 

HB 701 would have replaced the QEP with a per-classroom calculation that would have returned Montana to an even more enrollment-driven funding formula. Passage of HB 701 would have devoured all the ongoing revenue available to the 2007 Legislature while reversing course in addressing Montana's requirement for adequately funded schools.

 

HB 701 was unsustainable and designed to pit school groups against one another.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Votes: 2nd Reading House Floor 3/19/07.

 

Status: Bill failed, 53-47.

 

SB 23 (Moss) Quality Educator Payment for All. SB 23 corrects a technical oversight of the 2005 special session. In developing a definition of a quality educator for which a QEP could be made, the state left out licensed school social workers and psychologists.

 

SB 23 sought to address this and clarify that these important specialists are crucial to quality education for all Montana's children.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 1/18/07.

 

Status: Passed the Senate, 38-11. Tabled in House Education, but its language was incorporated into SB 2 of the special session and thus became law.

 

SB 56 (Ryan) Retirement Funding for All. At the end of the 2003 legislative session, Governor Judy Martz's administration denied school districts access to their local county retirement funds to make retirement contributions for employees who are paid with federal dollars (predominantly Title I and special education).

 

This meant the statewide loss of nearly $10 million per year in state and local revenues for schools. Especially hurt are districts serving a significant number of low-income and/or special needs children. SB 56 would have reversed this policy, directly aiding Montana's most impoverished and disabled students.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 2/14/07.

 

Status: SB 56 passed the Senate, 27-23. Tabled in House Education.

 

SB 96 (Williams) Initiative Reform. The result of the fallout from the 2006 election, which saw a host of fraudulent and deceptive practices by supporters of several radical right-wing ballot measures, SB 96 assures that signature gatherers must be Montana residents and that they cannot be paid on a per-signature basis.

 

Along with other changes, including original jurisdiction of the state Supreme Court in initiative-related challenges, the bill should help ensure a fairer and more transparent initiative process for Montanans.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor 4/26/07, passed 45-5. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 4/25/07, passed 86-14.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

SB 123 (Williams) Full-Time Kindergarten. State funding for full-time kindergarten was one of MEA-MFT's top priorities for the 2007 Legislature. Full-time kindergarten passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support before running into the House Education Committee buzz-saw of Constitutionalist/Republicans led by Chairman Rick Jore (C).

 

After SB 123 won final passage in the Senate on January 23, Jore refused to allow the bill to be heard for two months! After a cursory, limited hearing March 21, Chairman Jore then delayed any action on the bill until April 3, a full two weeks after the hearing.

 

At that point, the committee tabled the bill without discussion. Despite all the delay, hostility, and opposition, most of the language contained in SB 123 made its way into SB 2 of the special session. State funding for full-time kindergarten is now the law in Montana!

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 1/23/07, passed 35-15.

 

Status: Placed into SB 2 of the special session; passed into law.
 

SB 152 (Ryan) Governor's School Funding Proposal. Governor Schweitzer's initial education funding bill, SB 152, contained inflationary increases for schools, funding for full-time kindergarten, additional funding for the quality educator payment, and a school facilities reserve to be set aside for the 2011 biennium.

 

SB 152 would have continued the positive upward trend in school funding that began during the 2005 regular and special sessions. Under SB 152, schools would receive ongoing inflationary increases in two consecutive sessions, the first such commitment in over two decades.

 

MEA-MFT encouraged the governor's office to devote additional resources to this bill, particularly in the quality educator payment. However, as with every other school funding proposal in the 2007 Legislature that sought to provide significant dollars to schools, the Constitutionalist/Republican party leadership in the House drastically rewrote SB 152, leading to its demise. See further description below.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 1/24/07, passed 34-16.

 

Status: Bill was amended in House Education and sent to the floor for action, where it failed to receive enough votes to pass. See below.

 

SB 152 as amended in the House (Glaser, Lange, and Company) Forget Kindergarten, Let's Do Early Childhood Education-Whatever That Means… As amended in the House, the governor's proposed school funding bill was rewritten to:

 

1) replace full-time kindergarten with ill-defined and unaccountable funding for "early childhood education programs";

 

2) replace half-time kindergarten with ill-defined and unaccountable funding for "early childhood education programs";

 

3) create a classroom unit funding component that would be enrollment driven;

 

4) cut the proposed increase in the quality educator payment to a miserable $100;

 

5) change the basic entitlement for school districts to be enrollment driven; and

 

6) tie all the changes in the bill to passage of the Republican Education Appropriations bill in order to force the Senate to reject the governor's school funding proposal.

 

These changes were unacceptable and would have pushed Montana schools backward rather than forward.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 2nd Reading House Floor 4/02/07.

 

Status: Bill failed, 47-53.
 

SB 254 (Wanzenried) Card Check Neutrality in State Contracts. In recent years the State of Montana has increasingly turned to private vendors to provide public services. Unfortunately, many private vendors are openly hostile to attempts by their employees to form a union.

 

SB 254 would have required potential contractors to sign a neutrality agreement as a precondition for receiving a state contract. The neutrality agreement would mandate that the employer accept a unionized workforce if a sufficient number of its employees signaled their desire to unionize by signing an authorization card.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 2/21/07.

 

Status: Passed the Senate, 27-23. Tabled in House Judiciary.

 

SB 355 (Wanzenried) Unemployment Insurance for Classified School Employees. Unlike almost every other segment of seasonal workers in Montana, classified employees of school districts are ineligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits during summer months. Many of these employees desperately need these benefits to support themselves and their families.

 

Most troubling, in districts that have chosen to privatize services that classified employees perform, the employees of the private companies are eligible for unemployment benefits in summer months, and many apply for and receive them.

 

All this leads to a terribly unfair situation: two publicly funded employees can be doing exactly the same work, but the one who works for a school district cannot receive an unemployment benefit during summer, while the one who works for a private firm can.

 

MEA-MFT has worked to address this inequity since 1992, when a change in federal law authorized classified employees of school districts to receive unemployment insurance benefits during summer and holiday breaks.

 

However, Montana's state law must change to implement the 1992 provision. SB 355 would have done just that. While we were again unsuccessful, MEA-MFT will not stop working to remedy this long-standing inequity.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Vote: 2nd Reading Senate Floor 2/27/07.

 

Status: Bill failed on a 25-25 tie vote.

 

SB 390 (Juneau) Indian Education for All Funding Enhancement. SB 390 would have increased state funding for local Indian Education for All efforts to $50 per student over the 2009 biennium. Montana's Indian Education for All law has established a national model now being replicated in other states. SB 390 would have expanded resources to help Montana school districts deliver on the state's constitutional promise of Indian Education for All.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 2/26/07, passed 28-22.

 

Status: SB 390 was tabled in House Education. However, additional one-time funds for Indian Education for All totaling over $10 per student were approved in HB 2 during the special session.

 

SB 545 (Smith) Charter Prisons and Treatment Centers. SB 545 would have retroactively approved the state's participation in the construction and operation of a regional prison, as long as it was built "by a local governmental entity."

 

Worse yet, in this case, construction of the prison was already complete, with no direct input from the Department of Corrections. Such "charter prisons and treatment centers" have popped up all over Montana in recent years. They directly compete with the state's own correctional programs for funding and support. MEA-MFT has long opposed this costly trend in corrections.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: 3rd Reading Senate Floor 2/28/07.

 

Status: Bill failed, 19-31.

 

Special Session HB 2 (Clark) State Budget Bill - Revived! After four months of partisan deadlock over the state's budgeting process and the introduction of 10 separate budget bills, the legislature came back into special session and adopted the special session's HB 2. Greatly resembling the first version of the regular session, HB 2 proposed by the Schweitzer Administration (see above for description), the bill provides essential funding increases for education, higher education, corrections, health and human services, and general government.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 2nd Reading House Floor 5/15/07, passed 58-41. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 5/15/07, passed 29-21.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

Special Session SB 2 (Ryan) Governor's School Funding Bill. Going back to the future, the special session took most of the governor's original school funding proposal from SB 152 of the regular session, added to it, and passed it. See the description of SB 152 above.

 

In addition to the money originally contained in SB 152, SB 2 of the special session added $10 million for full-time kindergarten startup, $30 million for one-time facility payments, and increased the quality educator component from the governor's original proposal by over $240 per educator.

 

MEA-MFT position: Support.

 

Votes: 3rd Reading House Floor 5/11/07, passed 68-30. 3rd Reading Senate Floor 5/11/07, passed 44-6.

 

Status: Passed into law.

 

Special Session SB 2, Amendment 1 (Jore) No Kindergarten, Period. In a last-gasp effort to kill kindergarten, Constitutional Party member and chair of the House Education Committee Rick Jore introduced this amendment. The amendment sought to make all kindergarten optional and would have stricken any reference to kindergarten in statute.

 

MEA-MFT position: Oppose.

 

Vote: Do Concur House Floor 5/11/07.

 

Status: Amendment failed, 41-59.

 

House Voting Record

 

Senate Voting Record