Rosendale guns for state Senate

Rep. Adam Rosendale

In some ways, Montana voters have it good. Whether we’re Democrats, Republicans or something else, we’re generally not too far from our citizen legislators, regular folks we see at the store and at the kids’ sporting events, walking freely among us in their natural habitat.

But voters in House District 51 — including parts of Billings and an area south to the Yellowstone — right now have NO representative in the Montana House. That’s because freshman Republican Rep. Adam Rosendale has resigned, halfway through his two-year term, and is moving to the Great Falls area.

Sure, the Legislature isn’t in session right now and won’t be again (most of us hope) until 2019, after fresh elections. But interim committees are still at work, and most lawmakers are spending plenty of time in the off-season meeting with constituents, planning legislation for 2019, and in general just being part of their communities.

Rosendale says he’s going to work for the family construction company in the area. (His father is former Glendive state Senator and current Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale). He told the Billings Gazette he’s been back and forth between the two cities and is staying in touch.

Rosendale also said he’s running for the Montana Senate seat now held by Sen. Ed Buttrey, a Republican who cannot run again because of term limits.

Sen. Ed Buttrey

Who is Ed Buttrey? He’s been among the most influential figures in our state Legislature in recent years. He’s been at the core of a group of Republicans who worked across the aisle with Democratic Governor Steve Bullock to beat the usual partisan gridlock and actually get some things done.

Most notably, Buttrey carried Bullock’s bill to expand Medicaid in 2015, over the protests of most of his fellow Republicans. That passed, and now literally tens of thousands of Montanans, including many people who have jobs but don’t have benefits, have health coverage. It’s not an exaggeration to say that with without Buttrey’s leadership, thousands of Montanans may have gone without the care they needed, or faced financial disaster after getting care when they got sick or injured. It’s helped rural Montana hospitals stay open, allowing numerous families and seniors to stay where they are instead moving to bigger towns with bigger hospitals.

Rep. Adam Rosendale, in his rookie session, carried one bill that became law, a measure changing the rules governing the remains of veterans. He brought forth three others that died before ever getting a vote in the full House.

And as for votes on matters that would have affected his now-home, Great Falls?

Maybe the biggest bill last session that didn’t pass would have invested in dozens of public projects around the state — schools, water and sewer projects, and a new veterans home in Butte.

Rep. Tom Jacobson

For Great Falls, that public works package would have meant a $5.4 million investment in Great Falls College MSU to expand its dental hygienist program, creating new skilled workers (and improving oral health across the state). The bill would have brought $10 million in fixes and upgrades to schools across northcentral Montana — better ventilation systems in Belt, Stanford and Havre; better heating at Cascade Elementary, technology upgrades at Fort Benton High School, and security upgrades in Centerville.

The bill was good enough for a couple of Great Falls Republicans — Rep. Fred Anderson (a longtime educator), and Sens. Brian Hoven, Steve Fitzpatrick and Buttrey — to support it.

Rosendale voted against it, and it failed by just three votes.

For the state Senate seat, Rosendale is already up against one well known opponent, three-term Democratic Rep. Tom Jacobson.

It’s unclear who might take on Rosendale in the Republican primary for the four-year post, which would end in January 2023. But there are literally thousands of local people who have a closer connection to the community. And most of them can make a strong argument that if elected, at least they’ll probably finish their term.

-Sanjay Talwani

Got something to say to Prairie Populist? Send news tips, story ideas and comments to [email protected]. If you have something to submit, or an idea for a story you’d like to write for us, check out our Submission Guidelines here.