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We are halfway through Montana’s short legislative session, and Montanans are still waiting for Republican legislators and Gov. Gianforte to get to work on creating the jobs and economic recovery they promised during the campaign season. In their absence, Democrats have led the way.

Montanans are still reeling from the pandemic and expect legislators to pass meaningful legislation to support working families and grow our economy. Democrats heard their constituents loud and clear and hit the ground running this session with proposals to create jobs, raise wages, and provide opportunity for all Montanans.

And as we mark the halfway point of this session, substantial pieces of that agenda are well on their way to the other chamber and not far from the Governor’s desk.

Broadband is critical infrastructure and essential for job creation in rural Montana. Democrats have passed a major piece of legislation eliminating barriers to broadband development out of the House, with more on the way.

Democrats have prioritized investments in education in rural Montana and Indian Country, passing a bill to bolster teacher recruitment and development in underserved communities. Legislation is also in the works to honor National Guard members’ service and commitment by allowing them to receive in-state tuition from Montana colleges to pursue graduate courses.

Democrats have passed legislation to help Medicaid recipients have a meaningful role in our economic recovery and get good-paying jobs to strengthen our pandemic response. Other legislation makes expanded telemedicine permanent and increases access to quality care, and improves transparency in the health care system. We also passed a bill to allow Montanans to buy into employer health plans if they leave the business and need coverage between jobs, giving Montanans another way to access quality care.

Unfortunately, Republicans have not joined us in working on the issues that matter. Comprehensive plans proposed by Democrats to cut taxes for working families and raise wages for frontline workers have already been voted down by the Republican majority in favor of a tax agenda that would give a millionaire $1,400 a year and a working Montanan a meager $12. And while we’re sure most Montanans wouldn’t object to an extra six-pack of beer, it isn’t likely to help folks bounce back from this pandemic.

Instead, they have prioritized a slate of attacks on Montanans’ rights and freedoms. Republicans are proposing expensive government programs that parade as fraud prevention but add unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy with the goal of kicking eligible children and low-income families off their health care. Republicans seek to limit access to the ballot, despite Montana’s long history of free and fair elections. And there are other efforts, backed by Gov. Gianforte, seeking to politicize our independent judicial branch and the power to appoint partisan judges loyal to the governor.

These bills do not create jobs or offer solutions to the problems Montanans are facing. They are often unconstitutional policies that will harm Montana families and workers and further concentrate political power and wealth in the hands of those who already have both.

In the next half of the session, Democrats will continue to lead the fight on behalf of working families, but we can’t do it alone.

The Republican majority has limited time remaining to stop playing games with Montanans’ lives and join Democrats in upholding their responsibility to move Montana forward and get things done.

While the Capitol looks different this session than in the past, Republicans should know Montanans are watching. It’s time to act like it.

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Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-Helena, is the minority leader in the Montana Senate. Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, is the minority leader in the Montana House of Representatives.

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