HELENA – Republicans used their majority power Tuesday to expand the agenda at the Montana Legislature’s special session on the state budget – including a bill that would block a Bullock administration rule making it easier for transgender citizens to change their gender status on birth certificates.
As expected, GOP lawmakers expanded the session to include a half-dozen additional budget- and health-care-related items they outlined earlier this week, such as extending the state’s 2.75 percent health-insurance premium tax to additional companies and an extension of a private-prison contract.
Republican leaders said they wanted more options on the table to balance the state budget, which faces a $227 million shortfall.
Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, last week called lawmakers into special session starting Tuesday, to approve budget transfers and tax increases to help fill the budget hole. He set an agenda that included his own proposals; the expansion adds the other options.
But, through petitions and votes on the House and Senate floors Tuesday, Republicans also added four other items to the agenda:
- A bill requiring furloughs of state employees.
- A bill to eliminate income-tax credits, to increase revenue to help balance the budget.
- Transferring a portion of the budget of the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder to help balance the budget.
- Blocking the proposed Department of Public Health and Human Services rule making it easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificate.
In each case, more than a majority of legislators voted or signed petitions to add these items to the special session agenda. It takes at least 76 of the 150 legislators to vote to expand a special session agenda.
The actions mean the bills can be introduced and considered; it does not ensure their passage.
Democrats, who opposed the expansions, were especially critical of the move to include the transgender rule.