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Legislative Council on River Governance (LCRG) | Legislative Service Agency & Research Directors (LSA/RD) | State Visits

On the Road with CSG West: Montana

By Jonathan Lennartz

As CSG West prepares to convene two of its annual programs in Montana this year, last month’s state visit to the Montana State Capitol was an important opportunity to connect with members and legislative leaders.

CSG West staff Edgar Ruiz and Jonathan Lennartz enjoyed meeting with Senator Mike Cuffe, who shared a wealth of knowledge about the Columbia River Treaty and water policy issues along the U.S.-Canada border. Senator Cuffe’s insights will be valuable in shaping the programming for the Legislative Council on River Governance (LCRG), which will convene June 26-29 in Whitefish, Montana.

Joe Kolman, Director of Research and Environmental Policy in the Legislative Services Division, is this year’s co-chair of the Legislative Service Agency & Research Directors committee (LSA/RD), which is also meeting in Whitefish this fall. CSG West staff had productive meetings with Mr. Kolman and Jerry Howe, Legislative Services Executive Director, and appreciates their hospitality and support during the visit.

House and Senate leaders play an important role in appointing members to CSG West policy committees. Staff met with Senate President and Western Legislative Academy (WLA) alumnus Jason Ellsworth, Senate President Pro Tem Kenneth Bogner, and House Speaker Matt Regier to discuss appointments for the biennium, eligible candidates for the 2023 WLA program, and emerging policy trends in the legislative session.

One of the many highlights of the state visit included conversations with legislators about their policy priorities, as this feedback helps determine the most relevant issues to address during upcoming CSG West programs and events. As was fitting for Women’s History Month, three women from the Montana House offered particularly notable insights from their legislative work during the current legislative session.

Representative Marta Bertoglio is a former United States Air Force officer taking special interest in veteran affairs. Representative Bertoglio shared information about her legislation, House Bill 68, signed by Governor Greg Gianforte earlier this session, which aims to help relocated military families  establish residency more readily for their child’s school enrollment.

House Minority Caucus Chair and Western Legislative Academy (WLA) alumnus, Representative Alice Buckley, described efforts to expand eligibility to a child care scholarship program for low-income families. Representative Denise Baum, a 19-year law enforcement veteran serving the last 14 years as a detective in Billings, discussed the impact of Montana’s Crisis Intervention Teams when responding to individuals who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

The WLA reception continues to be a highlight of the 2023 state visits. CSG West staff were delighted to host the many Montana legislators who have participated in the legislative training program, as well as interested applicants. Alumni shared their experience and the program’s continued influence in their legislative work.

CSG West offers special thanks for the floor introductions by Senate Pro Tem Kenneth Bogner and Representative Michele Binkley, respectively. We look forward to returning to Montana for the LCRG program in June!