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Legislator Prepares For End Of Session

House Rep. Frank Smith, House District 31, and Lance FourStar, Fort Peck tribal committee vice chair, said there have been some victories, but there are still concerns after the first half of the Montana legislative session.

Smith, a Democrat, is worried that the tax breaks approved by Republicans including Gov. Greg Gianforte could create budget difficulties for this session and in future years.

Smith said he wanted more grants available for county government. He feels that cuts to property taxes will harm county governments down the line.

According to the Montana Taxpayers Association, the cost of ongoing bills amount to an impact of $200 million.

Smith is pleased with several bills being sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, House District 32, including revising laws related to tuition waivers for American Indian students.

Smith and FourStar noted that the American Indian Caucus has been playing an important role during the session. The caucus provided a letter that stressed how a bill promoting the Montana Trail would be a negative for tribes’ rights. The bill failed.

They were disappointed that legislators voted down a proposal to create Indigenous Peoples Day as a Montana state holiday. The day was proposed to replace Columbus Day on the second Monday of October.

“There are other approaches, I think that they will consider,” FourStar said.

A plan is recognizing Native American Heritage Day on the second Monday of October.

“At the end of the day, it’s been a good session,” FourStar said. “Obstacles came up and tried to distract us, but we’ve acted appropriately and professionally.”

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