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SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2019 Around our area SIDNEY HERALD House leader Ballance on leadership, state budget, Medicaid expansion BY SHAYLEE “GAR lEGiSlAllVE NEWS SERVICE, UNIVERSlTY 0F MONTANA SCHOOL OF JOURNAUSM Montana’s representatives were debating a constitu- tional change to the state’s tax system when Bitterroot Valley Republican Rep. Nancy Ballance stood to speak on the bill. She didn’t mince her words. The proposed legislation, called the Taxpayer Protec- tion Act, would prohibit the state from implementing taxes other than income, property and statewide sales taxes, and not more than two at a time. It aims to limit state revenue collected from taxes and is sponsored by Rep. Derek Skees, R—Kalispell, who serves as a whip in Republican party leadership. Ballance said she was told the bill was proposed because it would look good to conser— vative voters, even though it was unlikely to pass. She rebuked the motive. “My cancern is that [con- stituents] won’t see it as a sound bite, they’ll see us as too ignorant on tax policy to understand what we’re doing, Ballance said. The bill failed on second reading in the House 38-62. The lawmaker from Ham- ilton is serving her fourth term as a representative. Her second year in elected office, Ballance was appointed as chair of the House Appropria- tions Committee, a powerful position. She was the sole chair of appropriations for two sessions, but this session, she almost lost the job. Speak- er of the House Greg Hertz gave the chairmanship to Rep. Carl Glimm, R~Kila. Ballance had run against Hertz for the speakership. “It did not sit well with me because I believe strongly that you put someone in a position like that because they have the experience and the knowledge, not for political reasons,” Bal- lance said in an interview. Ballance didn’t back down. She said she told leadership she should be a chair. Now, she’s a co-chair with Glimm. n Hertzzsatdsin an interview ca babm midget- The job - his goal this session is to reqmres 351991) llndeI‘Standmg unifysthe Republican party, 0f 99011111411105 and finance which has seen rifts in recent sessions over big issues like Medicaid expansion. He said he appointed Glimm as chair, and then named Ballance as co-cha‘ir. He said the decision was made because both leg- islators are respected by the Republican caucus. “I don’t see it [as a demo- tion]. She’s doing an excellent job,” Hertz said, and while he didn’t elaborate, he also said politics did play a role in the appointment. ' Ballance has long been seen as hard-line conservative, and NANEY BAlLANCE COURIESY Before serving in Montana’s legislature, Rep. Nancy Ballance took up competitive horse iumping as a hobby. She had never been on a horse before, but "fell in love” with the animal, she said. Pictured above, Ballance competes in 2004 with her German horse, Lavall, a Holsteiner. describes herself as one. In 2014, she submitted a can- didate Q&A to the Missoulian outlining her political stances, which included strong opposi- tion to abortion, opposition to legalizing gay marriage, oppo~ sition to Medicaid expansion and support of transferring federal public lands to state management. But, she’s also fiercely independent and her move to retain her seat at the head of the appropriations commit- tee set the tone for Ballance this session doing what she believes to be most effective. The appropriations chair oversees six subcommittees that decide on funding for government agencies and are tasked with constructing Ballance, a California- native, has a background in computer programming. Al— though Ballance dropped out of college, she worked her way I, up at IBM. Next, Ballance be- came an executive at Farmers Insurance, which was bought by international firm Zurich Insurance Group. She retired after a 40-p1us-year career and moved to Hamilton with her husband to be closer to family But she didn’t really retire. Ballance ran for the local school board, and then the Montana Legislature, and won. Being a citizen legisla- tor is a part-time job, except for the interim work and the campaigning it requires. The now 71-year-old will term out of the House in 2020. Ballance says some of her views have softened over the years, especially on health and human services issues. She recently joined the Solutions Caucus, a group of Republicans who sometimes vote independently of party leadership. Considering she started as a hard-line conser— vative, her joining the caucus surprised the self-described “far—left” Democrat Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman, who has served on the appropriations committee with Ballance for four sessions now. He said he’s . seen Ballance evolve. r , “All representatives are ~ s ,Changedby thefprocess, and we learn about how other people think, and how other people perceive the world,” Woods said. Woods added when he was a freshman legislator, he didn’t talk much to colleagues across the aisle. Now a few sessions in, he said he’s established a good working relationship with Ballance, someone who has nearly opposite ideologies to his. “I’ve always been able to count on Nancy Ballance to respect the process, and to not play games with the rules,” Woods said. One issue she’s changed her mind on is one of the biggest political debates of this ses- sion: Medicaid expansion. She said originally she opposed funding any type of entitle— ment program. Ballance voted against the government-sub- sidized healthcare program both in 2013 and 2015 because she said there wasn’t enough research to show what the pro- gram would look like or who it would serve. Now, Ballance says the program has proven benefi- cial to the state, socially and economically. “I can’t ignore that for blind ideology,” Ballance said. “So that’s where your ideology kind of clashes with what you see in terms of real benefits fpr people.” Ballance said she will sup- port the program this session with added limits, like testing enrollees for assets and imple- menting work requirements, so that the subsidy is “going to the people who need it.” Fellow Republican and vet- eran Montana legislator, Llew Jones, worked closely with Ballance while she was head of appropriations and he was chair of the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.~Jones is now back in the House, and he and Ballance are both mem- bers of the Solutions Caucus. Jones said he understands why Ballance’s political views may have evolved. He said working in appropriations gives clarity to issues that not every lawmaker gets to see. “Nancy is a conservative, but she recognizes that hos- pitals have to stay open, and ,. schools have to serve kids,” Ballance said her final project at Zurich Insurance Group was to facilitate and help build a multinational insurance sys- tem with eight different CEOs from eight different countries. She said the challenge pre— pared her for the Legislature. “You walk in [to negotia- tions], everybody’s got one vote and you don’t hold any— body’s paycheck. You have no way to influence them other than through knowledge and facts and experience,” Bal- lance said. As a female executive for a major corporation, Bal- lance said she could not shy away from inserting herself into business and leadership positions. Although she said she tries not to think about gender when she’s at work, it’s something that influenced her career. “There’s no question about it. You work at least twice as hard and have to prove your- self every day,” Ballance said. What’s worse, she said, is people who thought she got to the top through affirmative ac- tion. For this reason, Ballance tried to avoid discussing the role of gender in the work- place. Then, last session, a fifth- grade class visited the Legis- lature and sat in on an appro- priations committee hearing. The teacher told Ballance that afterward she asked her class What they thought of the hear- ing. A young girl raised her hand and said, “Well, there was a woman running the meeting.” “Girls do need to see what’s possible,” Ballance said. “It made me think, ‘OK, it is im— portant to be a role model for Jones said. women.” Jones is known in the When Ballance is not at the legislature to be a master of Legislature, she can be found fiscal policy, and often works in her woodworking shop, on fiscal and budget issues. He said he’s found an equal in Ballance. Jones said he often wonders if people recognize Ballance as the powerhouse she is. “We are very, very fortunate that level of talent is Willing to engage with [Montana’s Legislature],” Jones said. Ballance is modest about her accomplishments. At one point, Ballance was 35th in the US. for adult ama- teur horse jumping, a sport she picked up in her 403. She said she had never ridden a horse before, but saw a com- petition and thought: “That’s what I want to do.” But, she gives her horse, Lavall, a Holsteiner she imported from Germany, credit for her'suc- cess. “The only way to compen- sate for a not-so-good rider is to have a great horse,” Bal- lance said. And while modest, she by no means hides her abilities. which was featured in Wood- craft Magazine, or spending . time with her two grandsons, Jack, 10, and Reed, 4. The el- dest likes to visit his grandma at the Capitol, and has been known to testify on bills when the occasion arises. He plans to run for governor one day, Ballance said. Ballance will be ineligible to run for the House after 2020, meaning this is her last ses- sion as a representative. She’s not sure if she’ll run for Mon- , tana’s Senate, where she could serve another four terms. “I always try to look at every session like it’s my last. Otherwise, it starts coloring decisions that you make, and I would rather not go there.” Shaylee Ragar is a reporter with the UM islative News Service, a partner- ship 0 the Universin of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Newspaper Association, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation. Shaylee can be reached at shaylee.ragar@umontana.edu.- . Montana lawmakers discuss fire suppression, local gun ordinances during session BY sum“ mm "mm mm Resources and Conser- difference. “Our number one others. “When our ag produc- vation, the state doled “It wouldn’t have priority is always stop- Lammer said she un- ers are successful, then-» “M “G'SWWE NEWS “mm "mm" Oi out an estimated $74.4 . changed the 2017 fire ping dangerous bills. We derstands both sides of our small, rural commii- MONWMSCHOOL 0F JOURWSM million in 2017 to pay for season or prevented this don’t want to dismantle the argument. nities are successful,” The Montana House fires. Gov. Steve Bullock body from raiding the gun safety bills that we “I get that people enjoy Jacobson said. of Representatives last declared a state of emer- fire fund,” Brown said. already have in place,” guns, that they want to Jacobson introduced week advanced legislw gency that summer. The bill passed third i Lammers said. have them around for a third bill that would tion that would require a The pricey fire season, reading 59-40 and will In 2016, Missoula’s protection. I understand exempt hemp processing twothird vote majority in conjunction with move to the Senate for CityCouncil passed an all the reasons people facilities from property for the Legislature to worry over state revenue debate. ordinance that would want them,” Lammers taxes, but that bill -- Sen- transfer funds out the estimates, led Bullock require a background said. “I just want‘to be ate Bill 178 -- was tabled Stamps fire suppression to call a special legisla- HOUSE ENDORSES check for all gun sales a proponent of helping in committee. Jacobson account. tive session. It resulted lEGlSlATION T0 PROHlBl'l' in city limits. Attorney people understand it’s said he plans to work on The governor would in major cuts to funding lOCM. GUN ORDINANCES General Tim Fox is not an ‘either or.’ You amendments to move the Still hold the authority for government agen— The Montana House fighting the ordinance can have both.” bill forward. to pull from the fund as cies like the Department of Representatives last and is appealing several Hemp was classified as well. ’ of Health and Humans week passed a bill that lower court dec1sions to lAWMAKERS HOP’E BILLS an illegal drug under the Speaker of the House Services and the Depart- would prohibit local gov- the Montana Supreme Wlll BUllD STATE S Controlled Substances Greg Hertz R_Polson ment of Corrections. ernments from imple- Court. HEMP INDUSTRY Act of 1970. Under the is carrying’House Bfl’l Hertz said a two- menting gun ordinances. Rep. Matt RegienIR-b The 2018 Federal Farm new farm bill, legal 276 and said on the thirds vote is needed for About 50 volunteers Columbia Falls, said in Bill legalized industrial industrial hemp cannot House Floor during the withdrawals from other for the Moms Demand the bill’s public hearing hemp production and contain more than .03 bill’s second hearing trust funds, like the coal Action group gathered in on Feb. 1 that the goal 13 Montana lawmakers THC, which is a psy- that it was proposed in severance tax trust fund, the Montana Capitol last to “minimize confusion.” are considering the best choactive chemical that response to the historic and said it’s reasonable week to lobby against “Without this bill, ways to integrate it into makes people feel high. 2017 fire season. that to add it the requirement the bill, House Bill 325. there Will be a kaleido- the state’s agriculture So, hemp cannot get a drained government to the fire fund. The national Moms-De- scope of different gun r economy. person high. Accordmg funds. However, Rep. Zach mand Action grpup aims laws that checkerboard Sen. Tom Jacobson, to a Montana Depart- ..we were sitting here Brown, D—Bozeman, to fight for stricter gun our state,” Regier said. D-Great Falls, is sponsor- ment of Agriculture in 2017 with a winter spoke during, the floor laws and was formed Lammers said her mg two hemp-related fact sheet, marijuana much like today” Hertz session to say that had after the mass shooting group Will also be push- ‘ bills. Senate Bill 176 contains between 10 to 20 said. ’ this requirement would at Sandy Hook Elemen- ing lawmakers to consid- would allow the Mon- percent THC. According to Montana be in place before 2017, tary School. Head of the er “red flag” laws, which tana Department of The federal Congres- De . artment of Natural it wouldn’t have made a Montana chapter, Kiely are used in other states Agriculture to create sional Research Service Lammers of Billings, to restrict gun owner- a hemp certification agency reports that in Prote cti n said the bill is a a step ship for people deemed a program plan. Senate 2016, US. hemp products, g backward. danger to themselves or Bill 177 would eliminate including food products You & You r the criminal background and consumer textiles, check requirement to produced $688 million in Loved ones U NION GATEWAYAGENCY grow hemp. The Mon- retail sales. . Your Insurance Team tana Senate passed both The Montana Farmers 2:2: “.m' mg“ by .M “y'. "W Independently Representing: bills this week and they Union supports the leg- ma’ Avenue sun 8 rm '°°k'"g imam m semng y°“' needs now head to the House islation and the'group’s Sidney' MT 59270 f" “sum” and “"a"°ia' semes- . $1 of Representatives. president, Alan Merrill, com u” “m m“ Life - Health Vision . Dental V S p , " SB 176 passed third says hemp is the crop of sum Farm is more! Medicare Supplement ,,,,;,,,,,,,,,,,, mwmfimsme” reading in the Senate the future. He says under CALL ME TODAY- Medicare Part D" a 50-0 and SB 177 passed a pilot program, the state [group Hezélth A g 48-2. 1 had about 2,500 acres of , n2 em are i s Jacobson said the hemp growing, and that ‘ 309 M 51 NW 1 s 5 more opportunities and it’s expanding to more ' V l " H pfi%"l$§§66 mun Vision Service Plan. All rights reserved VSPandVlsipu diveI’SiflCation farmers than 22.900 acres With fax406-603-4433 careforlifemregimd mmof‘fsion Service Plan? have, the better. legalization.