During this past campaign, I knocked on doors for candidates across our community, and one message came through loud and clear. The people of Montana need jobs, and they expect the Montana Legislature to deliver.
This is why I am a cosponsor on House Bill 490, the “Hire Montanans First Act.” This bill ensures that jobs funded by Montana taxpayers are filled by Montana workers. HB 490 would require companies that are awarded a contract by the state of Montana and local governments to hire at least 75 percent of their workforce in state. Currently, only 50 percent of the work force on these projects are required to be Montanans.
This bill is supported by both Montana companies and Montana workers. They recognize that money paid by Montana taxpayers should create jobs in Montana, with workers that will spend their salary here in the state. If possible, it should go to Montana companies, who are much more likely to hire their neighbors than out of state corporations. Unfortunately, HB 490 was tabled in the House Business and Labor Committee.
But jobs are not the only thing the people of our community asked for. They demanded we act to protect the most vulnerable Montanans: our children. In the past five years, five children have died from abuse or neglect in Great Falls. Our community has spoken clearly that there is no excuse for drunkenly weaving down the interstate with a child in the passenger seat. There is no excuse for exposing a child to the dangerous chemicals of a meth lab. There is no excuse for leaving a child with a known sex offender. And there is no excuse for leaving an injured child to die. Our community has seen a mountain of suffering, and it must end.
That is why I partnered with Great Falls community leaders, including Cascade County Attorney John Parker, to strengthen laws protecting children from abuse and neglect. I sponsored Senate Bill 160, which creates new felonies for child endangerment, including the situations above.
This past week it overwhelmingly passed the Senate, and is continuing on to the House.
I am also proud to be working to make the streets outside our schools safer. On many highways in Montana cars go speeding through small towns, flying past children walking to school. It is only a matter of time before the combination of speeding traffic and small children ends with tragic consequences. I sponsored a bill to give the highway commission more latitude when they set speed limits in school zones on our state’s highways. They can now take into account the schools that coexist with cars alongside our highways, and lower speed limits to a level that protects our children.
(Sen. Mitch Tropila is a Democrat from Great Falls.)