Two north-central Montana newly re-elected senators say they are looking forward to working in the committees to which they have been assigned, with one planning to focus on alternative education.
The state Senate has released its list of committee assignments, with Sen. -elect Greg Jergeson assigned to the energy and telecommunications, public health, taxation and rules committees. He is returning to the body after he termed out at the start of the last decade.
Jergeson said he is generally pleased with his assignments, although he had hoped he could join the Finance and Claims Committee because of his experience on that committee in his years as a senator from 1974 to 2002.
Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, was assigned to the Finance and Claims Committee and its joint Senate-House subcommittee on education, as well as to the Senate’s education committee.
The House just released its list of assignments this morning, the Havre Daily News will have coverage Friday.
Windy Boy, who caused a stir in the last election by endorsing Republican Sandy Welch in her bid to upset incumbent Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, said one issue he wants to research in his committees is starting charter schools in Montana.
The only Montana race likely to have a recount could impact charter schools. Juneau won the election in the unofficial results by 2,231 votes, 235,397 to 233,166, with 50.16 percent of the votes to Welch’s 49.68 percent.
Under state law, if the margin is. 5 percent of the votes cast or less, the candidate can call for a recount within five days once the official state canvas is complete, which is scheduled for Tuesday. Welch made that margin by. 02 percent of the votes.
Welch has sent out a request for donations to help her pay the required bond to cover the expected request of the request, nearly $115,000.
In the campaign, Welch fell short of endorsing charter schools, although she said she would consider them as an option. Juneau said she opposes the idea because, she said, it would divert funding from public schools.
Windy Boy said Monday he wants to learn more about charter schools, including what he called common misconceptions such as that they would take money from the public schools.
“That’s what the misnomer, is, if any …, ” he said. “I want to get to the bottom of it. My intent is to not harm the existing funding formula now. ”
He said that, with dropout rates in Montana schools and the success of students in alternatives like home schooling, he wants to look at alternatives like charter schools.
“(I want to) come up with a system that helps the education of everybody. ”
Windy Boy said such schools could especially help in Indian Country, with immersion-type charter schools helping preserve language and culture for students who are members of Montana’s Native American tribes.
Jergeson said he wants to apply his experience on the committees on which he will serve, although he said he is not planning to sponsor a large number of bills. He said he is sponsoring some bills, such as a bill the Public Service Commission, on which he served including for six years as chair, requested dealing with renewable energy portfolios for energy companies.
He said his experience on the PSC led him to request his assignment on the Energy and Telecommunications Committee, and while he hoped to make it on the finance committee, the Taxation Committee also plays a very major role in the Legislature’s crafting a balanced budget every session.
Jergeson said he did not request the assignment to the health committee, but it also deals with crucial issues.
“(I will) find some probably new and interesting things to work on, ” he said.
He added that he hopes the Legislature can focus on the basics next session.
“I think we could do with less of big, earth-shaking bills, ” Jergeson said, adding, “I’m looking forward to getting back in the harness. ”
Montana Senate committee assignments
Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder:
• Finance and Claims Committee;
• House Appropriations-Senate Finance and Claims Education Joint Subcommittee;
• Education and Cultural Resources Committee.
Sen.-elect Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook:
• Energy and Telecommunications Committee;
• Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee;
• Taxation Committee;
• Rules Committee;
The House just released its list of assignments this morning,
the Havre Daily News will cover those assignments Friday.