It’s a new year, and a new legislative session is upon us, but an old rift has re-emerged among Montana’s Republican lawmakers.
For more than a decade GOP legislators have been at war with each other over the heart and soul of their party. On one side are hard-line conservatives who view their longstanding legislative majorities as a mandate to oppose Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's agenda at every turn.
On the other side is a growing group of lawmakers, ranging from moderate to conservative Republicans, who understand that if they want to pass a budget, they will have to negotiate with Democrats.
Four-term Republican Rep. Nancy Ballance, of Hamilton, has chaired the powerful House Appropriations Committee the past two sessions and will co-chair that committee in 2019. Ballance, regarded by most lawmakers as a staunch conservative and an expert on the budget, now finds herself accused by some members of her caucus of supporting a liberal Democratic agenda.
In our inaugural episode of the Montana Lowdown podcast, host John S. Adams of the Montana Free Press sits down with Rep. Ballance for a candid conversation about the tensions in the House GOP caucus that threaten to boil over in the first week of the 2019 legislative session.