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Montana Legislature hits hiccup on last day

Published On: Apr 24 2013 02:57:37 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 03:04:29 PM MDT
HELENA, Mont. -

The Montana Senate is wrapping up its final day with more in-fighting and procedural maneuvering.

The chamber stalled for several hours Wednesday over a decision to accept the budget deal negotiated between House Republican leaders and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

But the Senate's conservative faction ultimately backed off its attempt to block the last-minute deal. The conservative Senate leaders have been on the losing end of several major votes this session.

The governor's office refused to reopen negotiations on the budget deal. Governor's officials say Senate leaders gave the agreement their informal approval Monday night before the House approved it and adjourned.

The budget deal adds another $13 million in spending to the state's $10 billion, two-year budget.

Meanwhile, the session is coming to a close with several bills favored by one party or the other failing to make the cut.

Foremost among them was the defeat of Gov. Steve Bullock's plan to expand Medicaid to up to 70,000 residents.

House Leader Rep. Gordon Vance says he considers the bill's failure a major win for the Republican Party.

But it was a blow to Democrats, who say the measure would have enabled the working poor to purchase health insurance.

Bullock vetoed several measures passed by Republican leaders, including bills to restrict bison relocation and gun control.

House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter of Helena says Democrats also were disappointed with the failure of House Bill 217, which would have prohibited churches and so-called "dark money" from funding campaigns.