TC Energy Corporation announced that it will move forward with its Wisconsin Access Project to increase natural gas capacity, improve reliability, and reduce emissions on a highly utilized segment of its ANR Pipeline system.

The $0.2 billion project will provide approximately 72 million cubic feet per day of firm transportation service under long-term contracts to utilities serving the Midwestern United States. All project work will occur on ANR Pipeline’s existing facilities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas.

“This project demonstrates the value of our existing infrastructure as a platform for organic growth. As utility companies’ demand for natural gas grows to provide power and heating to homes, we are finding new ways to meet the demand on our systems while lowering emissions,” said Russ Girling, TC Energy President and Chief Executive Officer. “Consumers benefit from lower energy costs and reliable service that abundant natural gas provides, and we aim to responsibly deliver that assurance with projects that utilize modern compression equipment and emerging technologies in our operations.”

The announcement of the Wisconsin Access Project follows TC Energy’s July sanctioning of the $0.4 billion Elwood Power/ANR Horsepower Replacement Project that will reduce emissions, increase reliability, and support new service for power generation on the ANR Pipeline.

The Wisconsin Access Project involves meter station upgrades, compressor station modifications for enhanced operational flexibility and emissions-cutting horsepower replacements.

The project is targeted to be brought in service in the second half of 2022.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Quietly growing and expanding in a southwest corner of Billings is a homegrown, family-founded business that has made a giant foot print throughout the west. 2M Company is an amazing success story for our community as the kind of business that generates a rock solid foundation for the local economy.

In 1978, Hollis A. (Bill) Mills and Chester Majors pooled their resources and started the 2M Company, a water well wholesale supplier.

During their first year the two experienced salesmen had $1.5 million in total sales and paid wages of  $100,000. From 2000, company sales increased from $21 million with a payroll of $2 million to over $44 million and a payroll of $4.5 million in 2007.  Since then they have maintained a 15 percent annual growth rate and fully expect to see sales exceed $200 million within the next five years, predicts H. A. “Buzz” Mills, Bill Mill’s son, who is now the company’s president.

“We have quadrupled sales since 2008,” said Buzz, “and a lot of it is market share growth.”

2M has 8000 customers, most typically professional licensed contractors who interface with the end users of pumps, water wells, well monitoring equipment, sprinkler systems, pipeline designs, booster system, etc. for residential, municipal and industrial sewage systems including landscapers, manufacturers, mining companies, farmers, etc.

Buzz Mills believes that the success of the company rests upon the fundamental philosophy which was the impetus for the two M’s, his father and Majors, to start the business, which was to build a wholesale company around the principal that the customer always comes first. The philosophy and 2M’s dedication to it, has come to be recognized throughout the industry and dubbed “Legendary Service.”

Bill Mills had been the manager of a water well wholesale supplier, and Majors was a factory representative. Both men were tired of working for companies that only thought about the bottom line. They wanted to give back to the people who make a business successful, and to have fun doing it.

Strictly adhering to that philosophy has been the company’s every day commitment and it remains at the forefront, today, says Buzz Mills, proudly.

Much has changed since the company’s founding.  In 2017 it became part of Headwater Companies, a collective group of groundwater distributors owned by Franklin Electric. While 2M is no longer a family-owned business, Buzz Mills still manages the company.

At the time that Franklin Electric acquired 2M they also acquired Western Hydro Corporation, based in California, which now functions in tandem with 2M. Both 2M and Western Hydro are continuing operations with the same management style, history and culture that built them, however the financial and accounting administration of Western Hydro has been moved to the Billings office.

2M has 15 locations in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, including four locations in Montana. Western Hydro has 12 locations in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada and Utah.

Company wide, 2M and Western Hydro employ 237 full time people; forty of those are based in Billings, of which 30 are dedicated to the administration of the two companies.

To this day, 2M remains true to “Legendary Service” standards. Buzz explained that they have a dedicated training center in Billings and employ a full time training manager who works with the employees and their customers to pass along product knowledge, application and design, and to assure “Legendary Service” every time they encounter a customer. Given the rapid and dynamic technological advances over the years, their training has become all the more important.

Buzz grew up with the company. As a boy, he can clearly remember opening day, sitting at his father’s desk, observing the bustle of activity around him. It was at 2M that he gained his first job. And, he remembers walking through the brand new corporate facility with amazement in 2007, which is when he was named president and general manager, having spent 15 years working from the bottom up, and graduating college from MSU-Billings.

Chester Majors retired in 1993 and Bill Mills became sole owner.

While Bill Mills has retired, he remains an important advisor to the company.

Buzz is proud of his company’s employee retention rate. One of their employees “remembers me when I was eleven years old,” he said.

2M’s employees reflect the high caliber of workers in Montana. It was this high employee quality that influenced the decision to make Billings headquarters for all 27 locations of 2M and Western Hydro, said Buzz. 2M has two locations in Billings, a couple blocks apart, one the administration center and the other a warehouse, at 5249 Holiday Avenue and 1215 Cordova Street.

During its 40-plus years of operation, 2M has always been a leader in its industry which meant initiating many “firsts.” The “firsts” often reflect things that while being revolutionary in their day have become so common place that they hardly seem worth mentioning today – such as being the first to offer customer toll free numbers, a reminder that there was a time when almost any business phone call was an expensive proposition. All telephone services posed a significant barrier and cost for most businesses.

2M was the first wholesaler in the industry to provide delivery cargo vans, cash discounts, dealer meetings, and trip promotions. They were also the first to offer factory fly-ins, Saturday morning hours, emergency service 24/7, extended summer hours, a website, on –line ordering, and building programs.

Among its customers 2M remains noted for their many customer benefits and promotions, which includes trip promotions and an annual event which last year involved hosting 740 customers and their spouses on a 5-night trip to the Dominican Republic.

Speaking of revolutionary changes, 2M started up as an enterprise at a time when doing business on a national scale from Montana was considered very challenging, fraught with many disadvantages. Technology and innovations have changed much of that. Computers, the internet and improvements in communications have to a large extent removed many barriers. About the only disadvantage that a Montana –based business struggles with today is the lack of air service, said Buzz. As someone who usually spends an average of 130 days a year in over-night traveling throughout the western United States, Buzz knows, of what he speaks.

Given the Coronavirus crisis, this year has been very different. Buzz has spent less than 30 days traveling, and much of that included a car trip through five states. Options for air travel have been even more limited, but the cost of lodging is greatly less, he pointed out.

There’s been an upside to the situation. Buzz explains, “I had a day-long meeting in Denver from a website sitting in my office. Everyone could see each other. It was a good meeting, and at the end of the day, I went home.”

Like so many other people during the crisis, Buzz has had more time on his hands, and like so many others he turned to doing home improvements, renewing landscaping and installing a new sprinkler system. Since many other people have done likewise it has meant increased business for 2M, despite the many other changes they have had to make.

Buzz says he sees many of the changes remaining in the future, such as meeting more virtually and traveling less. And there will be changes in how many other industries do business, who are 2M’s customers  – especially in the livestock and food industries. Being able to get water efficiently and economically is going to be even more important predicts, Buzz.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Fiscal Year 2020 summary loan data of the financial assistance provided through traditional loan program lending as well as aid provided via the CARES Act. Loans guaranteed through traditional SBA-backed lending programs exceeded $28 billion; however, enactment of the CARES Act dramatically increased loan volume guaranteed by the Agency: In FY20, the Paycheck Protection Program provided an additional 5.2 million loans worth more than $525 billion; the Agency’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program added another 3.6 million small business loans valued at $191 billion, as well as an additional 5.7 million EIDL Advances worth $20 billion.

“In response to the unprecedented challenges faced by small businesses this year, the Trump Administration provided more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars in financial assistance to support impacted small businesses. SBA lending data further reflects the extraordinary commitment this Administration has made to supporting entrepreneurs in underserved communities,” said Administrator Jovita Carranza.

“The SBA played a monumental role in supporting small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, evidenced by the thousands of Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans approved to urban and rural Montana businesses since March,” said Dan Nordberg, SBA Regional Administrator and National Director of Rural Affairs. “The SBA’s historic lending achievement is a testament not only to the dedicated public servants within the agency, but also to the grit of small business owners and entrepreneurs across the state. The SBA will continue advocating for small businesses and working with business owners and entrepreneurs as we navigate these challenging times.”

“When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Montana’s small businesses, the SBA answered the call by leveraging all of the resources at our disposal, including 24,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans and 10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loans that provided much needed funds to Montana small businesses, helping to keep Montana’s economy going during this difficult time,” said Brent Donnelly, SBA Montana District Director. “Like any great effort, a team of dedicated individuals was needed, and we at the SBA would like to thank Montana’s lenders, the small business owners, and our resource partners all continuing to work together for Montana.”

Highlights from the PPP include:

 *   27% of the PPP loan dollars were made in low-and moderate-income communities which is in proportion to the percentage of population in these areas:

 *   More than $133 billion, or 25%, of PPP loans were approved for small businesses in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones); and,

 *   Over $80 billion, or 15%, of total PPP dollars were approved to small businesses in rural communities.

Administrator Carranza further noted, “In addition to the tremendous amount of aid provided by the CARES Act via the PPP and EIDL programs, our regular loan programs showed solid year-over-year improvement, especially within our 504 and Microloan programs. SBA’s small but dedicated team of professionals punched far above its weight this year, building on last year’s lending numbers for traditional loans, while administering the largest and most consequential disaster response effort in modern history – all while overcoming unprecedented workforce disruptions.”

As of November 1, RDO Equipment Co. became a dealer of John Deere compact construction equipment in Billings,  and the surrounding area, the result of an expansion of RDO’s compact construction footprint throughout the state.

As a total solutions provider of John Deere construction equipment and construction technology in Montana, RDO offers sales and full aftermarket support for the full line of compact construction equipment, including skid steers, compact track loaders, compact excavators, and compact wheel loaders. The recent expansion extends the geographical reach for these products from RDO’s five locations in Montana, covering responsibility for the entire state.

“Our team members are dedicated to building lasting relationships that extend well beyond the sale of a machine,” said John Hurd, Billings Store Manager. “The opportunity to meet customers in these expanded areas and help them find the equipment they need to accomplish their work is one we’re very excited about.”

Team members in each of RDO’s Montana locations specialize in the compact equipment line and have expertise in its use across a spectrum of applications, from general construction and landscaping to farm, ranch, and home use.

Founded in 1968, RDO Equipment Co. sells and supports agriculture, construction, environmental, irrigation, positioning, and surveying equipment from leading manufacturers including John Deere, Vermeer, and Topcon. With more than 75 locations across the United States, and partnerships in Africa, Australia, Mexico, Russia, and Ukraine, RDO Equipment Co. is a total solutions provider.

The Montana Public Service Commission has trimmed $9.4 million from an annual rate adjustment requested by NorthWestern Energy, after concluding the utility’s imprudent supervision of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip, led to its temporary shutdown in 2018.

With interest, NorthWestern will be required to refund more than $9.9 million to ratepayers.

For about two and a half months in the summer of 2018, the power plant had to be shut down after testing showed the plant’s emissions exceeded federal pollution standards. Tests leading up to the outage showed the plant was operating at the maximum emissions limit. When a test in June 2018 exceeded the limit, the plant had to be shut down until it could be brought into compliance.

NorthWestern, a co-owner of Colstrip Unit 4, was forced to buy power from other energy producers during the outage, at a higher price than the cost of production at Colstrip. Each year, the Commission requires NorthWestern to request a rate adjustment to reflect actual costs the utility incurs to supply energy to its customers in Montana.

NorthWestern’s proposed adjustment for 2019 sought to collect $23.8 million from Montana ratepayers, including costs related to the Colstrip outage. The Montana Consumer Counsel and the Montana Environmental Information Center disputed NorthWestern’s request and argued the outage costs resulted from imprudent management and supervision of the Colstrip plant.

The Commission decided NorthWestern should bear the majority of the costs associated with the Colstrip outage. Specifically, the Commission determined NorthWestern’s 2 of 3 supervision of the Colstrip plant was imprudent, and that a reasonable utility in NorthWestern’s position would have taken more proactive steps to ensure compliance with emissions standards. As a result, the Commission determined NorthWestern should be liable for $6,284,967 of replacement power costs, which represents the premium NorthWestern paid to buy energy from other producers instead of generating it at the Colstrip plant.

NorthWestern’s original cost recovery request assumed the utility would be responsible for $629,967 of the replacement costs under cost-sharing rules, so the Commission’s decision increases NorthWestern’s responsibility by nearly $5.7 million. The Commission’s decision follows in the wake of similar findings regarding the Colstrip outage made by regulators in other states. Earlier this year, Washington regulators denied $15.4 million in power replacement costs requested by three utilities in that state.

NorthWestern’s proposed rate adjustment also sparked debate over a new law that limits how much of the power supply costs the utility has to absorb before passing costs on to ratepayers. NorthWestern lobbied the 2019 Montana Legislature to pass a new law that bars the Commission from applying a “deadband” and other cost-sharing rules when calculating NorthWestern’s annual rate adjustment. The Commission had instituted a deadband—a dollar range of power supply costs and savings that NorthWestern would absorb without a rate adjustment—to incentivize careful management of supply costs. Although the new law became effective in May 2019, after the Colstrip outage costs were incurred, NorthWestern argued it barred the Commission from applying its deadband and costsharing rules when calculating the rate adjustment.

The Consumer Counsel, however, argued the deadband had to be prorated based on the new law’s effective date. The Commission agreed with the Consumer Counsel, concluding that the new law could not be applied retroactively, and held NorthWestern responsible for an additional $3,765,739 of costs. As a result of the Commission’s decision, NorthWestern will be required to refund ratepayers $9,422,209 it collected through an interim rate adjustment that was based on the full amount of its original request. Until the refund is fully paid, it will accrue interest at a rate of 10.25%, annually. As of Tuesday, interest owed to ratepayers totaled more than $523,000. During the Commission’s deliberations on Tuesday, Commissioner Roger Koopman proposed an amendment based on the Consumer Counsel’s proposed calculations that would have held NorthWestern responsible for an additional $2.5 million in costs, but the amendment failed for lack of a second.

The Center Square

Over the next two decades, oil and gas production is projected to account for 68 percent of energy consumption in the U.S. and will play a key role in the energy transition to a low carbon future, according to a new report published by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Natural gas is increasingly powering plants to produce electricity, but oil and natural gas are revitalizing the U.S. petrochemical industry, growing the liquefied natural gas industry, and boosting high-tech materials, the report states.

“Oil and natural gas provide more than two-thirds of the energy Americans consume daily,” Deputy Energy Secretary Mark Menezes said when the department released the 37-page report earlier this month in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“In addition to meeting our energy needs, these fossil fuel resources are integral to our standard of living. This report delves into the importance of these resources, the five key technologies that have supported the industry’s advancement, the opportunities for future domestic energy growth, and more,” Menezeas said.

The DOE says it will work with the industry, academia, state agencies, the private sector, and non-government organizations “to drive innovation forward, to underpin U.S. economic growth and energy security.”

Innovation in the industry includes expanding resource development in the Bakken Shale, the Permian Basin, and the Eagle Ford Shale, while improving oil and gas safety and mitigating environmental problems, the report notes.

In New Mexico, tax revenue from the oil and gas industry contributes to 39 percent of the state’s budget – generating $16.6 billion in annual economic activity, employing more than 134,000 people, and funding more than $1.4 billion for the state’s public schools.

Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, explains that any federal ban on oil and gas leasing, fracking or on federal permitting would be “devastating for New Mexico.” He said in response to the Biden/Harris plan to ban fracking and transition away from oil and gas development that, “Any proposal restricting oil and gas development on federal lands would only result in the elimination of thousands of jobs, massive cuts in support for our public schools, and a greater reliance on foreign energy imports.”

The industry is committed to reducing emissions and protecting the environment, he says, “but we cannot slap millions of Americans with proposals that destroy jobs and ravage communities. Any serious energy proposal must recognize the fact that oil and gas will continue to play a major role in meeting our basic daily energy needs well into the future.”

On July 31, 2019, during the second Democratic Party presidential primary debate, when asked if there would be “any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration,” Biden replied to CNN’s Dana Bash, “No, we would — we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies, for either one of those, either — any fossil fuel.”

Last week Biden repeated his position in the presidential debate stating his administration would “transition away from the oil industry, yes.”

A recent analysis by NMOGA and the American Petroleum Institute projects that if oil and gas bans were implemented in New Mexico in 2021, more than 62,000 jobs would be lost by 2022.

“For our state, that means over 100,000 working families will be out of a job and nearly 40 percent of our entire state budget would disappear,” Larry Behrens, Western Director for Power The Future, says. “The latest rankings place New Mexico with the eighth-highest unemployment in the country, a standing that will be more permanent if Joe Biden decides nearly 15 percent of our state’s workforce needs to ‘transition” out of their job to poverty.’”

The Montana Contractors Association (MCA) is proud to announce Sarah Swanson as our Build Montana Coordinator. Swanson previously was the General Manager and an owner of Farm Equipment Sales, Inc., a multi-location John Deere dealer organization in eastern Montana.

As a small business owner, she experienced first-hand the struggles of building a workforce based on the trades. Sarah believes that strong partnerships with public schools are the key to ensuring Montana employers have the highly-skilled workforce required to Build Montana. After selling her dealerships, Sarah decided to put her knowledge to work in helping several industries address workforce development needs. Swanson has helped grow workforce initiatives with the Montana Equipment Dealers Association (MEDA) and the Montana Restaurant Association, where she chaired the board for ProStart, a high school restaurant management and culinary arts program. She is a past president of MEDA and the Montana Retail Associations, and has served on the boards of directors for the Montana Chamber of Commerce, Women Leading Montana, and Leadership Montana.

Build Montana is the workforce development initiative created by the MCA to deliver the message about the exciting careers in construction that await students and young people. The goal of Build Montana is to foster relationships with schools, educators, students, and their families to ensure construction and the trades is an option when considering a career path. Build Montana ultimately seeks to bring together talented, skilled individuals with contractors across the state. The workforce initiative is directed by the MCA’s Education Foundation, and has partnered with the Montana Equipment Dealers Association to provide a broad scope of career options.

As an independent contractor with a passion for careers in the trades, Swanson is taking the Build Montana initiative statewide to introduce teachers, students, and their families to exciting career possibilities that await them in construction. If you would like to learn more about how you can help young people explore careers in construction, please reach out to Sarah at (406) 263-3677, or at

The Montana Contractors Association, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), is a trade organization representing commercial, industrial and public works construction firms. The MCA Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) designed to promote and support careers in construction, and help build a diverse, skilled workforce for Montana contractors. Learn more at, and

Travel on Thanksgiving will be on the lighter side this year as AAA Montana anticipates a 10 percent drop in travel nationwide — the most extensive one year decrease since the 2008 Great Recession.

AAA Utah expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for Thanksgiving — a drop from 55 million in 2019. However, the number of travelers will be even lower as Americans monitor and respond to the public health landscape.

“The wait-and-see approach travel trend continues to impact travel decisions,” said Aldo Vazquez, AAA Montana Spokesperson. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”

AAA expects to rescue more than 413,000 Americans nationwide over the Thanksgiving holiday travel period. Drivers should ensure their vehicles are road-ready before embarking on a road trip. Drive to a AAA owned or Approved Auto Repair Center for a pre-trip inspection.

By Samuel J. Abrams, Center Square

Just-released data make it apparent that younger Americans remain overwhelmingly centrist and open-minded. In 2019, UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that 67% of first-year college students were open to having their views challenged. Moreover, while large numbers of students regularly state that they do not feel that they can express unpopular opinions, more than two-thirds agree with the statement, “dissent is a critical component of the political process.”

As new data from Reality Check Insights reveal, an overwhelming majority of young people are willing to shut down speech regarded as harmful and untrue – such as Holocaust denial, which 70% of Millennials and Gen Zers would ban from campuses. Yet large majorities of younger Americans oppose cancelling or limiting expressions of controversial or even offensive views: 69% would welcome a speaker on campus who opposed the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, while 81% would welcome a guest speaker in support of BLM.

In this area, at least, the young are more pro-free speech than older generations. Just 54% of Boomers, for instance, would welcome a supporter of BLM, though 70% would endorse bringing in a speaker in opposition to BLM.

Younger people believe in viewpoint diversity, but with some limits. Survey data from Cato confirm that younger Americans are more likely to believe that American society can prohibit hate speech while still protecting free speech. Two-thirds (63%) of those between 25 and 34 agree that there can be a balance. Just under half (47%) of those between 55 and 64 agree that this is possible. Older generations find the nuance harder to accept.

Collectively, these new data show that young people are not as closeminded as portrayed – so long as they regard the ideas they’re hearing as legitimate. The virtues and vices of BLM are open to debate; Holocaust denial is not. Millennials and Gen Zers welcome discourse on topics worthy of debate but are not interested in giving platforms to hate speech.

Sadly, open debate and controversial ideas are becoming harder to find on college campuses, as a small but vocal group of students, usually with the support of social-justice-minded administrators, shut down topics that make them uncomfortable. New data from RealClearEducation and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 60 percent of college students have self-censored and kept quiet over fears of a negative response. That figure jumps to 72% for conservative students. Schools are not protecting viewpoint diversity and open inquiry.

Young Americans grew up in a messy world of politics and ideas. They want to hear opposing views and make up their own minds without silencing legitimate speech. In my decade-plus of college teaching, I have seen controversial speakers regularly have to deal with a loud minority that wants to silence them – but this minority does not represent most students. Those who support students’ wish for open inquiry and free expression should speak up however they can, because the data are unambiguous: younger Americans want to hear challenging ideas.

By Evelyn Pyburn

The people of Montana have “thrown down the gauntlet,” and have challenged Republicans to show what they can do, stated Republican Brad Tschida, who was 2019 House Majority Leader and recently re-elected to HD97 in Missoula. On Nov. 3, the Republicans swept all statewide offices and netted many new positions in both houses of the state legislature, achieving a rare “trifecta” in state political power.

The Republicans have been saying they can govern better and the voters of Montana have said, “prove you are in fact better to run the government,” surmised Tschida, regarding the fact that Republican Greg Gianforte won the governorship and Republicans won a veto-proof majority in both the House and the Senate.

“It’s the first time in 84 years that something like this has happened, “ said Tschida, “It doesn’t take much insight to know it is significant.”  But why it happened isn’t all that clear, Tschida puzzled, adding that it was probably a myriad of factors. Significant, however, was probably “seeing all the riots and lawlessness that was going on, and I think people think Republicans have a better grasp on supporting law enforcement and safety.”

This may be the first time in history that Republicans swept all the offices – including all the State Land Board Offices, as well as the Public Service Commission positions, said Jon Benion, a senior staff attorney for the Montana Attorney General’s office. Benion is something of an expert on the history of Montana politics having written the book, “Big Sky Politics.”

“I don’t know if we have ever had a time when Republicans controlled all Land Board offices,” said Benion, “The Democrats did in 2008, “when they swept all offices except for Dennis Rehberg’s  US Congressional seat.”

When looking at history, it becomes obvious that there is something of a 16- 20 year cycle regarding party control in Montana, said Benion.  “From 1988 to 2000 the Republican brand was strong, and then Democrats were golden from 2004 to 2008.”

Montana is typically known as a red state, said Benion, but that is mostly because the state predictably votes for Republican presidents. Clinton winning in 1992 was out of the norm, but that was because Ross Perot was a third party candidate. One has to go back to 1964 before Montana supported another Democrat presidential candidate as part of the Lyndon B. Johnson landslide.

Asked what he thought the Republican sweep would mean in the next state legislative session, Benion quipped, “It means a lot fewer vetoes.”

Tschida, too, cited that as one of the most significant aspects of the election wins. Having a Republican governor for the first time in 16 years, will undoubtedly more easily advance Republican policies. Even though Republicans have controlled both houses for the past couple of sessions, a lot of their measures were vetoed by Democrat Governor Steve Bullock and before him, by Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer, who gained some notoriety for the number of his vetoes.

Going into the 2021 session, the Republican majority in the House will be sufficient to override a governor’s veto or to pass measures that require a two-thirds majority without winning Democratic votes.

With Republican Greg Gianforte winning the governorship, Republicans also picked up nine legislative seats in the Montana House and one in the Montana Senate — enough to expand their majorities to 67 of 100 House seats and 31 of 50 Senate seats. Cascade County Republicans made a total sweep of their legislature districts. Democrats didn’t win a single Republican-held legislative seat.

Tschida was not too certain what the priorities for the Republicans will be. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed and he quickly recited a long list starting with First and Second Amendment rights, water rights and protecting “the most vulnerable.”

Tschida wants to demonstrate that the Republicans do not just stand opposed to expanding government, “but that we want smart government.”

The rules and details of how the legislative session will be run and their leadership will be ironed out in caucuses of both parties on November 18 and 19 in Helena.

“We are going to see some good legislation that will save money and benefit Montanans….we will get business-friendly legislation passed, reduce the size of bureaucracies and the regulatory impact on businesses….We will have a legislative and executive branch that will create a positive environment to serve the needs of the population and not government.”

Property taxes will undoubtedly be a big issue, given that the rapid rise in home values is pushing a lot of people out of their homes.

An obvious issue will be what Tschida called “over-reach by the outgoing administration regarding masking people up and shutting business down. If you look at what they did — not a single state, county or city job was deemed as non-essential.  Every one of them kept their jobs. The entire impact of COVID was born by the private sector. It caused businesses to shut down forever. “

The government failed to look at the broader impact of its actions in shutting down the economy and imposing other restrictions, according to Tschida. “By their actions they promoted more domestic violence, child abuse, an increase in the amount of drug and alcohol abuse… they didn’t look at the myriad of impacts that those decisions had on people.”