Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, talks to reporters following a vote in the House to change the rules. Credit: John S. Adams / Montana Free Press

GOP feud threatens to boil over in first week of the Montana Legislature

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.

John Adams began his professional career in 2001 in Idaho Falls, ID writing and editing for a variety of trade magazines. He covered topics ranging from potato and sugar beet farming to skate park and playground construction and maintenance. Adams started his newspaper career as the city government reporter for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, WI where he covered the City Hall, police, fire and local courthouse beats. In 2005 he joined the staff of the Missoula Independent in Missoula, MT where he worked as a staff reporter covering a wide range of issues including the environment,...