MT Lowdown Podcast – Episode 1: A House divided

John S. Adams/Montana Free Press

Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, talks to reporters following a vote in the House to change the rules.

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.