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The Legislature’s newest member is Rep. Naarah Hastings, R-Billings, whom the Yellowstone County Board of Commissioners selected this week to replace former Republican Rep. Mallerie Stromswold.
Stromswold resigned earlier this month, citing her mental health and an at times hostile Republican caucus. Her resignation left an open seat in House District 50, setting into motion the complicated vacancy process laid out in statute.
The Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee advanced three candidates to the county commissioners last week: Hastings, former county commissioner Denis Pitman, and attorney Anthony Nicastro. As Stromswold was a Republican, so too were all the candidates to replace her.
Hastings, the eventual pick, is a transplant from Washington state who owns a doughnut shop in Billings and founded a talent acquisition company. Her LinkedIn page notes that she’s also a Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete.
“We’re glad to have a full family,” House Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, told reporters Tuesday morning in introducing Hastings.
Aside from Stromswold, the Legislature has been riddled with vacancies over the last few weeks. Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, resigned to go on a globe-trotting motorcycle trip — his seat was filled by now-Sen. Becky Beard, R-Elliston. Beard’s departure from the House to take Gauthier’s place left her House seat open — that seat was filled by Rep. Zack Wirth, R-Wolf Creek. Meanwhile, Rep. Douglas Flament, R-Lewistown, himself a vacancy filler, resigned due to health problems. He was replaced by Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred.
A stack of child welfare reforms sailed through major votes in the House and Senate as the 68th Legislature steadily progresses through its 90-day session. The trend of late-January bill passages kicked off with the unanimous approval on Wednesday for House Bill 37, the product of nearly two years of lawmaker study and a heavy round of revisions after its first committee hearing this month.
Starting Jan. 26, Montana Free Press, based in Helena, will share a reporter with ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, in a partnership designed to increase the coverage of the state Legislature’s Native American Caucus.
Fiscal policy, state institutions take center stage over conservative social priorities in Gov. Greg Gianforte’s 2023 State of the State address.