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Proposed legislation would help Montana's economy, workers

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Over the past few weeks Democrats in the house have introduce bills to benefit Montana’s working families, including bills on broadband access, equal pay for equal work, increasing minimum wage and creating OSHA laws to protect employees in the private sector.

Rep. McCarthy presented two bills that would improve broadband access across the state. Small businesses in our communities need reliable broadband access. These bills would help them to grow, prosper and be competitive.

“Montana’s economy has always been challenged by a short growing season, being geographically distant from markets and ports, and having a disperse population. All of these challenges can be overcome now with the application of 21st century technology. We can have thriving Internet based home businesses, powerful data centers and people living in cabins along our beautiful streams and lakes working collaboratively with teams around the world. But in order to bring the world to our doorstep, we need the connectivity that will support exchanges of information on a commercial scale.” Rep. McCarthy

Many representatives including Rep. Eck have been working on bills that will improve fairness in the workplace for women, including equal pay for equal work and Rep. Eck’s House Bill 306. HB306 will provide unemployment insurance benefits for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking. The benefits would be the same as someone who becomes unemployed under ordinary circumstances. This bill would protect the economic well-being of Montana women in the workplace. HB306 is essential for improving safety in the workplace and protecting women from having to choose between their life and their livelihood. This bill is a crucial aspect of addressing the wage gap issue in Montana and while Republicans have tabled many of the equal pay for equal work bills, we will continue to make it a top priority.

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The current minimum wage in Montana is not enough for our working families to live on. Rep. Dunwell brought forward a bill to increase the state minimum wage. Working families across the state would be able to save for the future, be prepared for unexpected costs, and be active participants in the economy.

Rep. Chuck Hunter introduced HB413, which would transfer federal responsibilities for workplace safety in the private sector under OSHA laws to the state. Federal law allows states to assume jurisdiction for safety, so long as the state program is at least as effective as OSHA. Hunter believes the state can provide a greater focus on safety education, and reduce reliance on federal penalties to create a safe work environment.

“For many years, Montana has been the worst state in the country for the incidence of accidents in the workplace. Assuming greater responsibility for workplace safety would be a bold step toward helping both workers and employers develop safer work sites, and could significantly lower our workers’ compensation rates for business. The federal program has not worked. It is time to try a new approach.” Rep. Chuck Hunter

While Democrats have been hard at work trying to pass legislation that will benefit all Montanans, Republicans have been focused on waging a war on the poor by requiring TANF recipients to be drug tested, passing legislation that would allow students to have guns on campus, and tax cuts for out of state corporations. This is unacceptable and irresponsible. We need to be focused on passing policies that will fix real problems that Montanans face every day.

As your elected legislators it is our job to pass responsible legislation that will benefit Montana and strengthen our families and communities. We must stand up for our working families by passing bills like equal pay for equal work, infrastructure bills such as HB5 and Rep. McCarthy’s broadband bill, and increasing the minimum wage among others.

House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter (HD83, Helena ), House Minority Whip Jenny Eck (HD79, Helena), Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (HD84, Helena), Rep. Kelly McCarthy (HD49, Billings)

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