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Original reporting by Phil Drake
HELENA — Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer is known for circumventing the Legislature to get what he wants.
He wanted a state employee health clinic here and he got it. He argued that he didn’t need to go through the Legislature, because the Montana Health Center was an administrative act under the state’s health plan, which pay for the clinic.
“What the governor did with the clinic is to circumvent the intent of the law and set it up on his own,” said House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade. “That is not what should have happened. He is trying to leave his legacy, and we just don’t know what to expect from him.”
He and other legislators want to stop the governor from using loopholes to avoid lawmakers, but other officials say requiring legislative approval on spending could stall proposals in the quagmire of bureaucracy.
State Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, submitted a draft bill to the State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs Committee that would make spending subject to legislative approval, including “expenditures and alternatives for providing state employee group benefits.”
“The health clinic may or may not be a great idea, but it should have had legislative review,” Lewis said.
Milburn said the decision to open the clinic also should have involved state employees and the public.
Lewis is expected to introduce the committee bill, which the SAVA Committee approved Tuesday, in the legislative session beginning in January.
The governor, in the final months of his second and last term, declined to comment.
Tags: Brian Schweitzer, Mike Milburn, Montana
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