Missoula Democrat lawmaker Kimberly Dudik is home this week preparing for the second half of the legislative session that begins next Monday.

Dudik, who represents House District 94, said she feels there have been some real success stories in the first 45 days of the session.

“We have been able to move some really big pieces of the budget and legislation that we have to do every session,” said Dudik. “Bills like the state employee pay plan and k-12 funding, so those are two things that we’ve been able to pass in a bipartisan manner and get them off the table so that other things can be taken care of.”

Dudik explained the challenges facing legislators in the next few weeks.

“We haven’t dealt with Medicaid expansion which provides healthcare to about 100,000 Montanans, and another thing we’re dealing with is infrastructure and what to do with our state’s sewers and bridges and roads that are in disrepair and many are downright dangerous,” she said. Commenting on the work and community service requirements proposed by Republicans, Dudik explained why she urged caution on those requirements. “Seven out of ten Montanans on Medicaid expansion are already working and eight of ten come from working households,” she said. “Of those three that are not working, most of them are full time caregivers for a sick family member, or they are too sick or disabled to work, or they are students or seasonal workers.”

Dudik had words of praise for a program within Medicaid in which Montana is leading the way nationally.

“The Health Link Program is a work force training program that helps Medicaid enrollees get to work and receive higher wages,” she said. “It’s a skills training program for critical professions like nursing a truck driving and things that we need to fill, so it takes that pool of Medicaid enrollees who need training and access to better jobs, it helps them to get employed and get them the skills they need. It’s been proven to work, and I don’t see why they would want to change it now and put different requirements that would just build a bigger government, which I don’t think anyone wants.”

Dudik also hopes the legislature can eventually work to lower the cost of healthcare in a bipartisan manner.

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