- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Latest on Montana’s Infrastructure bonding package (all times local):

6 p.m.

The Montana House has moved forward with an $80 million bonding bill, but the preliminary vote fell short of the two-thirds supermajority required to assure it of final passage.

The 63-37 vote on Wednesday puts pressure on Gov. Steve Bullock and his fellow Democrats to find four more votes ahead of the final poll.

The signs were clear all week that it would take a huge political effort to gain enough support after earlier efforts to move another bill failed.

During an hour-long Republican caucus, House Speaker Austin Knudsen declared an impasse with Gov. Steve Bullock.

On the floor, he told his fellow Republicans that he could not support the measure because of its high cost and because Bullock and Democrats had not made the necessary concessions to get his vote.

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4:45 p.m.

The Montana House has declined to consider a charter schools bill that had been approved by the Senate just three hours earlier.

The refusal on Wednesday by the House to give the measure a debate on the chamber’s floor was a blow to efforts to win passage of an infrastructure bonding bill.

The charter schools proposal was linked to a bonding bill sought by Gov. Steve Bullock.

A two-thirds majority was required to move the charter schools bill onto the floor for discussion. It failed 58-42.

The charter schools measure before the House was a scaled-back version from one it approved earlier this session. The initial proposal that sought to establish an independent statewide system.

But to appeal to Democrats, the proposal was substantially revised to keep charter schools under the jurisdiction of state and local school boards.

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12:45 p.m.

A legislative committee has forwarded a new version of an infrastructure bonding bill to the House floor for consideration.

The move keeps hopes alive that lawmakers will pass a bonding bill before they adjourn.

After the House declined to reconsider a $78 million House version earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee agreed on a 15-7 vote Wednesday to move an $80 million Senate version as a last-ditch attempt to pass a deal.

The Senate version initially included $98 million in bonding for public works and capital building projects. But the committee slashed the amount to bring it closer to the House version.

The action was part of a flurry of negotiations between leaders of the Republican-led House, Democrats and the governor’s office to come up with an infrastructure bonding deal.

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10:40 a.m.

Montana lawmakers are wrangling over a charter schools proposal that could be an important element for reaching a deal on an infrastructure bonding package as the 2017 session winds down.

House Speaker Austin Knudsen said Wednesday that all the elements for a deal could soon be in place if Democrats and Gov. Steve Bullock agree to a semi-autonomous charter school system.

Establishing a charter school system is among a handful of bargaining chips still in play as the governor and lawmakers try to reach an agreement on a bonding bill to pay for public works and building projects.

Over the years, Democrats have resisted attempts to establish a statewide charter school system, arguing it would draw money away from traditional public schools.

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