- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Latest on an infrastructure bonding bill (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

The Montana Legislature has ended the 2017 legislative session.

The Senate adjourned Friday morning after waiting for the House to take action on an $80 million infrastructure package and a related rural water system bill.

But the House voted to adjourn after twice voting the measure down.

Senate leaders then made farewell speeches before taking their final vote to adjourn. The next scheduled legislative session is in January 2019.

The Legislature passed a $10.3 billion budget, the first increase of the state’s fuel tax in 24 years and a slate of policy bills from health care to prison and sentencing reforms.

Though the $80 million infrastructure bill didn’t pass, the Legislature did pass more than $200 million in bills that will pay cash for road, bridge, water and wastewater projects in mostly rural areas.

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10:05 a.m.

The Montana House has voted to adjourn the 2017 legislative session without passing an $80 million infrastructure bonding bill.

The House took two votes Friday morning on the bill to pay for public works and building projects by issuing bonds. It failed both times to gain the 67 of 100 votes needed to pass, falling short by three votes.

Democrats tried and failed to pressure reluctant conservative representatives by threatening to sink a separate bill to fund rural water systems if the larger infrastructure bill didn’t pass.

After the vote against the $80 million package, the rural water bill was also voted down.

It is the third straight session an infrastructure bonding bill has either been rejected or vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Senate, which was waiting to see what the House did, is also expected to adjourn.

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9:55 a.m.

The Montana House has decided to try yet another vote on an $80 million infrastructure package, after shooting down the bill for a fifth time earlier in the morning.

Friday is expected to be the final day of the 2017 legislative session, and package to pay for public works and building projects with bonds is the last major legislation remaining.

Democratic lawmakers are threatening to sink a separate bill to fund rural water system projects if the larger bonding bill doesn’t pass.

That bill requires approval of 75 of the 100 representatives, meaning it will take help from the minority Democratic party to pass.

House Minority Leader Jenny Eck made clear that Democrats would not vote for the rural water bill unless the $80 million bonding package also passes.

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9:15 a.m.

The Montana House has voted down an infrastructure bonding package for a fifth time, putting its passage in serious doubt as the clock winds down on the 2017 legislative session.

Friday’s vote to approve the $80 million infrastructure package was 64-35, three votes short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage. The House also voted down a related bill to fund regional water projects.

A subsequent call to adjourn the session failed, giving a small window for representatives to try again.

Some conservative lawmakers object to putting the state into debt to pay for infrastructure, while others object to specific building projects in the bill.

The morning floor session was delayed while House and Senate Republican leaders met in House Speaker Austin Knudsen’s office.

They emerged with grim faces, and Knudsen said no deal had been struck.

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7:30 a.m.

The Montana House will get one last shot at passing an $80 million infrastructure package before the Legislature ends its 2017 session.

The Republican-led House has rejected infrastructure bonding packages four separate times, with some conservative representatives objecting to putting the state into debt and others objecting to specific projects on the list.

The Senate passed a $98 million version of the bill that would pay for public works and building projects across the state nearly a month ago.

The House fell just two votes short of the 67 needed to pass the bill Thursday. Representatives decided to try again Friday, leaving time for lobbyists and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to try to cajole some lawmakers to change their minds.

The Senate has promised to adjourn the session by 1 p.m. Friday, with or without the infrastructure package.


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