There is already some drama at the Montana Legislature, and the gavel hasn’t even yet sounded.

Republicans elected Greg Hertz as the incoming Speaker of the House, and as is his privilege, will name a new chair of the Appropriations Committee, and it will not be the present chair, Hamilton’s Nancy Ballance.

“I had a conversation with the Speaker and he would like to replace me with one of his political appointments,” said Ballance. “I find that pretty disappointing. I have put three pretty successful budgets together that have worked very well. If he were removing me for cause, I would take that graciously, but I am very disappointed that he would take that attitude.”

Ballance said she ran against Mr. Hertz for Speaker of the House, and that may have had something to do with his decision. She hopes he will reconsider that decision before the start of the session.

Regarding the upcoming session, Ballance said there would be several topics that will rise to the top when the session starts in January.

“Education inflation will typically be considered,” she said. “He (Governor Bullock) has the option of putting different things in that bill which sometimes they do. I think we’ll probably see agencies staying relatively flat, because he does have some form of Medicaid expansion that he has to pay for.”

With the defeat of I-185 it will be up to the 2019 legislature to come up with a mechanism to extend a Medicaid expansion that will sunset in 2019.

The upcoming session is set to begin on January 7 and continue for 90 days.