Originally published in the Yellowstone County News print edition -by Judy Killen
HELENA — Lockwood and East Helena residents are still waiting to see whether they may consider building high schools as Senate Bill 139 advances through the Legislature.
The bill was concurred in the Montana House of Representatives on Monday on a 98-2 vote and re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
That committee had not scheduled any action on the bill as of presstime Wednesday. Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, sponsored the bill, which is being carried in the House by Rep. Sue Vinton, R-Lockwood.
“I was thrilled by the support that this bill had upon second reading in the House!” said Vinton. ” A 98-2 vote is certainly indicative of the value of the good work that went into this bill by sponsor Sen. Ankney, stakeholders from East Helena, Helena and Lockwood and the groundwork that was set in motion last session by Sen. Taylor Brown.”
Vinton said a hearing in Appropriations will probably be scheduled next week.
“We all remain very hopeful that this will be the year that this bill will be passed and signed by Gov. Bullock,” she said.
The measure would allow elementary school districts with enrollment of at least 1,000 students to expand into high school districts. The communities of Lockwood and East Helena — and possibly the Hellgate community in the Missoula area — are the most likely districts for high school expansion.
No one opposed the bill through three readings in the Senate.
“Residents of each of the communities should be afforded an opportunity to decide for themselves,” Vinton said. Voters would be asked to approve building new high schools in each community.