HELENA (AP) – The chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes says lawmakers should come together to compromise for the sake of Montana residents.
As he addressed the Legislature on Wednesday, Vernon Finley said the strength of the state comes from its ability to have opposite viewpoints come together for the benefit of Montana.
“Montana has always had a history of connecting,” he said. “Even in times of extreme right and extreme left, common sense finally prevails.”
Finley described the Legislature as a working marriage of opposites. He said that the country is facing a challenging time on a national level, but asked Montana lawmakers to stay true to their values.
“To be able to shake hands with one another and disagree in a healthy way is a trademark of Montana that I am very proud of,” Finley said.
Finely highlighted a number of achievements he attributed to lawmakers keeping their heritage and common values with tribal leaders in mind, including delegates writing a recognition of tribal governments into the Montana Constitution, Gov. Steve Bullock appointing a record number of Native Americans to boards and administrative positions and commissioners prioritizing fair representation when redrawing legislative boundaries in 2012.
Finely said if lawmakers continue to keep heritage in mind, the legislative session will be a success.
“My plea to you this afternoon is that you keep that in mind as you move forward and consider all of the legislation that is coming before you. What are all of these perspectives that are in our state? Are they respected with this? Is there some compromise that can be made?” he said. “There are opposites married within this chamber, but as long as you keep the focus on what is best for all of Montana in mind, we’ll do fine.”
Finley’s calls for unity and respect echoed earlier pleas made by legislators when the 2017 session started last month and by the governor in his State of the State speech last week.
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