Senate panel advances funding for better public safety, transportation in Helena

Measures will help fund I-15 interchange, armored police vehicle

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester and his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee have passed legislation that will help fund better public safety and transportation in Helena, Tester and Senator Max Baucus announced today.

The Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act includes funding to help the Helena Police Department purchase a powerful armored police vehicle called a BEAR.  The Police Department requested the funding because it needs a vehicle capable of transporting bomb squads, HAZMAT teams and special weapons officers to dangerous areas.  The BEAR can also detect chemical, biological and radioactive materials, as well as explosive gases.

Helena Chief of Police Troy McGee says the new emergency vehicle is important to make sure Montana’s capital city is fully prepared in case of a public emergency, such as a domestic terrorism attack.

"This is great news for the city of Helena and for Lewis and Clark County and having an armored vehicle will help us protect law enforcement offices and the residents of the Capital City," McGee said. "Senator Tester and Senator Baucus clearly understand the need to invest in our communities by ensuring the police departments have the resources they need to keep citizens safe."

The Helena Police Department will share the armored vehicle with the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is an awesome opportunity to have this type of a vehicle to promote the safety of our citizens and officers,” said Lewis and Clark Sheriff Leo Dutton. “A vehicle like this will help us respond to a hostile event where lives are at risk and restoring the peace in a safe and efficient manner. Thanks to Senator Tester and Baucus for their help in securing this important funding and special thanks to Chief McGee for being willing to share the vehicle with the county.”

The Appropriations Committee today also approved the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, which includes funding to create jobs through the ongoing construction of the Interstate-15/Custer Avenue interchange near Helena.  The project is expected to significantly improve public safety and traffic flow in the area.

“Montana’s Capital City needs to be prepared for any situation,” said Tester, who serves on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  “Giving our police all the tools they need to respond to terrorism and keep folks safe is a smart investment in our future and our readiness.”

“Making sure our highways are safe and adequate is an important step toward strengthening our economy,” Baucus said.  “The I-15 interchange is an important project for Helena and everyone who visits it, and it’s important this interchange gets its fair share of funding from the federal government.”

Under the current legislation, the Helena Police Department would receive would receive $250,000 to help purchase a BEAR armored vehicle.  The Montana Department of Transportation would receive $1 million for the I-15/Custer interchange project. 

Another $300,000 is included in the legislation for law enforcement and emergency responder training equipment at the Rocky Mountain Emergency Services Training Center at the Helena airport.

The legislation must first pass the full Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives before the funding can be signed into law.

For a full list of funding for Montana under the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act, click HERE.

For a full list of funding for Montana under the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, click HERE.

What is an appropriations bill?
  • A federal appropriations bill funds the federal government.  12 appropriations bills will fund the federal government for the next Fiscal Year.
  • Less than one half of one percent of these appropriations bills consist of congressionally directed funding (also called “earmarks”).  This funding is not additional spending for the federal government, nor does it increase federal deficit.  Rather, it is a set of directions telling the government where it must use existing funds.
  • In the past, appropriations funding had been abused by anonymous requests with little transparency.
  • Since 2007, the process was overhauled to guarantee transparency and fair debate in Congress.
  • All of Tester’s and Baucus’ appropriations requests are online HERE and HERE.