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Committee starts work under Democratic protest

Montana Capital Helena

The Latest on a new committee to investigate confidential settlements with Montana government workers (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

Only one Democratic lawmaker is participating in a new committee of Montana legislators to investigate confidential legal settlements with state employees.

The Special Select Committee on State Settlement Accountability held its first meeting on Wednesday to determine the scope of the investigation and discuss legal matters such as the review of confidential documents.

Republican legislative leaders created the committee last month, appointing six Republicans and four Democrats to it.

Democratic lawmakers object to how the committee was created and are concerned its aim is to make Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock look bad.

Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso says the committee is redundant because the Legislative Audit Division is already studying the issue.

Rep. Brad Hamlett of Cascade was the only Democratic lawmaker to participate. He says he decided somebody from the opposing party needed to be in the meeting.

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11:05 a.m.

At least one Democratic lawmaker is planning to boycott a new committee to investigate confidential settlements made with state employees.

House Speaker Austin Knudsen and Senate President Scott Sales created the committee last month to look at why millions of dollars have been paid out in employee settlements and whether they should be made public.

They appointed six Republicans and four Democrats to the panel.

The committee's first meeting is scheduled Wednesday.

Democratic legislative leaders recommended that none of their four lawmakers participate.

One of the four, state Sen. Mary Caferro, said she decided on her own to boycott the panel. She says the money should be spent instead to restore health care services that were eliminated by budget cuts.

But Democratic Rep. Brad Hamlett says he will participate because "somebody's got to keep tabs on the Republicans."

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