Skip to main content

A timely (and hopefully entertaining) update (and unsolicited perspectives) provided by Shantil Siaperas–MACo Communications Director & Editor of MACo’s Legislative Update–to keep you apprised of what’s happening on the Hill during the 2023 Legislative Session.

An Update & Unsolicited Perspectives Provided by Shantil Siaperas, MACo Communications Director & Editor of MACo’s Legislative Update

MACo's Legislative Update

Volume 27, Issue 13
Published April 16, 2023
Published April 16, 2023
Volume 27, Issue 13

(If you’re not interested in the meandering thoughts of a rambling lobbyist and just want to checkout MACo’s Legislative Update, I sympathize. Click the button below for instant access to our thirteenth issue of the session.)

Access the 13th Issue Here
Continue Reading the Unsolicited Perspectives and Meandering Thoughts of a Rambling Lobbyist…

It’s not personal. It’s the dome.

Well hello Week…whatever Week you are…have you seen my shoes? No? How about my jeep keys? No? My vacuum-sealed, double-walled, burn-my-lips, keep-my-coffee-hot-forever, travel mug? No?

Hmmmm…

If you too have been asking yourself these questions more often lately, you’re absolutely not alone. Anyone involved with—or even standing near—a legislative session will tell you that the Dome of the Capitol Building during these 90 Legislative Days has an eerie, ethereal effect on the mind. It’s not a secret. It’s one of the many things known by all yet whispered by none.

With that in mind, and because last week I promised a special surprise, what follows is a story about a guy named Justice and a gal named Hope.

The Legislator & The Lobbyist

A tiny tale of life under the dome

Written by Someone Who Should be Doing Something Else But Decided Everyone Needed A Short Story Instead

Justice is a well-known, respected, and generally scrupulous legislator with thinning hair, a curly smirk, and a largess in people’s minds that outdid his actual size.

Hope is an optimistic, determined, and positively pleasant lobbyist with a sparkle in her eye and hippity hop in her short yet rapid little step.

It’s LD 1 (Legislative Day 1) of the 68th Legislative Session. The sun is bright, the sky is blue, the air is brisk, and the birds are chirping. Both of our gung-ho heroes have a desire to do something significant and enact change that is generally good for all.

Both whistling while they walk toward the majestic granite and sandstone building that is Montana’s Capitol, Justice and Hope collide in a flurry of phones, paper, and pink sticky notes. Gathering together their scattered personal effects, they help one another up, nervously laughing off their individual clumsiness.

Post collision, while conducting the normal socially sensible small talk, Justice and Hope stroll up the long frost and pebbled path to Montana’s house of laws, both eager to begin this new adventure and help create principles beneficial to the people of Her land. A statue depicting Liberty sits atop the copper dome and gazes down upon the duo, seeming to bless our two protagonists with good judgement, understanding, and rationality…

The hours breeze quickly by, and the sun settles itself down on LD 1. Both Justice and Hope feel like they’ve been drinking from a firehose of information all day. Their minds are swimming with anxious, yet still promising thoughts, which a beer and a bourbon will soon swirl into a satisfying fatigue.

A couple of hours later, after some wind-down strategizing time with their respective fellow legislators and lobbyists, our two champions pull themselves back into work, making a few phone calls, tippity tapping out some texts, responding to a flood of emails, and reviewing the hearing schedule for the next day.

Finally, when their heads nestle down into their pillows, Justice and Hope are content. And they’re excited about getting back to work, debating the issues, and making the essential compromises necessary for positive and impactful change…

… … …

…The sun rises and then she sets. The moon climbs and then he falls. The days come early, and the nights run late. Coffee, water, whiskey (or wine), sleep, eat, repeat…

… … …

As is the way of things, the days turn into weeks, and our fearless and idealistic dyad keeps trudging toward transmittal.  The issues are becoming more intense, the hearings are getting longer, the stairs seem steeper, the corners darker, and moods are shifting. The strategizing sessions are deepening. The air is stagnant with problems seeking solutions. Meetings are increasing in number and size. One beer and one whiskey turn into two maybe three (and occasionally four). A few phone calls, emails, and texts have cascaded into a roar of communication for which there is no catching up.

We see Justice and Hope standing among a sea of downturned faces in the dim brown light of first floor hall in the Capitol Building, clutching white paper cups of cold bitter coffee, just frazzles of their former selves. They both seem to have developed a rare form of Tourette Syndrome known only to those in political circles, their tic being uncontrollable cursing and legislative jargon. Words like “support,” “oppose,” “amend,” “kill,” “vote count,” and “consequences” continually and forcefully fly from their mouths.

The days continue, their sleep debt deepens, and social sensibilities slowly peel away from the irritated little onions they are mysteriously becoming—the idealism of their earlier days are mere faded shadows dragging raggedly behind them.

Rising above the Capitol scene, we can see our courageous pair is not alone in this eerie metamorphosis. For months on end, the Dome will shift energies, test belief systems, and mold together one very large extended dysfunctional family, which is both disturbing as well as oddly comforting. Justice and Hope seem to poke at and infuriate each other daily, but there are still scattered moments when they are each appreciative that the other exists.

The weeks are cyclical…

On Monday, Justice wonders why Hope is trying to slay his most important, bold, and beneficial legislation???  He could be making a tangible difference for all Montanans, especially those in his constituency who loudly and blatantly need it most. Hope on the hand is confused as to why Justice has not absorbed any of the legitimate facts and principled arguments she’s provided as to why his legislation is a baby diaper dumpster fire (her words, not mine). She is completely puzzled by the news that he will not be applying the magical amendments that could make his bill workable as opposed to technically flawed and impractical…Hope is annoyed…And Justice is angry.

Enter Tuesday. Like a ray of sunshine, Justice and Hope exit the hearing room smiling and shaking hands, thanking each other for their “most important work on this most important bill” and then moving on to discuss their other most important legislation during this most important time in history.

Wednesday brings more war, while Thursday is glorious with angels singing blissfully from the rotunda. Friday presents oddly placid waters, and Saturday overflows with mountains of digital work. Then Monday booms in again and the week repeats itself—maybe not in the same order, but echoing, nonetheless.

Transmittal deadlines come and go. Justice and Hope hypnotically and numbly wander in and out of heated hearing rooms behind endless and heavy oak doors…up and down countless steep stairs, in and out of dueling chamber balconies…when eventually, the gavel falls one final time in both the House and Senate…

Sine Die has granted a period of amnesty known as the Interim—a moment of reprieve bestowed upon all who have dwelled under the Dome the previous four months. This moment is but a month—maybe two—before Legislative Committees of combined House and Senate forces come together to once again, but less intensely, delve into issues they feel are pertinent…But not today…

Today, our tried and true, battered, and bruised pair of previously policy-loving idealists—Hope and Justice—limp away from the great brooding granite building as it casts a dominating shadow over them. The time is just past noon, and Liberty, nobly perched upon her grand copper dome, is gazing down on the two wounded souls as they gradually trek toward their respective vehicles.

Liberty has closely observed Justice and Hope these past 90 days. She has witnessed their efforts and deeply respects the burdensome work in which they partook upon their own volition. She herself understands—more than anyone—the trials and tribulations through which they absolutely must trudge for her and her Montanans.

Liberty can feel their heavy exhaustion and sees that the optimistic dreams-of-change have dwindled in the hearts of her champions. Exhaling with a calm suggestive smile and ever-so-slight movement—completely unnoticeable to the mortal eye—the previously muted sun bursts with brilliant beams of golden light that dissipate the gray stagnant air and land softly on the sore heavy shoulders of Hope and Justice.

… … …

Over the next few days, our downtrodden duo feels a release.

“Of what,” you ask?

It’s unexplainable, almost mythical, but very real. They sleep. They eat. They rest. Minds slow. Livers heal. Rationality seeps into cerebrums. Aspirations rise. And transgressions begin to be forgiven (but never forgotten).

Months later, our again gung-ho heroes feel refreshed and return to the Capitol, embarking on a new quest that is the Interim. Justice and Hope happily chitter and chat each other up on their path to the gleaming granite building.

Still standing tall, high upon her dome, Liberty observes proudly as Hope, Justice, and her other honorable warriors whistle their way back into her home’s halls and chambers, to follow her methods, heed her rules, and help her folk. She won’t make it easy though…What in life worth having ever is?

– The End –

Before I go…

A few rapid-fire updates

We’re in the final stretch of the session, so bill hearings are winding down and getting amended bills back to their chamber of origination is the priority. The Senate will be on the Floor all day tomorrow (Monday, April 17th), there are no hearings scheduled for Thursday (yet…maybe more all-day Floor Session’ing?), and we expect that you can expect to see HB 2 (the State’s Budget Bill) pass out of the Senate this week. (Watch all the action here.)

PS – 15 Legislative Days remaining…

And Don’t Forget…

If you find yourself on uneven footing during the legislative session at any time, no worries. We’re here to help keep you apprised of what’s happening on the hill. Every week until Sine Die during these trying and perplexing times (i.e., the Legislative Session), we’ll be releasing a new issue of the MACo Legislative Update (linked below and above).

Each issue always has an up-to-date session calendar, an easy-to-print bill hearings schedule for the upcoming week, and the status of all the bills we’re currently watching as well as those in which we’re actively involved. Click the button below to check out the new issue.

Pro Tip: Our website’s hearing schedule is updated daily, with new hearings added as the week progresses, so be sure to check it out! It also has links to testify remotely and/or submit written public comment as well as watch legislative bill hearings.

For other pertinent information regarding the legislative session, visit the policy section of our website.

That’s all for now! See you either virtually via the internet highway or in the halls!

—Fin.—
(the end…of the update, not the session, obvi)

Questions?

Eric Bryson

Executive Director
Phone: 406-461-2084
ebryson@mtcounties.org

Jason Rittal

Deputy Director
406-441-5464
jrittal@mtcounties.org

Karen Alley

Associate General Counsel
Phone: 406-441-5472
kalley@mtcounties.org

Shantil Siaperas

Communications Director
Phone: 406-925-1134
shantil@mtcounties.org