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Volume 26, Issue 14
Published April 11, 2021

Learning the Legislative Lingo (Better Late Than Never)

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

(If you’re not interested in the meandering thoughts of a rambling lobbyist
and just want to check out the next issue of MACo’s Legislative update, I sympathize.
Click the button below for instant access to our latest issue.)

Access Latest Legislative Update Here

HELENA—Tomorrow, Monday, April 12th, is Legislative Day (LD) 69. That means there are 21 LDs remaining, equating to roughly 1 month/4 weeks/100 bajillion hours until Sine Die. (But who’s counting?) There is still much to do and no time to waste, so here we go.

Upcoming Deadlines on the Legislative Calendar

  • April 16 (Friday): Transmittal of amendments to General Bills (Day 73)
  • April 26: Last day to introduce Study Resolutions (Day 79)
  • April 27: Transmittal of amendments to Appropriation Bills, Revenue Bills, and Revenue Estimating Resolution, as well as Bills Proposing Referenda (Day 80)
  • April 29: Transmittal of amendments to Revenue Estimating Joint Resolution (Day 82)
  • May 4: Transmittal of Interim Study Resolutions (Day 85)
  • May 11: Sine Die (Day 90 = End of Session)

Pertinent Updates

The Senate heard, amended, and passed HB 2 (the State’s budget bill) last Thursday (April 8th). Not only did they pass it on 2nd Reading, but they conducted 3rd Reading immediately after and effectively kicked it right out and back to the House (if you’re gonna be anything, it should be efficient, or so I’ve been told).

The reason for the rush? They (leadership along with the financial wizards of Legislative Land, Osmundson and Jones) expect the budget bill is destined for conference committee. Therefore, the intent is to move things along quickly. The bill should hit the House’s agenda to accept the Senate’s amendments early this week.

Along with the swift kick to HB 2’s tush, Senate Finance & Claims will be acting on all of the long-range planning bills as well as the Beast (HB 632) and the Baby Beast (HB 630) tomorrow (Monday, April 12th). Be expecting these bills to be presented and passed on the Senate Floor later in the week. (The deadline for amended bills to transmit back to their chamber is Friday, April 16th.) The committee (i.e., Wizard Oz…mundson) anticipates most of these bills will go to conference committee as well.

What does this mean?

It means we’re in for another week of rapid legislating, and all the bigger budget bills will indeed be going to conference committee. Everyone knows exactly what is happening, and what they’re supposed to do (how to vote) to make that happen. (Sorry, my tinfoil hat must’ve fallen off the shelf and onto my head momentarily.)

Why?

Legitimate Legislative Reasoning: The Beast is still changing and needs to continue its transformation as guidance and information regarding how the ARPA funds can be spent is released. The Legislature essentially wants to ensure the max number of projects are funded and coming from the correct funding sources. So, the reason appears to be responsible due diligence.

The Real Reason: To drive us all into an early grave. Duh.

Seriously though, pay attention to Finance & Claims tomorrow at 9 a.m. where HB 632 will most definitely be amended.  Click here to review all posted amendments thus far. (Only give any credence to the third version amendments, i.e., HB0632.003.000.pdf—the others are from previous versions of the bill). Click here to watch the committee meeting.

Meandering Along . . .

As the growing Beast lumbers through the legislative process, Senators and Representatives alike can be heard saying “we are building the plane as we fly it . . .”

This of course leads one to ponder other entertaining legislative jargon of which the average passerby may not be familiar, and I’d like to remedy that. (You’re welcome.)

Decoding Legislative Lingo: PC vs. Me
(Now is a good time to fold that laundry you’ve been avoiding all weekend.)
  • Political Capital = Power/influence built through relationships and trust.
    Translation: The life hearts you are given at the beginning of the legislative video game—slowly burned with every bill you support or oppose (use wisely).
  • Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water = A large, generally favorable bill with several stakeholders being voted down because a section or two is undesirable.
    Translation: Confusion, indifference, and perhaps a little fear leading to the death of good legislation.
  • Kicking the Can = Allowing a common and prominent issue to go unaddressed for yet another legislative session.
    Translation: We’re not avoiding this. We just can’t do it. No time. No resources. Nope. Nope. Nope. We should do a study . . .
  • Skin in the Game = The party or parties involved are required to invest in whatever is being provided via the legislation.
    Translation: Ante up some money or the bill dies.
  • Camel’s Nose Under the Tent = An old Arabian proverb, “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.” This is essentially concern that the proposed legislation will lead to future legislation that will significantly impact one of the Political Party’s principles or principal goals.
    Translation: I’m paranoid. The bill must die. (Newsflash: Essentially all legislation is a camel’s nose.)
  • Something Worth Dying on Your Sword Over = A bill of the upmost importance worth a significant amount of political capital.
    Translation: Entitlement Share (Local dollars going back to local communities. Learn it. Teach it. Preach it. Protect it.)
  • Common Sense Solution = Makes sound, practical sense without specialized knowledge.
    Translation: This makes sense to me, so it should make sense to everyone.
  • Common Sense Bill = The proposed legislation is perfectly logical and reasonable. Obviously.
    Translation: Are you dumb? Vote for my bill.
  • Election Integrity = . . . Ummmmm . . . yeah . . . I think we should just stop talking about elections for the next four years. Healing is nice. Moving on . . .
  • Just a Simple Bill = Reading the bill is entirely unnecessary—a huge waste of time. It’s just as straightforward as the words coming out of my mouth. Trust me.
    Translation: If you hear this, for the love of Gaawwd, READ THE BILL.
  • Local Control = Management and decision-making entrusted with local officials, because they are the boots on the ground who know their communities best (recently used interchangeably with the people being given local control via their vote in elections)
    Translation: An ideal supported by everyone in Montana . . . depending on the subject matter . . . and the temperature of the room . . . and if the sky was blue or gray or bluish gray the day the bill was written . . . and whether or not we’re just coming out of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that happens every 100 years or so. Other than that, local control is simply commonsense. Vote green (or was it red? I lost track . . . )
  • Death by Fiscal Note = The cost is too great to the State’s General Fund, so the bill dies.
    Translation: The State won’t pay for it . . . but you could . . .
  • Zero Fiscal Impact = The proposed policy does not impact the State’s General Fund.
    Translation: Be sure to double check for potential local impact and unfunded mandates (i.e. cost shift to property tax payers).
  • Unintended Consequences = Unforeseen—usually negative—impacts caused by enacted legislation.
    Translation: It sounded good at the time . . .
  • Kill Committee = A committee stacked and packed with the right makeup and mindset. Along with its typical book of legislation, this committee is also assigned bills that are entirely outside of its purview. Why? Because the committee will surely table the legislation (and in other cases, pass it).
    Translation: House Judiciary (always has been, always will be)
  • Forever = The effects will go on in perpetuity.
    Translation: Two years (until the next legislative session or lawsuit). Nothing is forever.

Important Reminder

Our journey through Legislative Land is 77% complete, and we’re all cranky: Legislators, lobbyists, association advocates, legislative staff, you, me . . . Everyone. We’re all cranky. So, as we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and stumble along this final lap of the session, and the Lingo of Legislative Land begins to make your eye twitch, remember to breathe: Inhale through the nose (4 counts). Hold (4 counts). Exhale (5 counts).

And Accept . . .
  • Sometimes we need skin in the game, or the baby can be thrown out with the bathwater.
  • Political capital is consistently burned, but it can also be earned.
  • Most times bills are commonsense while also being the camel’s nose under the tent.
  • Once or twice a session, election integrity will be plated up for the kill committee. But that’s never the end.
  • Eventually the can is kicked so many times that the stakeholders come together, the study gets completed, and the can is recycled into something refreshingly new and improved.
  • More often than not, there are truly commonsense solutions brought through truly simple bills.
  • There are also those other simple bills with zero fiscal impact upon which MACo dies on their sword due to a significant local impact.
  • Unintended consequences are inevitable, but some will be positive as opposed to negative.
  • There will be lots of legislation that needs to die by fiscal note, because the checkbook must be managed, and the little greenies on trees aren’t tiny George Washingtons waiting to be plucked and spent. But there are also times when unique ingenuity is born and the dollars get where they are desperately needed without significant fiscal (or local) impact. (It’s the fiscal unicorn.)
  • Local control is and always bill be supported, even if it is on a bit of a hiatus due to extenuating and seemingly insurmountable circumstances.
  • Everything feels like forever under the Dome, but really, it’s not.

In Conclusion . . .

The work on the Hill is hard. But it’s necessary. It’s also necessary to not get yourself too worked up—easier said than done, I know.

Admittedly, taking each day in stride can be difficult during the fourth quarter of the big game pushing overtime. We are over caffeinated, under-slept, stressed, mal-nutritioned, arteries filling up with grease (no greens to be seen in at least 68 LDs leading to an extra 10-20 LBs), a little beat up, quick to anger/frustration, and sometimes—maybe—a little lonely (family and friends are likely steering clear—and are wiser for it).

So, if no one has told you lately, I’m telling you now: You’re doing good work. And you on the other side, you’re doing good work too. Even I’m occasionally doing good work (surprising, I know). We’re all doing good work.

And it will all be okay. The issues are magnified under Liberty’s Dome, and they need to be, so the problems can be more easily found and fixed. Pressure is effective like that. Just don’t let it pop you.

Unsolicited & Concise Survival Advice

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Work. Laugh. Remember to breathe.
Whiskey (or Wine). Water. Advil. Sleep.

Or

Breathe in the good, exhale the bad, and laugh when you can.

(Lastly, your mom is always right: Eat the da*n vegetables.)

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, 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 bills we’re watching or in which we’re actively involved. Pro Tip: Our website’s hearing schedule will be updated daily as the week progresses and new hearings are added, so be sure to check that out. It also has links to testify remotely and/or submit written public comment.

Don’t forget to check out the bills section, where you’ll be able to follow the status of MACo’s legislation, as well as track the growing list of bills in which we are monitoring and/or actively participating.

Click the button below to check out the new issue.

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

See you either virtually via the internet highway or in the halls!

PS: 21 legislative days remaining

(The Legislative Update is linked below.)