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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 5
Published February 5, 2023
Published February 5, 2023
Volume 27, Issue 5

(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 fifth issue of the session.)

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

Another One Bites the Dust

Well, hey there MACo Folks!

We made it through the first week of February. To recap: The Legislature officially made its recommendations to the Redistricting Commission via Senate Joint Resolution 8, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, the Governor’s tax bills continue their speedy journey through the process (check out the “Taxation” section of our Legislative Update linked above), AND almost all of MACo’s bills have been introduced and heard in the first committee FOUR WEEKS PRIOR to that initial golden “transmittal,” deadline, i.e., halftime. (Light. Tunnel. I see you.)

So, what’s happening this week? Let’s jump right in and see!

Eerie “Meh”day…

We start the week off on Legislative Day (LD) 26, and if you look at the hearing schedule (linked above in our Legislative Update) you’ll notice it begins not with a bang, but with a “meh,” and it’s…unnerving.

Unnerving how?

Monday morning, there is only ONE policy committee convening—with ONE bill on their docket—and the other four meetings are joint budget subcommittees (there are six joint budget subcoms winding up to wind down in the next couple of weeks). It doesn’t make sense. It’s not a holiday. It’s not close to LD 90…I tried pinching myself and then hit refresh…nothing changed. What gives? Who’s behind this? What’s their motive? Why? I don’t understand…(not unusual every other year around this time, BTW).

Should we be suspicious?

Truthfully? You should always be suspicious, and not because it’s good to keep your head on a swivel and be prepared for the unpreparable. No. It’s because a legislative session without a little tinfoil and a few black helicopters (or white weather balloons) just isn’t worth it. We need SOMETHING to pontificate upon, or our shaky over-caffeinated bill-focused brains would slowly drift back to reality, which would put this entire necessary process at risk of losing its participants.

Seriously though, there’s no need for creating a stress-induced ulcer or popping an ocular blood vessel over yet ANOTHER slow Monday. Let’s compare the last couple of sessions with present time’s LD 25 (because LD 26 isn’t officially in the books yet):

  • 2019, LD 25 = 716 Introduced Bills & 662 bill hearings (approximately)
  • 2021, LD 25 = 609 Introduced Bills & 652 bill hearing (approximately)
  • 2023, LD 25 = 757 Introduced Bills & 832 bill hearings

So far, the thing that stands out the most is that we’ve actually had MORE hearings at LD 25 in 2023 than in the previous two sessions (170-180 more to be exact).

Why? I chalk it up to the fact that Montana has copious amounts of cash banked right now. Ipso facto, we have more bills with coin attached, which means more bills being rereferred to the money committees after their initial policy hearings (money committees = House Appropriations and Senate Finance & Claims).

So why does everything feel so slow?

The pace seems off because we’re used to moving FAST. These last few years since the C-word (COVID) erupted onto the scene, local elected officials and their trusty association reps have been ninja running, headfirst, face down through any-and-all obstacles tossed their way. So, the answer is simple: We’re used to it.

Breathe (while you can)

If the Legislature wants to be a little ladeeda lackadaisical and not schedule many bills for Monday mornings—because, well, Monday—then I say enjoy it while it lasts. Rest when the baby rests. Hit the snooze button, trade that extra cup of coffee for some water, and make yourself a healthy breakfast instead of choking down that chalky protein bar or donut from the snack bar outside the House Chamber. Just. Breathe. Because this won’t last forever (I estimate 2 weeks at the most).

What Else is Happening on the Hill?

While Monday may be a little “meh,” (except SB 248, which requires election records to be stored for 7 years) the following days are not…

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Local Government Committee is hearing HB 328, which requires certain government boards to record their public meetings in both audio and video formats and for those recordings to be posted on the entity’s website within one day. The bill contains a small offset for the cost of converting to the newly required audio and video component by offering grants of $500, but in our digging for fiscal information, it appears to be insufficient to cover the costs. (Those being called to record include boards of county commissioners, boards of health, the governing boards municipalities, and school districts board of trustees.)

Tuesday evening, starting at 4:30 p.m., the Joint Select Committee on Election Security has invited back Chris Wlaschin, Senior VP of Security and CISO for ES&S, to respond to various statements made and questions raised during the public comment period of last week’s meeting. (Watch the upcoming action here.)

Wednesday morning, HB 335 will be in front of the House State Administration Committee. This bill requires counties to mail absentee voters every four years to confirm the voter wants to continue voting via absentee ballot. (That’s quite a fiscal note.)

Thursday afternoon, the House Local Government Committee will be hearing HB 360, which requires that a county commissioner be elected by the district in which the candidate resides.

As of now there isn’t much posted for Friday, but keep your eye on the schedule, because bills will be added continuously as the week progresses.

If you aim to testify on any of these bills (or others), we encourage in-person participation; however, we know that travel is often difficult, so we also encourage virtual participation! Sign up to support, oppose, or provide information via Zoom here (just be sure to do it by 5 p.m. the day prior to the bill’s hearing).

Click here for additional information on testifying virtually >>

PS: 64 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!

(the end…of the update, not the session, obvi)


Eric Bryson

Executive Director
Phone: 406-461-2084

Jason Rittal

Deputy Director

Karen Alley

Associate General Counsel
Phone: 406-441-5472

Shantil Siaperas

Communications Director
Phone: 406-925-1134