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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 7
Published February 19, 2023
Published February 19, 2023
Volume 27, Issue 7

(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 seventh issue of the session.)

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

Happy Holidays! Wait…What?

Well, hey there MACo Folks!

Last week I was in Washington, D.C., so you received a relatively short update, sweetened with a poem about Montana’s legislative process (which hopefully distracted from the fact that you received nothing of real substance…not that you ever really do—I’m here to entertain during the “dark times”).

Tomorrow is Presidents’ Day. (Happiest B-day wishes to both George and Abe—in my over-caffeinated, under-slept totally rational mind, we’re on a first name basis.) Be sure to watch the Joint Floor Session at 1 p.m. for “Formal Address Day,” where instead of Second and Third Readings of bills, we’ll be receiving updates from our Congressional Delegation and Montana Tribal Nations Chairman. Yes, it’s another holiday. And as you’ve learned by now, the Legislature does not sleep on holidays, so you don’t get to either. Sorry.

ALSO, tomorrow is the first day of MACo’s Midwinter Conference. So MACo doesn’t let you sleep on holidays either. Sorry. Again.

Unfortunately, the storm of the century is also scheduled for this week, starting today…and ending Wednesday…at 11 p.m. (I’m just “Little Miss Jolly Good News” over here.)

So, while I daydream about snowshoeing instead of legislative updating, grab the bevvy of your choice and a big ol’ snack, cause you’re in for a long-winded wild ride filled with excitement, drama, and of course, tears. So. Many. Tears. (It’s not actually exciting nor dramatic…maybe just kinda sad…you decide.)

I’m not crying. You’re Crying.

(Yeaaah…We’re all crying.)
Why so soggy?

Three syllables. Synonymous with both heaven and hell. Rhymes and coincides with words like brittle, belittle, very little, noncommittal, too much spittle, and acquittal. Did you guess it yet?

It’s “Transmittal!”

Yes, Friends, the 68th Legislature’s first transmittal, “General Bill Transmittal,” is nigh. It’s both the best of times and the worst of times. The day to which we most look forward, but to which we only get through via a most grueling process.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We must look back before we can see what’s ahead, so let’s start with a review of where we were last week so we know where we’re going this week.

Last Week…

Last week was B.U.S.Y.—My sincerest apologies and most gracious gratitude is extended to all MACo Staff for not only surviving but excelling both at the Capitol on the advocating front as well as in the office on all-things conference-prep. (I’d also like to apologize to my husband for all the hotdogs he had to eat last week while I was away…I extend the “I’m sorry” into this week…and next week too. So many hotdogs.)

Stats from Legislative Week Seven

Scheduled Bill Hearings = 178

Additional Bills Introduced = 257

Communications Exchanged Between MACo Staff = Infinity & Beyond

Number of Adult Bevies Deserved = Also Infinity & Beyond

Other Happenings…

Budget Committees Wrapped-up

Not only were there bill hearings galore and plenty of late-night readings (bills introduced), but the budget subcommittees were also abuzz with executive actions (EAs) and final parting words.

There are six Joint Appropriations Subcommittees (Approps Subcoms) that focus solely on individual sections of the State Budget, i.e., House Bill 2. These subcommittees meet during the first part of each session to consider budget bills that appropriate money and give state agencies authority to spend money. They are made up of members from the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance & Claims Committee. The six subcommittees are as follows:

  1. Section A – General Government
    Covers the Commissioner of Political Practices; Department of Administration; Department of Commerce; Department of Labor & Industry; Department of Military Affairs; Department of Revenue; Governor’s Office; Legislative Branch; Montana Consumer Counsel; Secretary of State; and State Auditor’s Office)
  2. Section B – Health & Human Services
    Covers the Department of Public Health & Human Services
  3. Section C – Natural Resources & Transportation
    Covers the Department of Agriculture; Department of Environmental Quality; Department of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks; Department of Livestock; Department of Natural Resources & Conservation; Department of Transportation
  4. Section D – Public Safety (Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement & Justice)
    Covers the Department of Corrections; Department of Justice; Judicial Branch; Office of the Public Defender; Public Service Commission
  5. Section E – Education
    Covers the Board of Public Education; Commissioner of Higher Education; Montana Arts Council; Montana Historical Society; Montana School of the Deaf & Blind; Montana State Library; Office of Public Instruction
  6. Section F – Long Range Planning
    Covers the Long-Range Building Program; State Building Energy Conservation Program; Long-Range Information Technology Program; Montana Coal Endowment Program; Montana Coal Regional Water Program; Renewable Resource Grant & Loan Program; Reclamation & Development Grants Program; Cultural & Aesthetic Grant Program; Montana Heritage Preservation Grants Program

Aside from Section D, all the Joint Approps Subcoms have concluded their business. (Section D is scheduled to convene on Monday at 9 a.m. to hopefully complete their remaining EA. Interested?  Watch here.)

FAIR WARNING: We’ll delve deep into the “State Budget” in a future update, directly prior to when HB 2 is heard on the Floor (which takes several days of presentations). In the meantime, you can make yourself familiar with the subcoms and their work via the link below. (Or unsubscribe now and avoid the inevitable pending doom…I mean, budget update.)

All the Deets on budget committees >>

The Redistricting Commission Adopted a Plan…Again?

Yes. Again. Originally the Districting & Apportionment Commission adopted their plan on February 11th after implementing various amendments provided via Senate Joint Resolution 8, which originated from the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Redistricting. Shortly after, the Commission learned of various technical issues that needed addressing due to all of the prior amending, so they convened on Friday—one last time—to address the technicalities that needed addressing.

The Commission then officially took action to submit their revised plan to the Secretary of State’s Office, where it will be filed and legitimately become “a thing” (i.e., the process of implementing the changes will begin, so the new boundaries are implemented and ready for the 2024 election cycle—“the plan” remains in place through 2032).

View the Maps Here >>

Where We’re Headed…

We don’t need roads…just a good hiding place and lots of coffee.

Now that we’ve had a nice recap, we can look to the future. This week we are up against two significant deadlines in preparation for “General Bill Transmittal” next week…

  1. Feb. 20 (Monday):  Last day for Committees to request General Bills and Resolutions (LD 36)
  2. Feb. 24 (Friday):  Last day to introduce General Bills, ex. Committee Bills (LD 40)

Currently there are 1,145 introduced bills, with 3,468 unintroduced bills remaining. Don’t worry. We’ll never see over 3,400 bills introduced in a week. It’s physically impossible—they were moving FAST last week, and we “only” saw about 260. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try like ehycheeedoublehockeysticks! (You totally sounded that out. I knew I liked you.)

Not-so-great Expectations

Be expecting the mad dash to continue into the late hours of Friday’s deadline. In past transmittal marathons we’ve seen bills scheduled on-the-fly with little-to-no notice, 1 to 2-minute time-limited public comment, multiple daily floor-length Floor Session agendas, and things both passing and dying without the fairest of proceedings…unfortunately, life isn’t always fair in Legislative Land.

Next week brings about two of THE MOST IMPORTANT dates on the Legislative Calendar (next to Sine Die, of course):

  1. March 3 (next Friday):  Transmittal of General Bills and Last day to request Appropriation Bills (LD 45 – Halfway Point)
  2. March 4-8:  Transmittal Break (i.e. 5 Real World Days of Pure Heaven)

Next week will be much like this week. In the beginning, you’ll still find lobbyists hiding in dark corners, clutching their double-walled, vacuum-sealed coffee mugs, murmuring about one of their primary bills that just met a swift and merciless end. But the week will progress and the light at the end of the legislation-lined tunnel will start to lift folks out of the shadows.

How?
Next Friday, is the official transmittal deadline.

What does this mean?
All General Bills (the bulk of legislation introduced—bills without money attached) must pass through their respective Chambers and transmit to the other side.

Those that don’t?
They’re dead. But the death of nearly half the bills that previously needed tracking isn’t the golden part.

What is?
It’s the AFTERWARDS. It’s the calm after the storm.  The quiet in the halls. The walking outside and seeing the daylight. The de-caffeination process (not fun, but necessary) leading to the sleep. The reconnecting with the loved ones. It’s the eating of a home-cooked meal. The cutting of the hair.  The cleaning out of the workbag…And for some, the taking down of the Christmas Tree…

It’s a merry and joyous time—a truly glorious gift to all those involved…It’s a day on which I very much look forward to wishing everyone “Happy Transmittal” (probably from beside my large green twinkly tree…don’t judge me).

PS – 54 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