Stand Up, Speak Up, Show Up
Montana’s legislative session begins on Monday, January 7. Over 3000 pieces of legislation may be drafted and introduced, which means a whole lot happens - and quickly - in the 90 days that the legislature meets. As a resident, voter, and taxpayer in Montana, you can be an active participant in the legislative process. Learn how the legislative process works and how you can be most effective in influencing it.
A legislator may want to create a new law, amend an existing law, or repeal a law. The idea to do so may come from the legislator himself, a constituent, a governmental agency, or perhaps a private group. Regardless of the origination, certain steps must be followed.
Each bill goes through a drafting process wherein it is assigned a draft number and professionals write the bill in the appropriate legalese necessary for it to be introduced. Once the bill language is finalized, the draft is assigned an actual bill number. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives will carry a HB designation, e.g. HB123. A bill introduced in the Senate will carry a SB designation, e.g. SB123.
When a bill is introduced in either chamber it is called First Reading.
Each bill introduced is assigned to a committee. There are 13 committees for each chamber, three on-call committees for each chamber, and six joint committees.
Once in committee, the bill is given a public hearing date and the committee deliberates on the bill. Anyone can testify before a committee. When a committee takes action on a bill it may: pass the bill out of committee as received; amend and pass the bill out of committee; table the bill for action at a later time; kill the bill.
If a bill passes out of committee, it goes back to the appropriate chamber for Second Reading where the full body debates the bill. The bill can also be amended at this time. A vote is eventually taken and if a majority votes YEA, the bill is scheduled for Third Reading. There is no more debate or amending at Third Reading, just a YEA or NAY vote.
Bills that pass Third Reading are transmitted to the other chamber where the entire process described above is repeated. If the second chamber makes any amendments to the bill, it goes back to the originating chamber for acceptance of the changes. If the originating chamber does not accept the changes, a conference committee of members from both chambers negotiate changes that are acceptable to both. Both chambers then vote on the bill negotiated by the conference committee.
Any bill that has made it through committee, Second Reading, Third Reading, conference committee, and a final vote is then transmitted to the Governor for signature, or veto.
The quickest way to see where a piece of legislation is in the process is through this link. The page is self-explanatory, easy to navigate, and is the launching site for more advanced search options. For a complete tutorial, click here.
Communicating with Legislators
Multiple platforms are available for communicating with legislators. The top rules for communicating are KEEP IT SHORT and BE POLITE. No matter how passionate you are about a piece of legislation, always be respectful and polite. Never use profanity or threatening language in your communications. PLEASE and THANK YOU still go a long way. Helpful tips can be found here.
On line messaging portal (available when legislature convenes)
7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Mon - Fri
8:00 a.m. - adjournment on Sat
Stand Up, Speak Up, Show Up. Be the change, make the difference.
Paid for by: Montanans for Limited Government
Kathy Kay, Treasurer
PO Box 1154
Lolo, MT 59847