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As start of the 68th Legislative Session nears, Montana lawmakers discuss supermajority strategy

Legislative Session
Posted at 9:59 AM, Dec 27, 2022

BILLINGS — The 68th Montana Legislative Session starts next week and Republicans are going in with a big advantage in the form of a supermajority.

“At the end of the day what we do want to accomplish is making it work better for the totality of Montana," says Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, president of the Senate.

A whopping 4,316 bill drafts have been filed, ranging from tax reform to more controversial topics like abortion restriction and banning children from attending drag performances.

In passing any bills, the make-up of the legislature in 2023 matters a lot to both sides. In November, Republicans won 102 seats, 68 in the House and 34 in the Senate, the first supermajority seen in the Montana legislature in decades.

A key factor of what the supermajority could do is propose constitutional amendments.

“I think people need to understand that having a supermajority doesn’t mean you get to change the constitution, all it does is allows us to put a ballot initiative together, to put in on the ballot for people to vote for," Ellsworth said. "We need a 100 votes between the House and the Senate to put it on the ballot, we only have 102 Republicans so hopefully we can reach across the aisle on any of these issues if the come up.”

With 48 seats across the House and Senate, Democrats say they will keep their focus on legislation that can win Republican support.

“I think it’s clear that we can’t get anything done on our own," says Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, Senate Minority Leader. "We’re committed to building relationships as we have in the past, with our colleagues across the aisle, and we think that good ideas sell themselves and good ideas coming from minority senators as well as majority senators can find favor in the Senate, so we plan on bringing our priorities and good ideas to the Senate and we think with that we will be able to build support amongst our Republican colleagues.”

The legislative session runs for 90 working days every odd numbered year, starting at the beginning of January.