HELENA — The Montana House and Senate are in the middle of the busy final days before the 67th Legislative Session reaches its halfway point. That means lawmakers are deciding whether more than 100 bills remain alive.
Wednesday is the transmittal deadline, when any bill that doesn’t appropriate money or impact state revenues has to pass through its first chamber or it will die.
Both the House and Senate held full-day floor sessions Monday. Their agendas included nearly 150 bills scheduled for debates and preliminary “second reading” votes. The Senate was set to consider 62 just in the afternoon and evening.
During Monday’s session, the House:
· Rejected House Bill 355, from Rep. Scot Kerns, R – Great Falls, 44-56. The bill would have made elections for Montana Supreme Court justices partisan, and came after the House voted down a bill that would have established partisan elections for district judges as well as the Supreme Court.
· Endorsed House Bill 356, from Rep. Dennis Lenz, R – Billings, 51-49. The bill would prohibit the state from accepting anonymous reports of child abuse or neglect.
· Endorsed House Bill 481, from Rep. Steve Gunderson, R – Libby, 67-33. The bill would create increased penalties for trespassing on or damaging a “critical infrastructure facility,” including a pipeline or other energy facility.
· Rejected House Bill 538, from Rep. Neil Duram, R – Eureka, 19-81. The bill would have eliminated daylight saving time in Montana.
· Endorsed House Bill 576, from Rep. Jerry Schillinger, R – Circle, 69-31. The bill would repeal Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires electrical utilities to get a certain percentage of their sales from renewable. The House also approved House Bill 475, from Rep. Derek Skees, R – Kalispell, which would include existing hydroelectric power and nuclear power in that standard.
· Rejected Senate Bill 89, from Sen. Keith Regier, R – Kalispell, 22-28. The bill would have prohibited public employers from deducting union dues from their employees’ paychecks. Senate Bill 228, from Sen. Greg Hertz, R – Polson, also failed, on a tied 25-25 vote. That bill would have made it easier for public employees to withdraw from their union.
· Rejected Senate Bill 122, from Regier, 22-28. The bill would have given the majority party more seats on interim committees. Currently those committees, which meet and discuss issues when the Legislature is not in session, have the same number of Democratic and Republican members.
· Endorsed Senate Bill 224, from Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R – Great Falls, 31-19. The bill would make a number of changes to campaign finance law, including raising from $35 to $50 the minimum amount at which a political donor must disclose their name and address.
· Endorsed Senate Bill 237, from Sen. Doug Kary, R – Billings, 31-19. The bill would remove requirements for community renewable energy projects from the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
· Endorsed Senate Bill 280, from Sen. Carl Glimm, R – Kila, 26-24. The bill would prohibit someone from changing the sex on their birth certificate unless they undergo gender transition surgery, reversing a 2017 rule from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
· Endorsed Senate Bill 315, from Sen. David Howard, R – Park City, 31-19. The bill would require health care providers to take action to keep alive an infant born alive after an abortion. A similar bill, House Bill 167, from Rep. Matt Regier, R – Kalispell, would submit the same proposal to voters as a referendum in 2022. The Senate amended SB 315 Monday to void HB 167 if both bills pass the Legislature.
· Endorsed Senate Joint Resolution 15, from Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R – Hamilton, 47-3. The resolution would approve the establishment of a Bitterroot Valley Community College District in Ravalli County, after voters backed the creation of the district last year.
The House adjourned for the day just before 6 p.m., set to return Tuesday for another day of second reading votes. The Senate worked late into the evening Monday, in hopes of completing their second reading.
While the rush of bills at this time is undeniable, it’s not unprecedented. So far, 1121 bills and resolutions have been introduced in the House and Senate. By this point in the 2005 session, that number was 1329.