Montana Public Radio

Montana Lawmakers Speed Up Public Meetings As Deadline Approaches

Feb 22, 2021

Montana lawmakers are giving shorter notice for some public hearings as their work picks up speed and a deadline approaches for bills to pass through the chambers. The deadline is leading to marathon policy meetings.

State representatives on the House Judiciary Committee heard a whopping 20 bills on Monday. On a normal day they’d hear just a handful. It’s a sign that the 67th Legislature is fast approaching a deadline next week that requires general bills to advance from one chamber to the other. 

Speaker of the House Wylie Galt says the House could see as many as 200 bills introduced over the next week. 

"We’ll see what the rest of the week looks like if that’s how we’re starting."

The push to advance bills means some proposed policies are getting shorter hearings in order to pass the deadline. Some bills were scheduled for hearings this week with less than 24 hour notice. More advanced scheduling is generally needed for remote participation and outlined in legislative rules

Senate President Mark Blasdel said committee chairs will give consideration to people who want to testify remotely without signing up in advance. Blasdel said he expects senators to debate bills this week on the floor that would add new requirements for Medicaid recipients, restrict access to abortion and cut income and business taxes. 

Bills heard in House Judiciary Monday would broaden protections for government entities against COVID-19-related lawsuits, restrict local governments from regulating the carry of firearms in government buildings and put a limit on the state’s ability to suspend evictions during a state of emergency. 

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to see roughly 20 more bills during Tuesday’s meeting.