Senate Pushes Forward Annual Sessions Bill

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Senate is supporting a measure to have the Legislature meet annually for a total of 90 days over two years.

Senate Bill 348 was endorsed by a 37-13 vote. Since the change would be a constitutional amendment, it requires 100 votes from the Legislature.

The idea of annual sessions has come up a number of times in previous years. A similar House bill died in that body in 2007. And voters last rejected the idea in 1988.

Proponents say shorter annual sessions would allow more people to serve as legislators, and help new lawmakers become familiar with the process.

The current bill would have lawmakers meet one year to handle the budget, and then meet the following year to settle policy changes.

Republican Sen. Jeff Essmann of Billings is sponsoring the measure.