HELENA — Members of the Montana House adopted a new operating rule Thursday that will give some bills a better chance of being heard.
Democratic House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter introduced the amended rule that was approved by an 86-12 vote.
It would allow lawmakers to pull certain bills languishing in committee to the House floor with a simple majority vote of House members. Republicans and Democrats will each have six opportunities during the session to make use of the rule.
Hunter called the change fair for both sides.
The change means it’s possible that a bill not favored by Republicans who hold the majority in the House, such as Medicaid expansion, would need only 51 votes to be brought to the floor. Previously it took a supermajority of 60 votes for the bill to reach the floor.
Republican Rep. Jeff Essmann of Billings said overall this year’s rules are similar to those that have been in effect for 25 years.
The House Rules Committee also did away with a proposed rule that would have given the House speaker more power over the fate of bills.
The change would have called for a super-majority vote to overrule the speaker’s decisions to send bills to the Appropriations Committee instead of a simple majority vote.
Because the committee is chosen by the speaker, the tactic is sometimes used to indefinitely stall a bill a speaker doesn’t like.