Montana Chief Justice Cancels Speech, Senators Say They Won’t Go

Chief Justice Mike McGrath had been scheduled to speak next week to a joint session of the House and Senate

By Associated Press

HELENA – The chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court canceled his State of the Judiciary speech traditionally given to lawmakers after Senate President Scott Sales sent a letter saying senators didn’t have time to attend.

Chief Justice Mike McGrath had been scheduled to speak Wednesday to a joint session of the House and Senate. McGrath said he canceled because he didn’t see the point of addressing the House if the Senate wasn’t going to show up.

“It’s unfortunate,” McGrath told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “I think it was an opportunity to foster communication and cooperation between the branches. I think it’s been a long-running tradition.”

Sales said lawmakers need to get their work done in a timely fashion, and they could better use their time working on bills.

“Because of potential major changes coming out of the upcoming Trump administration and Congress, it is imperative that we look for ways to save time in the event we need to return to Helena during the interim,” Sales wrote.

He sent similar letters to all upcoming state address speakers, including members of the Congressional delegation and the superintendent of public instruction.

Senators and Representatives will attend Gov. Steve Bullock’s State of the State address on Jan. 24.

House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, said he believes the speeches are an important tradition and that the House will honor the invitations. He did ask the speakers to limit their remarks to 20 minutes.

“I think it’s good for the legislators to hear from statewide elected officials to know what’s going on,” Knudsen said. “There’s a little pomp and circumstance and a little tradition that goes along behind them that I think are a good thing.”

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