Lawmakers, Public Eye Changing Legislative Sessions Schedule

Montana considering switching to annual 45-day sessions

By Tristan Scott

HELENA — Montana lawmakers and members of the public weighed in Tuesday on whether the Legislature should switch to annual 45-day sessions rather than meeting every other year for 90 days, as they do now.

The 2019 Legislature passed a bill to study the idea of holding one session to address policy and another to set a two-year budget. Montana is one of four states without an annual legislative session.

Some lawmakers suggested shorter sessions might allow young people to serve in the Legislature, saying that leaving a job for 45 days every year might be easier than missing 90 days of work every other year, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

State Sen. John Esp, R-Big Timber, said meeting more often might help build working relationships among the lawmakers, allowing them to better serve the people of Montana.

Sen. Dee Brown, R-Hungry Horse, said she supports annual sessions but suggested limiting the number of bills that could be introduced each session.

“I think it’s time we make a change,” she said.

The session schedule is included in the Montana Constitution and voters would have to agree to the change, Eric Feaver, head of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, told the steering committee.

The committee did not take a vote after Tuesday’s hearing. The Legislative Council is to make a recommendation by Nov. 1 to be forwarded to the 2021 Legislature.

About 120 of Montana’s 150 lawmakers are meeting in Helena this week for training and committee meetings.

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