After Election Wins, Republicans Push Rule Change

Controversial proposal would allow committee chairs not to schedule hearings for bills

By IRIS SAMUELS Associated Press/Report for America

HELENA — Montana lawmakers are meeting Tuesday to consider a controversial proposal that would allow committee chairs – all Republicans – not to schedule hearings for bills.

That would open the door for Republicans to kill legislation without a vote.

Republicans will control both the House and Senate as the Legislature convenes Jan. 4. The party consolidated its hold over Montana politics with a sweep of statewide races in the November election that expanded its majority in the Legislature wrested the governor’s seat from Democrats for the first time in 16 years.

Current House rules require every bill be scheduled for a committee hearing. Republicans in the House Rules Committee have argued the change would streamline the legislative process.

Democrats who oppose the change say it would make the legislative process less transparent and limit public comment on bills that do not get a hearing.

Under the GOP proposal, a majority of committee members could still force a hearing on a bill. But since all committees are comprised of Republican majorities, that would be a steep hill to climb for Democrats hoping to advance any bill to a hearing.

The House Rules Committee voted to advance the rule change earlier this month and is scheduled to make a final decision Tuesday. The change won’t take effect unless it’s adopted in January by the full House.

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