Brad Barker Column

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Just under two weeks remain until the start of the 68th Regular Session of the Montana Legislature on January 2nd, 2023. As of December 20th, 271 bills and resolutions have been introduced and 3,939 unintroduced bills are in draft. Most of the unintroduced bills are placeholders submitted prior to the December 5th unlimited bill draft deadline. Many of those will never move forward but remain available if they are needed to address issues not yet identified or fully conceived. For comparison, the 67th Session in 2021 passed 577 bills and 133 resolutions after introducing 1,313 bills with 2,054 bills remaining unintroduced. Importantly, bills cannot stray from the scope of their title.After working with the Legislative Services Division, other legislators, government agencies and advocacy groups to draft legislation, Legislative Services facilitates the draft and notifies the legislator sponsoring a bill that it is ready for pickup. During the session, the sponsor then has 48 hours to pickup the bill and drop it in the hopper with the Chief Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate as appropriate. The bill dies if that deadline is not met. Once dropped, the bill goes to the floor for first reading and is then referred to a committee. The committee can table it, amend it or vote to report back to the floor with a recommendation for approval or disapproval. If the bill is “tabled” without action, it can remain in committee until it officially dies with the end of the legislative session.A bill that is reported back the floor is scheduled for second reading. During second reading, each bill can be debated and amended. If the bill passes second reading, it proceeds to a third reading and a vote on final passage. If passed, the bill goes through the same process in the other chamber. If both chambers pass the exact version of the bill, it goes to the governor to sign into law, recommend amendments, veto or receive no action. If the governor does not act within 10 days, the bill becomes law. If each chamber passes different versions of the bill, it is referred to a conference committee with senators and representatives to agree to one version that then goes back before each chamber. The house and senate can overcome a veto if passed by a vote of two-thirds or more.Prior to and during the session, you can learn more about each bill on the 2023 Session Bill Lookup page under the Laws & Bills dropdown menu on the laws.leg.mt.gov website. During the session, you can also watch the committee hearings and floor debate by clicking on the Watch & Listen dropdown menu. Brad BarkerRepresentative ElectHouse District 58 (Carbon County) brad.barker@legmt.gov406-426-1034 

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