Hello, from seat #27 on the House Floor at the State Capitol. Immediately, upon taking our Oath of Office on Monday, 7 January, we hit the deck running!
In addition to organizational meetings, my committees of Agriculture, Education and State Administration, of which I’m Vice-Chair have heard bills and met with key stake-holders. It’s been a non-stop, productive week!
Prior to the start of this session there was much discussion about the rules that govern legislative processes in the Montana House of Representatives. As a member of the Conservative Solutions Caucus, I was in favor of reforming the rules to reduce the influence of well-connected lobbyists and special interest groups because I believe that it is of paramount importance every legislator has an equal opportunity to support and defend the values and needs of their district. Rural districts on occasion do not share the same concerns with urban districts - just as western districts might differ considerably from eastern districts.
The good news is, the opposing factions within the majority caucus have set aside their differences and we have reached an agreement on the House rule reform proposal. Under the agreed upon conditions, the House rules will now more closely mirror those rules that have been in place in the Senate for more than 100 years. The composition of committees will no longer be at the sole discretion of the Speaker, individual members will have more influence on which committee a bill is assigned to, and numerous other safeguards have been instituted to protect against potential underhanded behavior. The blast motion, which was the source of the most acrimonious pre-session debate, has been revised to match the number of legislators in the majority caucus. This means that the number of votes necessary to successfully remove a bill from committee will be 58 for this session.
Reformation of the House rules has been long overdue, and I am proud of the agreement that allowed our caucus to unanimously support the required changes.