Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Missoula
The 2021 Montana Legislature began its biennial session on January 4. To help our readers understand more about the legislature, we outlined it below by the numbers.
1 - Montana has 1 governor who can sign (approve) or veto (reject) the legislative bills the Montana legislature passes. On January 4, Greg Gianforte, a Republican from Bozeman, was sworn in as Montana’s new governor.
2 - There are 2 chambers in the Montana legislature; the House of Representatives and the Senate.
There are 2 primary political parties: Republican (R) and Democrat (D). In 2021 the Republican party has the majority of the representatives in the House and Senate and the Governor’s office.
2 - years - The Montana legislature generally meets once every 2 years.
House Bill 2 (HB2) is the main budget bill and determines how the government can spend money for 2 years. Budget bills must begin in the House of Representatives but must be approved by the Senate and signed by the Governor. Because budgeting is complex, HB2 is usually among the last bills the legislature passes.
3 - Every bill upon which the Montana legislature votes has to pass 3 readings in each chamber. The first reading introduces the bill and assigns it to a committee. Second reading takes place if the bill is passed from the committee with approval of the majority of the committee. Bills can be amended during second reading, and if the bill passes second reading with a majority of votes in favor, it goes to third reading. Third reading does not allow for amendment. Third reading is the final form of the bill that either succeeds or fails to be approved by a majority of the chamber.
4 - January 4 is the date the legislature begins its session. The representatives, senators, and state office holders the voters elected in November take their oaths of office and begin their work serving the people of Montana.
11 - There are 11 Native Americans elected to serve in the 2021 Montana legislature. This is about 7 percent of the Legislature. This is about the same as the percentage of Montanans who are Native American.
22 - There are 22 committees in the Montana House of Representatives, including 6 that are joint committees with the Senate. Each bill introduced in each chamber goes first to a committee for review, debate, and public comment
23 - There are 23 committees in the Montana Senate including 6 that are joint committees with the House.
50 - There are 50 Senators elected to the Montana Legislature for four-year terms, with half of them being elected every two years.
67 - This is the 67th session of the Montana legislature to meet since Montana became a state in 1889.
90 - The legislature can meet up to 90 days every 2 years. The legislature must pass a budget and complete all its work in this short period of time.
100 - There are 100 Representatives elected to the Montana House of Representatives every two years.
3,000 - Plus Over 3,000 bill requests have been submitted as of the start of the 2021 session. The only way a bill can be introduced into the Montana legislature is by request of a current Montana House or Senate member.
The work of the Legislature will be to review, combine, consider and vote on the bills that are introduced from these 3000 plus bill requests. In future columns, we will track how a bill becomes law and how you can tell your legislators what you think should be done on specific bills during the legislative process.
The League of Women Voters has been registering voters and providing non-partisan voting information for over 100 years. Membership is open to men and women, citizens and non-citizens over the age of 16. For more information about the Missoula League, go to our website: lwvmissoula.org