Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of Missoula
Montana has strong government transparency laws that require our legislators to conduct their business in the public eye. Montana’s “Open Meeting” laws requires that every government organization—from neighborhood councils to the legislature - hold meetings open to the public, notify the public when they are meeting and what they plan to discuss, and keep a record of all meetings that citizens can access. For the Montana Legislature this means all committee meetings and sessions of the House or Senate must be open to the public. The Legislature has two 21st century tools it uses to ensure transparency and help citizens tune in to its work: the Legislative website (https://www.leg.mt.gov) and the Montana Public Affairs Network (MPAV).
The Legislative Website (https://www.leg.mt.gov)
The Legislative website is well organized and easy to access. Using the website you can:
Contact legislators. If you aren’t sure who your legislator is, the LEGISLATOR LOOKUP feature allows you to search using a map or your address. You can email any legislator by clicking on the envelop icon next to their name.
Find bills. The BILL LOOKUP feature allows you to track the progress of all the bills introduced during the legislative session using Legislative Automated Workflow System (LAWS). We’ll tell you more about this system in our next column.
Check the legislative calendar under SESSION INFORMATION
Check the Hearing Schedule.
Sign up to testify remotely at a committee hearing or submit written testimony opposing or supporting a bill.
Watch a live stream of committees and general House and Senate sessions by clicking on the WATCH/LISTEN TO MEETINGS button.
Watching the Legislature
The live streaming feature on the website WATCH/LISTEN TO MEETINGS button is provided by the Montana Public Affairs Network (MPAV). MPAV provides non-partisan, beginning gavel to end of session coverage of the legislative session, including all committee meetings and full House and Senate sessions.
Click on the WATCH/LISTEN button and a menu drops down with the first option STREAMING SCHEDULE. Click on this option and a list of live sessions for the day appears in chronological order, with the name of the committee, time and date of the session. Find the committee meeting you want to view on the list. Both audio-only and video are available for most hearings and sessions. If the session is currently being broadcast, click the In Progress box to the far right of that committee’s name, and the live stream will appear on your screen. When the meeting ends, this box will change to Adjourned and you can view a recording of the meeting. Meetings scheduled for later dates and times are labeled Not Started.
By clicking on the date in the CALENDAR on the left of the screen, you can also watch recordings of past hearings and previous legislative sessions.
You may also watch selected legislative committee or House and Senate sessions on your regular TV. MPAN broadcasts 12 months a year on TV, and when the legislature is not in session, features Governor’s press conferences, interim legislative committee meetings and other statewide public affairs events.
This statewide Montana cable broadcast channel, produced in partnership with MontanaPBS, reaches thousands of Montana homes through the efforts of Montana broadcasters, cable and telecommunications providers. MPAN is seen in over 225 communities every day.
MPAN is Channel 191 in all Charter Spectrum markets and also on MontanaPBS’s over-the-air digital lineup on the .5 channel. Viewers can also engage with the MPAN services through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and on the web at www.leg.mt.gov/audio-video.
Here’s your chance to binge watch the Montana legislature!
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