Inside The Legislature

Rep. Tom Welch
Wednesday, December 21, 2022

In the Montana Legislature, we are tasked with only one thing by the Montana Constitution and that is, we are required to pass a balanced budget. The Montana Legislature only failed to do this once in modern history and thus were forced to come back in Special Session in order to get a balanced budget passed.

In addition, for every Session of the Legislature thousands of Bills are proposed/drafted with not all actually getting introduced. The Bills range in topic from those dealing with water, education, medical matters, guns, private rights, taxes, corrections to previously passed Bills and the list goes on. For the 2021 Legislative Session, just over 3000 Bill drafts were initiated with only about 1300 Bills actually being introduced. Of these 1300 introduced Bills less than 600 actually passed. For the 2023 Session, currently over 4000 Bill draft requests have been submitted while it is likely some number well under 2000 will actually be introduced. The source of these Bill draft requests largely come from Legislators, the Governor, the work of Interim Committees, State Agencies, and constituents thru a Legislator. Action on all introduced Bills must be taken in one form or another within the 90 working days that the Legislature is in session. Also, with few exceptions, all Bills dealing with funding and/or monies must originate/be introduced first in the House of Representatives rather than the Senate.

With the volume of Bill requests being made, I must acknowledge the outstanding staff that works in Legislative Services. These people work tirelessly year-round to not only prepare for the biennial Legislative sessions but also to assist Legislators with questions and needs that arise whether they involve, for example, the work of Interim committees or the needs of constituents. This staff includes attorneys, analysists, Bill drafters, secretaires, technology assistants and so on. These are dedicated State employees with whom our jobs as Legislators could not be accomplished.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading these brief glimpses inside the Legislature! I will wrap up this series next week with a look at my typical day while in Helena.