Like Butter, Scraped Over Too Much Bread
Supposedly it’s Spring… Yet, remnant snow suggests it’s not the season of MLB Opening Day or Easter egg hunts in the backyard. Instead of sunshine or Spring showers, tomorrow’s forecast calls for more snow—at least in Billings. I’d argue the legislature is similarly out of sync. This time last legislative session, things were winding down. In week 13 of the 2021 session, there were 138 bill hearings. By contrast, last week saw over 350 bill hearings, continuing the increase in the pace of business over the previous weeks.
Part of the reason for the flurry of activity is the transmittal deadline for revenue and appropriations bills coming up tomorrow. Just like the initial deadline for general bills, those that haven’t made it from one body to the other—house to senate or vice versa—are generally considered dead. The other reason is the sheer number of bills introduced. Over 1,600 bills have been introduced this legislative session, 300 more than last session, and more than any session in the last 20 years.
Admittedly, the pace of this session has got me feeling worn out, and I’m not doing nearly the amount of work our legislators are! During our Legislative Videoconference last week, one of our local legislators provided some honest feedback, acknowledging that it’s difficult right now. Late nights, a massive amount of bills to keep track of, and emotions are expectedly running high. She went on to excitedly mention one of her bills which was headed to the governor’s desk for his signature…but couldn’t remember which bill it was.
I greatly appreciate her keeping it real, bringing to light the stress our legislators experience. I also think it begs the question, what is the appropriate balance between quality and quantity of legislation? Prior to our videoconference, I was in the hallway waiting for the room to open up as committee hearings were being conducted in the two rooms across from each other. Legislators hurriedly rushed across the hall, from one room to the other and back, voting on as many bills as possible. Because of the upcoming transmittal deadline, they needed to run committees concurrently with legislators hopping back and forth. If we weren’t discussing something as consequential as changes to Montana law, it would be comical to film the whole ordeal, speed up the playback, and overlay Yakety Sax. It’s too late this session, but in the interim the legislature should consider limiting the number of bills introduced. In the meantime, the Billings Chamber of Commerce sincerely thanks all of our legislators! We greatly appreciate all they do for our state, spending a considerable amount of time away from family, businesses, and home. Regardless any agreement or disagreement on policy issues, we remain thankful for their commitment to constituents and our state and we encourage our members to reach out and do the same.
Working for You
Senate Bill 269
Consumer protections in litigation financing
Sen. Greg Hertz (R)
This bill provides thoughtful reforms to protect consumers from potential predatory practices in third party litigation financing (TPLF) and increases transparency. TPLF is a relatively new and unregulated practice where hedge funds and other wealthy entities invest in the outcome of court cases. This bill shines a light on TPLF by requiring TPLFs to register, limiting interest rates charged to plaintiffs, requiring disclosure to all parties of TPLF involvement, and capping TPLF’s share of winnings from plaintiffs. The bill will be heard Tuesday in (H) Business and Labor Tuesday, April 4th.
House Bill 652
Revise UI law related to benefit duration
Rep. Steven Galloway (R)
With almost 60 co-sponsors, this bill revises the duration of unemployment benefits from 28 to 20 weeks. Currently, Montana has one of the longest unemployment benefit durations in the U.S. Our businesses face continual workforce shortage challenges, reflected in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Shortage Index designating Montana as one of the most severely impacted. A reasonable reduction in the length of unemployment benefits is likely to result in more unemployed people returning to the workforce and helping our businesses. This bill will be heard in (S) Business and Labor Tuesday, April 4th.
Noon – 1:00pm
Big Sky EDA
*April 13th* FINAL MEETING
Videoconference sessions will be held in the Liberal Arts Building, Room 208 at the MSU Billings campus, where individuals will have the opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, our local legislators. There is a limit of 25 people for each in-person session and a box lunch will be provided for those who RSVP. Come and hear from our local legislators about what is happening in Helena and give your feedback. Thanks to MSU Billings and our sponsors: Billings Association of REALTORS, Big Sky Economic Development, Downtown Billings Alliance, and the newly-certified LEED Gold, City of Billings.
Virtual Testimony Makes It Easy
- You will be able to select from the bills scheduled for the next 3 days.
- By 5PM the day before the hearing, you will be able to submit your written testimony, write a brief message, or request a Zoom link to testify in the bill hearing.
- Fill out the form with the pertinent details and submit. You will receive an email confirmation.
- You do not have to testify in order to submit written comments. Written comments received by the deadline will be distributed to all committee members. However, if you request a Zoom link, we request that you write a brief message in the event of technical difficulties so that your name will be entered into the record.
- If you wish to submit written testimony after the 5PM deadline, please call the Information Desk at (406) 444-4800 for assistance.
- Rules of decorum must be followed, and the Presiding Officer will call on you when it is your turn to speak. Follow the Zoom directions and raise your hand to let the Remote Committee Coordinator know when you want to speak. We will not assume that because you requested the Zoom link that you automatically want to testify. There may be limits placed on how many people are allowed to testify remotely on each bill.
Business Advocacy Sponsors
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Billings Chamber’s Business Advocacy Director, Dan Brooks with questions, comments, or just want to chat about the legislature.