Special session will move quickly; here’s how to reach your legislators

Rep. Ken Holmlund, R-Miles City, arrived early at the Capitol Friday for the special session next week. He was reading documents at his desk in the House Chambers. In the background is the Charles M. Russell painting, “Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole.” (Chuck Johnson/Missoula Current)

HELENA – This will be the 33rd special legislative session in Montana history and the first called by Gov. Steve Bullock, who took office in 2013.

The last special session was a one-day gathering in September 2007, called by Gov. Brian Schweitzer to replenish the state’s wildland firefighting fund.  Among the tasks of next week’s session will be to restore money to the firefighting fund.

The agenda is limited by the call issued by the governor, but can be expanded if 76 of the 150 lawmakers concur. House and Senate Republicans obtained the needed signatures Friday to expand the upcoming session beyond Bullock’s agenda.

Special sessions in Montana operate at a much faster pace than do the regular 90-day legislative sessions, which occur every two years.

The House and Senate are expected to adopt rules to waive the usual requirement for a 24-hour interval between the debate-stage vote on a bill and the final vote.

In addition, Senate and House committees are scheduling joint hearings on bills to save time, instead of separate hearings in each house. Time for public testimony is often limited, and the public notice for hearings is often limited.

Montanans who want to follow the hearings and debates online can find the schedule listed under video and audio on the Legislature’s home page at www.leg.mt.gov. For information or to call a legislator or leave a message for a legislator, people may call 1-406-444-4800.

The operating cost for a special legislative session is $106,000 for the first day of the session and $58,000 for subsequent days, according to the Legislative Services Division.