House Judiciary Committee hears, passes 13 bills in frantic session

HELENA — With the deadline to introduce new bills approaching, members of the House Judiciary Committee heard 20 bills and a poem Monday morning. By adjournment, they had endorsed 13 of the bills.

The poem was written by a group of lobbyists. Committee Vice Chair Amy Regier read it after the committee had already heard three bills. 

“We’ve never seen a feat like this in all our lobbying years. To be among this group today would bring us all to tears,” the poem read.

With that, and another 17 bills left, the lawmakers returned to the agenda. 

Many of the bills were short, such as House Bill 509, which would increase the fine for robocalls from $2,500 to $10,000. That hearing took a mere 7 minutes before the bill passed out of committee unanimously. 

Others, like House Bill 459 drew long lines of proponents and opponents. The hearing for that bill lasted almost a full hour.

HB 459 would require Child Protective Services workers who interact with children to hold a license distributed under the Board of Behavioral Health. That bill also passed out of committee immediately after its hearing on a 14-5 vote. 

The Committee heard 13 bills over 5 hours, with 7 bills left after the floor session. 

The deluge of bills came ahead of “transmittal,” the last day for bills in the House to move to the Senate, or vice versa. That deadline is on the 45th day of the 90-day session, which is Wednesday, March 3. 

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.