Legislature debates change to lawmaking rules

By Shaylee Ragar
Community News Service
UM School of Journalism

The 66th Montana Legislature will kick off its second day with a House Rules Committee hearing to hammer out the rules that govern the lawmaking process.

In 2017, Republican leaders set rules that required a 60-vote majority for bills to be “blasted” from committee to the full House for debate. On Monday, the House of Representatives approved temporary rules that change that to a a 58-vote majority, at least until Friday.

Democrats, like House minority whip Kim Abbott of Helena, are hoping the committee will make that a simple majority, or 51 votes, after Friday.

“I think you’ll see things move in a smoother way when they have bipartisan support,” Abbott said.

The rule change has been controversial because it could alter the way big bills, like those dealing with Medicaid expansion or infrastructure, get moved through GOP-led committees. Some Republicans have said a simple majority to blast bills out of committee would create a flood of bills onto the House floor with fewer checks and balances.  

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