In less than a month the 2019 Montana Legislature will start making laws. Republicans hold a 58-42 majority in the state house (although there are two recounts underway where Republicans are ahead by slim margins: in Billings’ HD 51 and Great Falls’ HD 22). The GOP holds a 30-20 majority in the Senate.
Democrats’ pick up of one seat in the house and two in the senate is an incremental change in the right, make that the correct, direction. But it also means participation by Montana citizens is of the utmost importance to move forward-thinking legislation or at the very least, blocking dangerous, regressive bills.
That was the message from Andrea Olsen, a third term representative from Missoula: participation is key. Olsen gave a recent primer to Western Montana activists hosted by Montana Progressive Democrats.
First, go to the legislative website: https://leg.mt.gov/. There’s a ton of useful information there. One of the handiest links is a page for tracking bills. You can make a preference list of legislation you want to follow by setting up an account here: https://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/law0203w$.startup?P_SESS=20191. This will give you the status of bills being drafted, in committee, on the floor, etc.
To advance the bills that are important to you, here are some other tips:
After you’e navigated the leg.mt.gov website, there are numerous ways to contact legislators with email, texts, phone calls and personal visits (the latter, if possible, being the best).
Here’s a contact list for legislators: https://leg.mt.gov/legislator-information/.
Coordinate with like-minded organizations on bills of interest. Whether it’s health care, campaign finance reform, education, energy and the environment, human rights … there are bound to be other people and organizations working in these areas, and some may even have staffs and lobbyists to help coordinate activities.
Fifty-one bills have already been introduced and a whopping 2836 bills are waiting in the wings to see if they pass legal muster, get drafted and make it to committee.
So, get involved and be prepared for a wild 90-day ride.