How do you know when the temperature in Helena will drop below zero? When it’s a regular legislative session or the wild idea of a test tube ‘mini’ session.
Montana’s 66th and 1/2 legislative session convened this week with little to no fan fair. The wee session is intended to provide training for current legislators and hold scheduled committee meetings at the same time. According to the Montana Legislature’s website the purpose is to bring legislators together to ‘cross pollinate’ which, quite honestly, sounds a little creepy. Meanwhile, the Montana tax payer wants to know what this is costing them and what the end result will be. Of course there’s plenty of speculation about that end result, or rather, lack thereof. The dinky session will produce no policy, no fiscal obligations and generate no revenue to the state. In fact, by the time they announce their tiny Sine Die, the most significant change will be to a more depleted state savings account.
So why this infinitesimal gathering? Most speculation points to the idea that there is motivation to move to an annual session rather than the current, constitutionally mandated, biannual session. Which of course then leads to even greater speculation of does the Montana constitution actually mean what it says? But as it looks today, one party is for and the other against. It shouldn’t take much work to figure out which is which. The Republican party see’s it as an opportunity to continue to meddle in state government and the running of the state. Of course, in the not so distant future they may hold the governor’s office so the point could be moot. Democrats oppose the idea because, well, it’s not their idea. Regardless of where you sink your boot politically you can look to see the even year session as a spring board into what has become a constant churn of campaigning for office.
But really, who actually gave birth to this notion? After all, most states currently have an annual session and in some it’s a constant churn so it’s really not cutting edge stuff. All fingers point to none other than Fred ‘Dr. Deregulation’ Thomas. Yes, the same Fred Thomas who made sure that Montanans pay plenty for their electricity and assured that little old ladies in Butte who relied on their Montana Power Company stock and pensions can enjoy a delicious bowl of Alpo given their reduced incomes. Thomas is also responsible, in part, for Montana’s term limits for legislators which some applaud and others despise. Of course one of the arguments in favor of an annual session is that legislators can get to know each other and form relationships, you know, like they used to before ol’ Fred’s term limits.
So beware Montana, if it comes out of Fred Thomas’s little idea incubator it’s going to cost you in the end. Then again, if you’re married to the likes of some of those legislators you might think this is a great idea to get them out of the house for a few months every year.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’
Could create more involvement from all legislators. But the truth is that there is the legislative body as a whole and then there are the legislators who make the ‘rules’ and then an even smaller group who make the deals to end the session.