With the 2013 Legislature about to hit halfway and a major deadline hitting at the same time, two local groups are offering residents a chance to hear from, and question, their legislators.
The Havre Area Chamber of Commerce and Bear Paw Development Corp. are sponsoring a mid-session meeting with local lawmakers Thursday evening, the same day as the transmittal deadline for the Legislature.
Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Chamber, invited anyone interested to attend.
“We’re lucky in Montana to have easy access to our elected officials,” she said. “It’s great they’re willing to spend time with us during the transmittal break discussing what’s happening in Helena. We strongly urge area residents to take advantage of this opportunity and attend this meeting.”
Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw, said this is a good time to check with lawmakers.
“Bear Paw and the Havre Chamber are partnering to bring this legislative update to our area as an opportunity to dialogue with our elected members of the House and Senate, who work very hard during the 90-day legislative session to represent our interests in Helena,” he said. “This transmittal break is the halfway point of the Legislature, and an excellent time to hear from our local legislators about their priorities, as well as let them know about ours.”
The Legislature goes into recess Thursday after final votes on remaining bills, returning to session next Monday.
General bills passed by one house will be transmitted to the other after the Legislature goes into recess.
Any general bill, other than for appropriations, dies automatically if not passed by the transmittal deadline by the house in which it was introduced. March 28 is scheduled as the day for transmittal of appropriations bills.
Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, and Sen. Greg Jergeson told the Havre Daily News they plan to be at Thursday’s session, and Tuss said Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy also has indicated he would attend.
Reps. Wendy Warburton, R-Chinook, and Clarena Brockie, D-Harlem, had not told the Havre Daily or the session’s sponsors by the newspaper deadline this morning if they planned to attend.
Jergeson, when he emailed his reply to the Havre Daily, also made some comments on the session so far.
“Senate passage of (Senate Bill 175, the school funding bill introduced by Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad), was probably the high point of the first half,” Jergeson said. “That action by the Montana Senate did demonstrate that legislators could work across party lines to solve problems. If we emulate that model for the remainder of the session, the people of Montana will benefit.”
Jergeson also said he hopes the relatively cooperative tone of the session can continue past the transmittal break.
“Generally, the session has gone pretty well, though the first half of any session is only 20 percent of the potential struggle and work of any session,” he said. “The second half is always harder, but hopefully we will avoid the complete collapse of last session into hyper-partisanship.”
The meeting with legislators is scheduled to run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hospitality Room at Hill County Electric on U.S. Highway 2 west of Havre.