I have written about HB 2 before. As you probably know, HB 2 is the budget for the State of Montana and as such is a critical part of what we do in Appropriations. The process begins long before the Legislature come to Helena when the departments turn their requests into the administration for approval. The administration does its magic and sends it back to the department.
Next the Legislative Fiscal Division puts all the proposal into budget information binders with last biennium information and the new proposed budget. When the Legislature meets the sub committees are formed and we begin working on the budget for each department in our section. I chaired section C for the last two sessions. During the ensuing 30 plus days we go over the administrations proposed budget for the departments and decide what we propose as the appropriation they will actually have for the next biennium.
After the subcommittee has completed its work it goes to the whole Approps where we present it. It is at that time that amendments can be added to change parts of the budget. The whole Approps committee votes on the amendments and if they pass, they become part of the budget. If, and hopefully when, the sub sections are all heard the bill is put together and Approps votes again on the complete package. At this time, it becomes HB 2.
It takes a week for all the changes to be entered into the accounting system and HB 2 to be printed. The next step is to take the bill to the whole House for amendments and final approval. This will take two or three days to get through the process. Again, if and hopefully when, the bill is passed by the House it is sent to the Senate. This has to be done by the April 1st transmittal deadline or a mad scramble begins. Through a lot of hard work by the sub committees we passed HB 2 on Friday the 12th with time to spare.
I will have to present the section C part of HB 2 to the Senate Finance and Claims committee beginning in a couple of weeks. Again, it is subject to amendments and when it passes the committee it goes to the Senate floor. Representatives are not allowed to present on the Senate floor so my vice chair will present the section there.
If it passes the Senate unamended- which has about 0% chance of happening- it goes to the Governor where he can amend the bill or sign it as sent to him. If it does not pass the Senate unamended, it comes back to the House for approval of the amendments. If the House concurs with the amendments, it heads to the Governor. If not-which is very likely- it goes to a conference committee and back to both houses for agreement.
As you can tell, this is a complicated process and takes time to do properly. I would believe about 70 days is very common if a conference committee isn’t needed. Add a conference committee to the mix and you add at least 5 days.
It has been my honor to be deeply involved with this process for all my four sessions in the House and I must say I learn a lot each time I go through it. There is no substitute for experience.