With the general bills transmittal date past the next step is the development of HB 2-basically your tax dollars to run the state of Montana government. I know some of this will be repetitive from other articles but hang with me, please.
The process begins with the appointment of sub-committee chairs and committee members. This is done mostly by the chair of appropriations and the make-up of the committees, for the most part, will follow the numbers of each political party in the House. We have 58 Republicans and 42 Democrats so the chair of the committee will be a Republican and the majority of the committee members will be R’s. It is a mixture of House and Senate members so we call it a joint sub-committee.
Our responsibility for the majority of the first half of the session is to hold hearings for the departments assigned to our sub-committee. These hearings are scheduled from 8-12 every day and are open to the public for their input during public testimony.
When the hearings are done we, as a committee, will go over the requests from the executive known as decision packages, or DPs. Each DP is considered and voted on by members of the committee. In my committee we had 6 members so a DP needed 4 positive votes to pass. It is during these discussions that we made changes from the executive asks.
When all the sub-committees are done with hearings and executive actions the committee chairs must present the work of the sub-committee to the approps committee as a whole. During this hearing the department heads do make a presentation on the final decisions of the sub-committee and the chair can respond to their comments. No vote is taken at that time.
This session it took two days to do all the presentations to approps so we came back earlier than the rest of the House members to get this done. After the hearings from the chairs, many amendments are taken to the staff by members of approps to get ready to present to the committee as a whole for consideration during executive action-which will be done on Monday, March 11th.
Much of the time, when there is need to do so, the chairs and department heads will meet and negotiate a reasonable compromise to present as amendments. In my committee, we had two such negotiating meetings and they went well for both sides.
We are now ready for executive action tomorrow and then get back to our daily work of hearings on bills. More on the process next week.