How the Public Can Monitor, Participate in the 2017 Legislature - news.mt.gov

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How the Public Can Monitor, Participate in the 2017 Legislature

Thursday, January 5, 2017/Categories: Legislative Branch, Montana.gov/Tags:

For immediate release
Jan. 6, 2017

Contact: Susan Byorth Fox, Director of Legislative Services, 406-444-3066
Sonia Gavin, Legislative Librarian, 406-444-4848

How the Public Can Monitor, Participate in the 2017 Legislature

The 65th regular session of the Montana legislature convenes in Helena on Monday, January 2, at noon. There are a variety of ways in which the public can monitor and participate in legislative proceedings.

Watch or Listen

Gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate floor sessions and selected committee hearings will be broadcast on cable television stations throughout the state through TVMT, a statewide government broadcasting service provided by the Montana Legislative Services Division through a contract with Helena Civic Television.

To find out if TVMT programming is available in your area:

  • Visit www.leg.mt.gov/tvmt;
  • Contact your cable or other video service provider (Charter customers can view TVMT on Channel 191 throughout the state); or
  • Call the Legislative Communications Office at (406) 444-3267.

In addition, floor sessions and committee hearings will be video and audio streamed through the legislative branch website at www.leg.mt.gov.

Floor sessions generally begin at 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. most Saturdays, while committee hearings usually begin at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.

Contact Your Legislator

Montana legislators are eager to hear from constituents about their positions on pending legislation. There are several ways you can contact legislators during session to express your views.

Beginning January 2, you can leave messages for legislators using an online form available at www.leg.mt.gov/message.

You can also call the Legislative Information Desk at (406) 444-4800. An operator will take your message, which will then be delivered to the legislators. When leaving a message, be prepared to provide the operator with:

  • your name and address
  • the name of the legislator(s) or committee for whom your message is intended
  • the number of the bill you wish to support or oppose
  • a brief explanation for your position on the bill

You may leave messages for as many as five legislators or one legislative committee at a time. The service is available while the Legislature is in session Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to adjournment.

The Legislative Information Desk does not accept anonymous messages or blanket messages to all legislators.

Additionally, you can write to legislators. Letters should be addressed as follows:

Senator (Name)
Montana Senate
PO Box 200500
Helena MT 59620-0500

or

Representative (Name)
Montana House of Representatives
PO Box 200400
Helena MT 59620-0400

If you aren't sure who your legislators are, contact your local elections office or visit the legislative website at www.leg.mt.gov and click on the “Legislators” link and then on "Find a Legislator". The “Find a Legislator” page includes additional details about contacting legislators

Track Bills and Find General Legislative Information

The legislative process relies on the participation of informed citizens. The Legislative Automated Workflow System, or LAWS, is a free online service that provides legislative information before, during, and after sessions. With it, you can find:

  • Complete text of legislative bills
  • Up-to-date status of bills
  • Committee hearing schedules
  • Agendas for committee hearings and floor sessions
  • House and Senate votes on bills

You can find a link to the LAWS website for the 2017 session on the legislative website at www.leg.mt.gov. There is a new link this session on the LAWS website’s main page to an instructional video library. The library contains a number of easy-to-follow videos that explain how to use the system.

The legislative website also contains an array of other information regarding the legislature and the legislative process. Additionally, you can also follow legislative activities through Facebook or Twitter. For details, visit the legislative website at www.leg.mt.gov.

Testify at Hearings

One of the most important opportunities to become involved in the debate over a bill is when it’s the subject of a hearing before a legislative committee. You can communicate personally with legislators at any time about any bill, but the committee hearing is the occasion when anyone may publicly approve, oppose, or suggest changes to a bill.

You can testify on any bill that concerns you. Each committee of the House and Senate is assigned to a specific meeting room in the Capitol. By rule, the time and place of committee hearings are scheduled at least three days in advance. Hearing schedules can be found as noted above through LAWS, or you can call the Legislative Information Desk at (406) 444-4800.

Occasionally, if a hearing is expected to attract a large crowd, it may be moved to a larger room. Such changes are noted on hearing schedules and notices are placed outside the regular meeting rooms. Changes are also posted on the legislative branch website as well as on the legislative Facebook page and Twitter account.

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