HELENA – Montana lawmakers meet for just 90 days every two years so getting all the work done may look like a constant sprint, to the finish line — but the first day is mostly a relaxed affair.
MTN News Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison has a flavor of the opening day of the 66th legislative session in Helena.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton gaveled the session to order shortly after noon in the Montana House chambers.
“Members-elect of the House of Representatives of the 66th Legislature of the state of Montana – please come to order,” Stapleton said.
But it wasn’t just lawmakers on the floor. Family members often sit in as well — from young to old – to honor their loved one’s first day as the people’s representative.
The newly elected 100 representatives in the House also were sworn in, en masse, by Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice.
“Do solemnly swear … that I will support, protect and defend … the Constitution of the United States,” Rice said to the legislators.
The House then elected its top leader – the speaker. That honor went to Republican Greg Hertz, who was escorted to the rostrum by his son, former state Rep. Adam Hertz.
Next, it’s time for another tradition – informing the other branches of government that the House is open and ready for business.
On this day, Republican Sue Vinton and Democrat Kathy Kelker, both from Billings, were chosen to inform Governor Bullock that lawmakers are ready to roll.
It’s a short walk down to the second floor to see the governor – but, still, we thought we’d speed it up just a little.
“I’m here to let you know that the House of Representatives is ready and open for business,” Rep. Kelker said.
“Fantastic. Look forward to working with you both, and the whole House,” Gov. Bullock responded.
But enough with the pleasantries. It’s back to the floor of the House — and time to let the other members know that the governor is ready for business.
“Mr. Speaker, the select committee reports that the governor has been notified that the House of Representative is organized and ready for business,” rep. Vinton and Rep. Kelker said.
And with that, the business of politics at the session was off and running.
-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News