The Montana House of Representatives has wrapped up its work for the 68th Session, joining the Senate in adjourning.
The late Tuesday sine die vote came after a packed day in the House, with floor sessions starting at 8:00 a.m. At 9:14 p.m. representatives voted 89 to 7 to adjourn for the session.
Earlier in the evening, the House concurred with Senate amendments to House Bill 2, Montana's primary budget bill for the next two years.
“House Bill 2, I think it does good work overall for this state,” said Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad. “It will serve us well over the next biennium.”
The Senate's surprising decision to adjourn Tuesday afternoon left the House needing to adjust.
“Things have changed slightly in the last couple of hours,” said Rep. Paul Green, R-Hardin.
The House needed to reconsider its actions on a series of significant bills, since they could no longer work out differences with the Senate in a conference committee.
“What we need to do is the bills that are within the House control, we'd have to keep them as they came over from the Senate,” said House Speaker Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell. “So that is the situation the House finds itself in tonight.”
After final votes on more than 50 bills the House still had under consideration, the House heard farewell speeches from 15 termed-out members, Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott, R-Helena, Majority Leader Rep. Sue Vinton, R-Billings and Regier. Finally, the motion to adjourn sine die came from Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls.
The Montana Legislature by law is required to complete their work in 90 working days. Tuesday marked the 87th day of the 68th session. May 2 was the latest in the calendar year the legislature has been in session since at least 1999, the earliest MTN could find records for.
Between both the House and the Senate, 1698 bills were introduced with more than 740 being passed.
Editor's Note: This is a developing story that will be updated.
Original Story 5:35 p.m. May 2, 2023 — The Montana Senate has adjourned for the 68th Session on a tight bipartisan vote, with most Senate Republican leadership voting against the motion.
The motion was brought by Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, with President Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, expressing concern that the House had yet to pass the State Budget. But as Sine Die, the vote to adjourn, is a nondebatable vote it went to the board for the body to decide.
The final vote saw 10 Republicans join all the Senate Democrats to pass the motion 26-24. Since the Senate is adjourned, the House will need to concur with or reject the Senate’s amendments to the main budget bill, House Bill 2. If they do not, a special session will need to be called to address the budget.
While disappointed with the vote, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, said he’s confident the House will be able to complete the work remaining for the legislature and is proud of the work his chamber has been able to accomplish.
“Oh, I think we had a great session. I mean, in terms of what we've been able to accomplish as Republicans have been tremendous. I mean, we have passed so many good bills. It's really been a successful session,” Fitzpatrick told MTN.
Flowers told MTN he felt Democrats were able, even with the Republican supermajority, were able to make an impact this session.
“Well, I think all things considered, we were able to exert influence on some of the key issues, and we did not get everything we wanted or anything close to it,” Flowers told MTN. “But I think we were able to steer on some issues and kill some bad bills. And obviously, a lot got through that we weren't happy about. But that is the nature of having 16 out of 50 in the Senate.”
The fate of several bills remains in question with the Senate adjourned, meaning only the House can take action on legislation.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated.