You’ve heard the expression, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
We know this is true. In the life of an idea becoming legislation, there are a few key people that you need to know in order to make your voice for agriculture most effective.
In last week’s column, we talked about the importance of using this time before the 2019 Montana Legislature goes into session to “prep the soil” and get to know your local elected officials. While it is important to have a relationship with your own legislators, they may not be on the committee you need to be chatting with. So, it’s time to expand your circle of influence.
Here’s why: bill drafts may be requested by any legislator. Once the bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee for its first hearing. If the bill passes its first committee, it gets sent to the floor of the respective house for debate and a vote. Once the bill has been passed by the committee and floor of the first House, it is transferred to the second House and the process starts all over again in that House’s committee.
In order for an idea to become law it has to make its way through both its pertinent House and Senate committees. This is where citizens can come to testify and have their voices heard on an issue.
So let’s cut to the chase. These are the people you need to know on the committees that are most likely to impact Montana agriculture:
Senate Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock: Sen. Brian Hoven is chair. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (406) 761-8533. Secondary phone: (406) 899-5000.
Senate Fish and Game: Sen. Jennifer Fielder is chair. Email: Sen.Jennifer.Fielder@mt.gov
Senate Natural Resources: Sen. Jeff Welborn is chair. Email: email@example.com. Phone: (406) 949-6070. Secondary Phone: (406) 899-5000.
Senate Taxation: Sen. Roger Webb is chair. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (406) 861-9322. Secondary phone: (406) 855-9154.
Senate Finance and Claims: Sen. Ryan Osmundson is chair. Email: email@example.com. Phone: (406) 949-3715. Secondary phone: (406) 374-2449.
House Appropriations: Rep. Nancy Ballance is chair. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (406) 363-8416.
House Agriculture: Rep. Ray Shaw is chair. Email: Ray.Shaw@mtleg.gov. Phone: (406) 842-5039.Secondary phone:(406) 596-5039
House Fish, Wildlife and Parks: Rep. Bob Brown is chair. Email: Bob.Brown@mtleg.gov Phone: (406) 827-9894. Secondary phone: (406) 242-0141.
House Natural Resources: Rep. Kerry White is chair. Email: email@example.com. Phone: (406) 587-3653.
House Taxation: Rep. Alan Redfield is chair. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone (406) 220-1247.
We suggest cutting this list of important names out and sticking it to your fridge, hanging it in your office or filing it near your phone book for quick and easy access. When you hear or read of an issue that you are passionate about or effected by, take five minutes to make a phone call to the appropriate committee chair.
It’s also valuable to check out the entire makeup of these committees. Some legislators may not have an agricultural background and would benefit from farmers or ranchers helping them understand the issues. Find a full listing of committee members here.
You can also follow committee hearings throughout the process and track hearing dates on the state legislative website.
The Senate and House leadership is also important to the success or failure of a piece of legislation. The Speaker of the House Greg Hertz and President of the Senate Scott Sales are responsible for scheduling when bills will be heard on the floor of their respective houses.