I'm cooling my heels right now, which you tend to do a lot of up here in Helena. If I could have known in advance in what order the committee was going to consider the bills on its agenda, I could have slept in for as much as an extra hour. Maybe there is a way to find these things out ahead of time, but I doubt it. Everything is done on the fly here, particularly at this point in the session, a week from the transmittal deadline. Decisions are made moment by moment, with everyone furiously bending the ear of everyone else.
The transmittal deadline refers to the date by which non-revenue bills must be sent from the House to the Senate and vice versa. Bills that don't make it over the transom by then are dead. And when you've got as many bills as the Legislature is dealing with this year, it makes for a hectic week. That's partly why I'm here, to help with the crunch, though as I have said, my lack of understanding is deep and wide. Still, I've covered enough City Council meetings, enough gatherings of planning boards, county commissions, school boards, sewer boards, zoning commissions and what have you, that I can be thrown into a committee hearing with a fair prospect of emerging with a story that makes sense.
I haven't had the courage to tackle a floor session of the House or Senate yet. That takes some knowledge of persons and background, and I have to consult my handy legislative guide just to see who's who. Hell, first I have to find the chamber, which is still a hit-or-miss proposition after 48 hours here. You really would think it would be hard to hide a ballroom-size chamber containing 100 desks and an expansive second-floor gallery, but the architects mangaged to do it.
There is some consolation in constantly running into people I know. Moments ago, a young page from Billings walked by again---Bridget Shearer, a sophomore at Senior, I believe. I do I hope spelled at least her first or last name correctly. Wait! People are coming out of the committee room in great numbers. I don't think my bill could be up yet, but I'd better see...
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