There’s never been any strong evidence that Montana suffers because we have a legislative session only once every two years. In fact, there is much to say that as far as having true representative government, we the people benefit.
There is no need for Montana legislators to run an experiment on having annual sessions, as they plan to do in January. This is an issue long- understood by everyone, which is why previous runs at annual sessions have failed.
One proposal is to split the 90-day biennial session into two annual 45-day sessions, with one to focus on policy issues and the other budget issues. What advantage could this possibly serve if the problem is not enough time to consider legislation, which is the most common complaint?
Sounds more like government-creep – an incremental step in the process of expanding into annual sessions. We are all well experienced with incrementalism as an effective method to advance government.
Estimates say that it will cost $33,697 to do the experimental session. In all honesty. it could cost Montana taxpayers a whole lot more than that in the end. In the long-run, annual sessions will cost Montana taxpayers, dearly. Let’s be honest, growing government is what annual sessions are really all about, and that only happens at ever greater taxpayer expense.
Coupled with term limits, biennial sessions discourage the phenomenon of career politicians — career politicians who are first and foremost dedicated to their careers, more so than representing their constituents.
Give me someone who has something else going on in their lives, please. I want to be represented by people who can walk away from political life, unscathed. Someone who doesn’t need to be a public office holder and who has something to return to in the private sector. Such a situation means they must have done something in their lives, and it means they can follow their conscientious, and are less susceptible to behind the scenes arm twistings.
Career politicians not only don’t understand the challenges in the real world, they usually do not even see the marvels of an unshackled private sector.
Our government was meant to be made up of representatives of everyday people doing every day jobs. The very term “representative” implies that those elected to the state legislature are to be reflective of the people they represent. Who in the private sector does a career politician represent?
Montanans have as representatives far more business people and individuals experienced in real-life because of its biennial sessions. Biennial sessions give them better footing to compete against lawyers, ambitious lobbyists, teachers and bureaucrats, who come with built-in motivations for more government and often serve while still being paid salaries at taxpayer expense.
Biennial sessions make it more feasible for business owners, retired people, and others with limited resources to bring their knowledge and wisdom and life experiences to the process of governing the state. There is greater opportunity for broader, more true, representation.
And, here’s another plus: career politicians, undoubtedly, find Montana a less desirable place to live because of the challenges to building a political career. They may leave or decide to never come – and that’s just fine.
Montana law allows for calling special sessions of the state legislature when it is perceived to be necessary by the members of the state legislature. It is interesting to note that most legislators have been resistant to doing so when the opportunity has arisen.
If the problem truly is that there isn’t enough time, during the legislature, to weigh the issues, or to wade through all the bills introduced, the best and most cost efficient answer is to limit the number of bills introduced, and to make sure that the research has been done and all ducks are in a row, before bills are presented. That would be more efficient on every front.
And, it’s not as though nothing happens during the legislative off-year. Time is spent gathering information, talking to constituents, pondering ideas and developing more sound strategies, and most of that can happen without the hype and hysteria of political gamesmanship and without divisive daily headlines.
And, what’s more, as it is, most Montanans know, personally, at least one state representative or other public office holder. That is a wonderful benefit in true grassroots representation. Such would be far less the case if they were always in Helena, and if their attention was focused on climbing the ladder more so than understanding problems for Montana citizens.
The idea of annual sessions is truly a solution looking for a problem.