Lawmakers rush to make bill transmittal deadline

TVMT's Stephen Maly (right) works in the organization's office in the Capitol basement

TVMT’s Stephen Maly works in the organization’s office in the Capitol basement

(Click the above player for an explanation of the transmittal deadline with the help of Schoolhouse Rock.)

Activity at the state Capitol this week is ramping up as lawmakers work to get their bills passed over to the other legislative chamber before the transmittal deadline on Thursday.

The deadline falls on the legislature’s half-way point, day 45. By close of business on Thursday, all general, non-money bills which started in the House have to make it over to the Senate and vice-versa–or they effectively die.
“Just like all human behavior, deadlines help prompt getting some action done,” says Legislative Services Executive Director Susan Byorth Fox.
Stephen Maly runs TVMT in the basement of the Capitol Building. The service provides unedited coverage of legislative proceedings. It’s sometimes called Montana’s C-SPAN. The TVMT office is a long, narrow windowless room where people monitor a panel of screens and carefully work TV mixing boards. Maly calls it ‘the submarine’ and he’s been broadcasting the legislature since 2001.
He says the transmittal deadline definitely creates a lot of anxiety as so many bills stack up, running into a bottleneck. There’re only so many hours in a day available for committees to work on bills, “then every debate on every bill tends to be foreshortened, in which case a lot of good information may not make its way into public view and decisions may be made with very little discussion.”

These last few days before transmittal end up consisting of long floor sessions where lawmakers vote on bill after bill after bill. In his experience, Maly says politics comes roaring into view.

“A lot of the politeness and congeniality that is natural in the first part of the session sort of wares down to what do we really care about what do we really stand for,” he said.

We’ll find out if that trend continues in the coming days. Again, the Thursday transmittal deadline is for general, non-money bills. Spending and revenue bills have a later transmittal deadline.

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