2019 Montana Legislative Session
Montana’s charitable nonprofits generate approximately $8.9B in income each year which is returned to communities through mission-driven work in every corner of the state. Nonprofits contribute, in essential ways, to Montana’s extraordinary quality of life by ensuring Montanans have access to healthcare, after school programs, college scholarships, senior housing, museums, food pantries, homeless shelters, affordable housing, trails, clean streams, and more. Hardworking nonprofits in Montana drive the economy, help keep government small, and are central to the state’s vitality and prosperity. That’s why Montana Nonprofit Association is dedicated to safeguarding and advancing the state’s nonprofit sector within the 2019 Montana State Legislative Session.
Additionally, it is our goal to equip nonprofits with the tools and resources needed to advocate for their missions and their work during the Session. Here you will find helpful means to engage your legislators and be part of the legislative process because you are your own best advocate.
Be informed of the latest Montana Legislative news as it relates to nonprofit organizations each week during MNA's Legislative Wrap-Up calls. We’ll look back at the events of the week and highlight coming activity. Each call will be scheduled for 30 minutes but we will only use the amount of time we need. Call in 406-318-5686 every Friday at 7:30 a.m., starting this week for your Legislative Wrap-Up. Or email [email protected] to be added to our list.
Missed a Wrap-Up? No worries. Read the weekly bill tracker and status update.
During the 90-day session, legislators from around the state spend nearly all of their time at the Capitol in Helena. The main job of legislators is to enact new laws or amend or repeal existing laws. They also:
- decide how much money to spend to operate state programs and services;
- decide how much to tax Montanans to support state programs and services;
- keep their constituents informed and help them access state programs and services;
- monitor the work of state executive agencies; and
- make sure the laws they pass are carried out as they intended.
For a detailed explanation, read this helpful Guide to the Montana Legislature.
Montana’s Legislature functions in a completely open atmosphere. After full consideration, and with comments and advice from the public, every vote by committee and by either house, must be a public vote. Citizens may communicate personally with legislators at any time about any bill, but the committee hearing is the occasion when an individual may publicly state approval or opposition or suggest changes to a bill. You may testify on any bill that concerns you. All committee hearings are open and are scheduled well in advance, usually at least 3 days ahead and often longer. The hearing allows you to speak your mind before the committee takes any action and before the bill is brought to the attention of each house for debate and final vote.
Learn more about Having Your Say.
Copies of bills are available, at a small charge, at the Bill Distribution Room (Room 74) in the basement of the Capitol. Because amendments may change the language of a bill at any of the stages of its life, be sure that you are referring to the latest version. Bills are also available electronically at no charge for viewing or download.
You may find out who represents you in the Montana Legislature and how to contact them several ways:
- By Address: View a mapfor which any Montana address can be entered to find legislator and district information.
- By Name: Find information on your legislator by Session year on the Legislator Roster.
- By District: If you know which legislative district you live in, you can identify your legislators by using the latest Montana Legislative District mapproduced by the State of Montana Natural Resource Information System.
- County Elections Office: Staff of your county election office can help you determine which legislative district you live in and who your representatives are. The Montana Secretary of State's Officeincludes contact information for county election offices on its website.
- Tips for Contacting Legislators
Each committee of the House and Senate is assigned to a meeting room in the Capitol. Occasionally, a hearing that is expected to attract a large crowd may be moved to a larger venue; such changes are noted on hearing schedules and notices are placed outside the regular meeting rooms. The time and place of every committee hearing is posted several days in advance on the boards reserved for that purpose in the legislative lobbies. In addition, computer terminals are placed in the legislative lobbies for the convenience of the public in obtaining accurate, up-to-the-minute information on the status of each introduced bill. You can also call or visit the Legislative Information Office, located in the 1st floor lobby in the Capitol, telephone (406)444-4800, or check hearing information on the state’s website. The state’s major newspapers also print the schedule of committee hearings each day of the session.
Committees aim to hear several bills at each meeting. The presiding officer will allot time for proponents and opponents of each measure and will reserve a period for questions from the committee members following testimony. Seating in committee rooms is limited, so plan to arrive a few minutes before starting time to ensure yourself a chair and to reduce diversions after the meeting opens. Sign the witness sheet for the committee record and indicate the number of the bill that you are interested in and whether you support or oppose it. The hearing opens with the bill’s sponsor explaining its purpose and the background of the legislation. Statements will then be requested from proponents, followed by opponents. When your turn to testify comes, address the presiding officer and committee members and identify yourself with your name, hometown, occupation, affiliation, or other information that will indicate your acquaintance with the subject. Be specific, confine your remarks to the subject at issue, and indicate clearly your reasons for supporting or opposing the bill.
The Legislative Fiscal Division (LFD) provides non-partisan budget and data analysis to the Montana Legislature so all lawmakers have objective, accurate, and relevant information to make state financial decisions. This information is also available to the public on the LFD website.
Nonprofits, even 501(c)(3) organizations, may legally lobby. Getting involved in the legislative process and having a say in policy discussions is not just an appropriate role for nonprofits; it is vital. If nonprofits are not speaking on behalf of their often-vulnerable communities, chances are nobody else is either.
Nonprofits may elect to take the expenditure test under IRS section 501(h) as an alternative method for measuring lobbying activity. Under the expenditure test, the extent of an organization’s lobbying activity will not jeopardize its tax-exempt status, provided its expenditures, related to such activity, do not normally exceed an amount specified in section 4911. This limit is generally based upon the size of the organization and may not exceed $1,000,000.
The Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Montana ensure every citizen the right to speak on every public issue and to be heard by officials at every level of government. If you plan to lobby, refer to the Commissioner of Political Practices website for a lobbying guide, registration information, and filing due dates.
There are many ways to build or improve your organization's capacity to advocate and engage in public policy. If you have a question about what you can and cannot do or need guidance on the policy process, visit MNA’s Public Policy Resource Center.