HELENA — A rule to keep the Montana Legislature website from publishing legal notes flagging potentially unconstitutional bills cleared the Montana House Feb. 5 after a vote to strip the language from a broader rules package failed on largely partisan lines.
Legal notes are prepared by the Legislative Service Division in response to bills that raise potential conflicts with the state constitution or federal law. They’re currently posted along with bill text, fiscal notes and voting records on the Legislature’s LAWS website.
That’s likely to change, however, now that the Montana House has followed the Montana Senate’s lead in endorsing rules that say legislative staff can only publish legal notes at a bill sponsor’s request.
A push for keeping the legal notes on the legislative website, led by Rep. Tom Woods, D-Bozeman, failed on a 44-56 margin Feb. 5. All House Republicans voted against legal note publication except Neil Duram, R-Eureka, and Forrest Mandeville, R-Columbus.
Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network. Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.