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Senate Leaders Reach Agreement to Work on Reform of Montana’s Office of Political Practices

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Photo courtesy of jimmywayne/Flickr

Along with an official change of Senate policy announced today, April 10, comes word that republican and democrat Senate leaders will cooperate on key legislation after Friday’s Senate disruption.

News was also released that there would be no investigations or subpoenas over last Friday’s fracas.

“Over the last couple days President Essman and Minority leader Sesso have met to discuss the situations surround Friday’s events,” said Office of Senate President Spokesman Brock Lowrance. “It was a productive and candid conversation and they were able to reach a resolution that was acceptable to all parties involved. The short answer is that the investigation into Friday’s events and subpenas that were issued are not going to be pursued.”

“The primary concern and the one that I agreed to work with the president on was how we select the commissioner of political practices,” said Minority Leader Sesso who also emphasized that legislation ranging from the budget to the public employee pay bill were also discussed in negotiations.

Senate Bill 387 is the key piece of legislation pertaining to the office of political practices and the one that could radically change the way that office is structured. There is a lot of talk about amending SB 387 to make it more palatable for democrats, but so far no specific amendments have been created.

Currently, although the Senate provides a list of political practices candidates, the Governor can fill the position with whomever he chooses. This has led many to accuse the office of political practices of partisanship.

“I would like to try to seek a more fundamental change,” said Sesso, explaining the type of reform he would like to see. “Maybe go from one commissioner of political practices to a commission with a number of commissioners.”

Cooperation on SB 387 will be something new. The bill squeaked out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 7 – 5 party line vote with democrats aligned against the bill. It also went through its final vote in the Senate on the same April 5 session in which democrats were protesting, leading to no democrat votes on the bill’s third hearing.

SB 387 has now been transmitted to the house, it will likely be amended and need to be confirmed again in the Senate.

Either way, Sesso says raucous events of the April 5 session are over.

“Now we have to move on,” said Sesso.” The old saying in Butte when you say how’s she goin’ the most common response is that ‘she’s gotta go.’ At some point you just have to move forward and, at this point, that’s what we’ve resolved to do.”

Jon Sesso:

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Brock Lowrance:

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