Montana House Appropriations Chair Nancy Ballance Discusses Legislative ‘Tricks’
Novel legislative maneuvers rarely make headlines, they are difficult to explain and often don’t amount to much, but the tricks of the trade were on display at the Montana Legislature this year.
Montana House Appropriations Chair Nancy Balance was carefully eying a long list of bills on Friday, May 5, long after the session had ended. She says they decided to wait to the end of the session to vote on the bills to prevent Governor Steve Bullock from using his amendatory veto, like he did to try to resurrect the mail-in only ballot bill earlier in the session.
"More than 250 bills were held until the very last minute because the Governor, while we are in session, can do what is called an amendatory veto," said Ballance. "He can basically amend the entire bill to be something very different than what we intended. We held on to those because once we leave town he can't do that. It was a little bit tricky that way."
Balance said one legislative “trick” was performed right at the beginning of the session.
"When you come to the end of a fiscal year, any money that is left over is reverted back to the general fund," Ballance said. "At the start of the session, we asked for that money early which I don't think has ever been done before. We went out and collected money that we thought was not going to be spent. Some of those kinds of things were a bit tricky and different."
One of the most interesting new tricks has yet to be performed: the legislature built a series of triggers into the budget that are intended to fill in possible future budget shortfalls. The money would be pulled from the so-called “rainy day fund.”