Sunday, January 04, 2009

Inauguration Eve, January 4, 2009

Tomorrow at noon, I and my fellow representatives will be sworn in to office in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the Montana Capitol. I'm deeply honored to serve my second term, and I'll update the blog regularly to keep you informed of all the happenings at the legislative session.

I'm carrying quite a few bills this term, ranging from laws on gravel pits and state lands leases to changes to tax increment financing (TIF) districts for technological businesses, to civil (versus criminal) zoning penalties. I'll present my first bill of the session this Thursday; House Bill 63, to grant authority to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to revoke fur dealers' licenses for illegal activity.

The first few days of the session include some orientation and updates for legislators. After we're sworn in tomorrow, the House will adjourn for the day. On Tuesday, we'll have 'law school for legislators', which educates/updates senators and representatives on laws and statutes, Attorney General opinions, Supreme Court decisions, etc. There'll also be an overview on the state budget, and how program, agency, and statutory appropriations compare against projected state revenues.

Montana is one of just a few states that passes a balanced budget, which will hold us in good stead through this global economic downturn. (Some states, like California, are faced with billions of dollars in deficit.) Prudence will be the rule of this legislative session, and of all Montanans' actions for the foreseeable future. I'll do my level best, as always, to balance our state's and citizens' needs with our state resources, monetary and otherwise.

A new addition to my Helena experience is a smart car! In today's frosty Helena (it's about 8 degrees F), here's the smart car in front of the Capitol building, and close up. The smart gets 40-45 mpg and puts a small footprint on the earth: it's 5x8'. It cost me less than $10 to fill it up for the drive to Helena yesterday, and it's up-to-date for fewer emissions than many other cars.

Come to Helena if you can to observe the session! The legislature convenes January through April. You can watch legislative committee meetings and Senate and House floor action, too. TVMT broadcasts committee meetings and floor debate. In Bozeman, it's on channel 63 on Bresnan basic cable. You can access streaming video and audio from the state website, too, at mt.gov or leg.mt.gov. And of course, I'm pleased to provide whatever information I can; I'll give you my perspective on jpformontana often!

Happy New Year, everyone, and many thanks for the honor of representing all of you in Bozeman, Gallatin County, and the great State of Montana. Now, onward!