Legislative Day 16, Friday, January 23, 2009

It's been a busy three weeks at the Montana Legislature. Some highlights:

On January 8, early in the session (Day 4!) I presented House Bill 155 to the House State Administration committee. The bill is a pro-privacy, anti-identity theft measure that requires state agencies to secure your personal information held in information technology systems (computers and servers). The bill passed second reading on the House floor this past Monday, Jan 19, and third reading the next day, which sends the bill on to the Senate for consideration! I'm really proud of this bill, and of the our state agency (the Department of Administration) for bringing it. I'm fortunate to have been asked to sponsor it.

On Tuesday, I presented a bill to the House Local Government committee on zoning violations, seeking civil remedy (instead of criminal charges) for zoning violations. It's a bill supported by the Montana Association of Counties, and in the hearing, had no opponents. I've been told that the committee will consider passing it out to the floor next week.

Now, there are some slices of life at the capitol, too:

It's tradition in this grand House chamber to have a sheepskin on one's chair. This year I'm sporting a white, black-tipped sheepskin. (Last year, I chose a black sheep. No comments from the Peanut Gallery, please.)

At an Inauguration Day party Tuesday evening, a fellow representative, Cheryl Steenson, complimented my most excellent fashion :) and said she'd like a little JP doll with extra outfits. I thanked her for thinking I merit my own action figure!

And last week, after the Chief of Law Enforcement and others at the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks saw a picture of me in a previous post wearing my most excellent pink Montana Game Wardens hat, the chief himself gave me a Montana Game Wardens pin. Five-point star in a circle, small Montana state seal in the center. NICE!

Interest groups come to the capitol with small gifts for legislators. My favorite was from the Montana Association of Churches the first week: a box of macaroni and cheese on every desk! Rep. Art Noonan was the recipient of a mac-and-cheese Jenga-type tower on his desk.

I'm glad to have a wonderful seatmate, Carolyn Pease-Lopez from Billings. She's the recipient of all my wisdom and humor, and I think I'm pretty funny. Tonight, she said I should include a message to you: Thanks, says Carolyn, to the voters of HD63 for sending me to Helena! She appreciates it very much! (I think she likes me most for the entertainment value. I'm also handy for legislative advice.)

My days are long, but the work is fantastic. I always say that the work of the legislature is wonderful, but the politics can be ugly. It's the work I love, and I work hard at it. I start each morning getting to the capitol around 6:30 for the first meeting at 7 a.m. Morning committees convene at 8 and go until noon. House floor action is at 1 p.m., then afternoon committees convene at 3 p.m. and go til 6 or 7, and then many of us go to evening gatherings of people who've come to the capital city to meet their legislators and testify on bills. It's a whirlwind, it's exhausting, but it's also the most worthwhile work; trying to improve our neighbors' and citizens' lives, and through them, our state. I am truly honored to serve.

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