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Preparing for the 2021 Legislative Session

Conservation District Supervisors, Administrators, and Staff:

We are in the middle of summer, and the 2021 Session seems a long way off. But these things have a way of sneaking up on you. Given the pandemic, there are discussions about how the Legislature could “meet” if in person is too risky because of Covid-19. An electronic Session would be most difficult for all involved. I guess that we will just have to wait and see.  
In case you are interested in the timing, here’s a link to the proposed schedule for the 67th Legislature:
The Sessions seem to be getting more and more busy. The last Session there were 3,324 bill draft requests. That’s a lot of paper boats floating down the river. Only 500+ bills made it into law, but we have to keep an eye out all the time. See the link below for details.  This chart lists for regular legislative sessions the number of bill drafts requested by legislators, the number of bills and resolutions introduced, and the total number of bills enacted into law and resolutions adopted.  
In my previous time with you I think we usually had three or four “rivers” flowing towards each Session. The first river carried the Resolutions that you developed, debated, voted on, and adopted. The second river carried the projects and programs and bills and funding for our most connected agency – DNRC. The third river carried proposals related to Districts but not emanating from Districts. The fourth river was the most dangerous because we did not know how much water would be in it. It is the river of  the unknown draft legislation, sometimes powered by revenge and envy and retaliation. I saw that a couple of times in my time with you. For some reason it seems to happen sometimes when we win a 310 case at the Montana Supreme Court. Whatever happens, we have to be ready for what heads our way, just like you on your ranches and farms.
One of the most important actions we can take is for you, the constituents of all of the 150 members of the Montana State Legislature, to explain to them what we do and why we do it and how we do it. In normal Sessions somewhere between 30 – 50 members will be new to the Capitol, and everyone will want their attention. Once the election occurs, it’s difficult to meet with your Legislators unless you already have a good relationship with them, which normally makes them responsive to you. With a few months to go, we have a chance to make an impact. 
Many of you already know who will win the election in November for both your State Senator and State Representative. If that’s is the case, invite them to one of your board meetings before 3rd November. Start with a “Conservation Districts 101” course, especially for first time Legislators. I can ask DNRC for help preparing a one page handout for you. In addition, offer your assistance and thoughts on bills that address soil and water conservation, discuss current issues within their districts(which are sometimes different from your CD borders), and give an update on resolutions you may be sponsoring or have heard first-hand about. For those Conservation Districts with Legislators on key committees, there is a chance we will ask you to visit Helena during the Session to testify about certain bills. That person to person contact you’ve established is of great value. 
It’s a little more tricky if you do not know who will win the election. In that case more caution is needed, including a thorough discussion about the pros and cons of inviting both candidates, timing, etc. The MACD Legislative Committee will have this topic on their first agenda. Look for more guidance soon. 
It’s best for your Board Chair to telephone your candidate with an invite. It’s more personal and effective. If you need to send a letter invite, let me know and I’ll bang out your first draft. 
I’ll be monitoring the various pertinent Interim Committees as we move through the next six months. Here’s a link that provides more details about all the committees:
I’ll be sending you more information over the next 10-11 months. Some have told me that it’s too much. Others like the details. You make the choice.
I look forward to working with you again in the months ahead.
Jeffrey Tiberi
Government Relations Advisor
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