By Niki Zupanic ACLU of Montana Public Policy Director
Today is the start of the 2013 Montana Legislative Session, and while my tote bag is packed with bill lists, schedules, and rosters, the one thing that I wish I had at the start of every session is a crystal ball.
There were many frustrating days, and victories, at the Capitol last session. And with nearly 2,000 bill draft requests submitted so far, we already have about 50 bills on our watch list this year. Many measures are repeats from previous sessions, including attacks on reproductive freedom, anti-immigrant measures, and bills to curb voting rights.
But if there is one thing that we've learned in our decades advocating at the legislative session, it's that surprises wait around every corner. Who could have known all of the twists and turns that the 2011 session eventually took, with last-minute wrangling over a near-repeal of the medical marijuana act, multiple referenda placed on the ballot, and the vetoes of several unconstitutional bills?
The big question on my mind is how the legislature will handle open access issues. Last session, we fought back when some committees slashed time for testimony or gave scant notice when some bills would be heard.
Montanans can agree to disagree on the issues, but should never have to settle for being silenced or left out of the process altogether. We'll be working hard once again this session to fight back against legislation threatening civil liberties and to ensure that Montanans have an open, transparent, and accessible legislature.
We may not know everything that waits for us over the next four months, but we're ready to take on whatever comes our way!