HELENA, Mont. - After four months of debates, bills, new laws and politics, the 2021 legislative session ended Thursday in Helena.
There were many fireworks on the last day of the session. It was a constant back-and-forth between the House and Senate this morning, as lawmakers made backdoor deals and debated on the last few bills.
On the Senate side, lawmakers debated over a handful of bills as well as a vote to confirm a judge for Montana’s first judicial district, which includes Helena, amidst an investigation into the judicial branch.
In spite of that investigation, and Republicans urging to vote against the confirmation, lawmakers voted 27-23 to confirm former Gov. Steve Bullock-appointed Judge Chris Abbott to the bench.
"I think we need to look at some of the very very important legislation that we passed this session,” Senator Tom McGillvray (R-Billings) said. “Legislation that's dear to our ideals for our constituents and will a judge of this nature be independent enough..."
On the House side, most of the big debates focused on the budget, government mandates, grizzly bears, and most notably, a marijuana bill that found its way back onto the house floor.
"I also don't agree with coming in at the last hour, doing whatever we can in any way, shape or form to get what we want through these bills,” Representative Sara Novak (D-Anaconda) said. “Here we are hanging up the entire end of the legislative session on the funding mechanisms for legalizing marijuana."
It was adopted by the House but actually rejected at the last minute by the Senate on a 28-22 vote. In total, over 1,300 bills were introduced, and over 300 have already been signed into law.
From here, the focus will shift the desk of the Governor as Greg Gianforte will spend the next few weeks signing or vetoing nearly 300 additional bills.