HELENA, Mont. - Heated debates on controversial bills took center stage Wednesday at the Capitol.
The clock is ticking as Montana lawmakers are approaching another bill transmittal deadline Thursday.
It was political theatre at its finest Wednesday, and it was veteran lawmakers leading the charge. Some of those frustrations came to a head, as lawmakers heard bills about the media, mental health, campaign finance reform, and vaccination status.
The most passionate hearing this morning took place during a debate on a bill that would require media outlets to report on the outcomes of court cases. One veteran lawmaker even pointed at our camera during his argument for the bill.
"What this bill is about is when somebody in the press prints something that's false in order to put a hand or foot on the scale to affect a political outcome," Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell) said.
Republicans had passionate testimony, but one Democrat had some strong words to say in her rebuttal.
"So this is perhaps one of the worst bills we have seen this session, and that's saying a lot,” Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (D-Helena) said. “The job of a reporter is to discern your world of truth from what is, what is factual."
After all of that bluster and debate, the bill ultimately failed on a 52-48 vote. In the meantime, lawmakers also passed a bill that would prohibit the use of vaccine immunity passports, as well as passing a bill that requires political candidates to report contributions from political committees if they are based in Montana.
Now that deadline that we mentioned earlier bills focused on money and the Montana budget need to be heard on the House or Senate floor by Thursday, or they will die in the legislative process. So that means tomorrow's focus will be on the higher chamber, as the Senate will spend much of the day voting on the budget for the next two years.