By Tim Leeds
Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, and Rep. Ray Peck, D-Havre, were called to attend a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Claims and the House Appropriations Committee in Helena today.
The meeting, which convenes at 3 p.m., was called to hold hearings and possible executive action on appropriations bills referred to the committees in preparation for the special session of the legislature that will convene on May 8.
The meeting today is for organizational purposes. The Legislative Fiscal Division (LFD) Budget Analysis report on the status of the general fund will also be presented. An LFD report on the status of the general fund, including projections of ending fund balances for the 2001 and 2003 bienniums, was prepared to be available for members of the joint committee.
Hearings will be held Thursday and Friday, with no executive action anticipated before Friday. May 4-6 have been scheduled as contingency dates if further meetings are necessary, although the joint committee is expected to conclude its pre-session work this week.
While Governor Marc Racicot specifically called for the special session specifically to deal with funding the economic development package legislators have been attempting to bring other issues in as well.
Peck said once the session begins there are liable to be a bunch of legislators floating up and down the halls trying to get the 76 signatures needed to add bills to the session's agenda.
Rep. John Mercer, the speaker of the house, has already gained enough signatures to bring several other issues of economic development and tax reduction to the special session, and several other legislators are also trying to bring in other issues, such as the Montana Power Company sale of electrical businesses, regulation of game farms in the state, reduction of taxes on homes and more.