Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Senate GOP lets Dems off the hook, House aid quashes rumors of early Sine Die

Minority Democrats and GOP leadership in the Senate have come to an agreement that apparently cancels seven subpoenas Senate President Jeff Essmann issued Saturday in the wake of Friday’s floor fracas.

Essmann, R-Billings, initiated an investigation into the matter to determine whether Sen. Shannon Augare, D-Browning, and Senate Democrats intentionally deceived the body when they attempted a call of the Senate motion on the floor.

Essmann ordered Augare, Sen. Larry Jent, D-Bozeman, Sen. John Sesso, D-Butte, and four other Senate Democrats to appear before him at noon today.

In an email to reporters this morning, Essmann’s spokesman, Brock Lowrance, said the subpoenas and the noon meeting have been canceled.

“The investigation into Friday’s events and the subpoenas that were issued will not be pursued,” Lowrance said. “Members of Republican and Democratic leadership have reached an agreement to resolve the matter.”

Essmann today on the Senate floor will read a letter signed by him and Sesso.

Essmann and  Sesso met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation surrounding Friday’s events. According to Lowrance, the meeting was “productive and candid” and the two leaders were able to reach a resolution that was reasonable to all parties involved.

According to the email, among the discussions was an agreement between Republican and Democratic leadership to work together on Sen. Debby Barrett’s SB 387, a bill that would reform operations and procedures within the Office of Political Practices.

The parties agreed to work on a bipartisan amendments during its consideration in the House.

Update: I just got this statement from Sen. Shannon Augare:

“I am pleased the Senate has reached this important agreement. We have a lot of work to do and we cannot let this distraction get in the way of finishing our one constitutional job, balancing the budget. My ethics and professional values remain intact and I will continue to provide a quality service to those who I represent in the Montana Senate.”

Former Rep. Wayne Stahl quashes rumors of early Sine Die in the House

Late Tuesday I started hearing rumors that former Rep. Wayne Stahl, R-Saco, was advocating to House leadership a plan to adjourn next week if the Senate doesn’t look like it could get its act together and pass a budget bill.

Stahl, who is serving as a policy advisor to House Speaker Mark Blasdel, dismissed that rumor this morning.

Stahl said some of the newer lawmakers recently have been asking him about various scenarios that could play out as the 63rd Legislature heads into the final stretch.

“I think I told someone that if the Senate didn’t get HB2 finished we’re going to have to go to a special session,” Stahl said.

Stahl this is the time of the legislative season where people begin speculating on outcomes, endgames and sine die scenarios, but he said he is not advocating for forcing a special session either by early sine die or any other method.

“The governor always seems to have more power in a special session,” Stahl said.

Stahl said he expects Senate leaders to move past last Friday’s outburst on the floor and get to work finishing up work on the budget.

“Sooner or later they’re going to pass it. When they get done with HB2 we’ll know a lot more,” Stahl said.

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