Whether they know it or not, Montana citizens have the whole legislative process right at their fingertips, said Rep. Bob Wagner at a meeting in Ennis Monday night.
Wagner was speaking to a group of four people at the Ennis Fire Hall. The meeting was one of three meetings he’s holding around his district before the 2011 legislative session begins Jan. 3.
The goal of the meetings is to acquaint people with the legislature’s website and the process lawmakers go through during the session in making laws for the state.
Wagner’s first meeting was last week in Whitehall and had about 10 people in attendance, he said.
The meeting also gave people a chance to talk with their representative about the upcoming legislature and concerns they had with state issues.
“A lot of people have no idea how much information is available to them,” Wagner told the group.
On the legislature’s website people can see what bills are being proposed, what their status is and when hearings are scheduled. People can also listen to debates and hearings on bills. Video is also available for some hearings.
The website can be used as a tool to keep citizens informed and legislators accountable, Wagner said.
He also encouraged people to come to Helena and be a part of the legislative process. Citizens can speak at any public hearing they wish.
“If you’re Joe Citizen, they do everything in their power to let you have your say,” Wagner said.
He also encouraged people to stay in touch with him during the session, particularly on issues they were concerned about.
Wagner also discussed some of the bills he’s introducing this coming session, including a sound money bill he is resurrecting from last session and a bill to revise the state’s taxation laws to focus on consumption.
The taxation bill is still in the works, but essentially would eliminate state property and income tax and replace it with a tax on energy consumption, Wagner said.
This would be a more equitable tax than the progressive income tax the state currently has in place, he said. Under his plan, everyone would be taxed equally.
Wagner is also proposing a bill clarifying the coordination authority local governments have with the state and federal governments concerning projects impacting their communities. This coordination authority puts local governments on the same footing as state and federal governments when making decisions, Wagner said.
At the meeting, Wagner also asked folks to continue to get together in what he called legislative citizen advisory committees.
“I’m hoping to get a little broader insight to the thoughts of the people I represent,” he said.
Wagner’s hope is that these committees can meet periodically and discuss legislative issues and provide him some good feedback.
To contact Wagner about any legislative issue, email him at email@example.com. People can access the Montana Legislature’s website at leg.mt.gov.
Wagner’s next meeting will be Dec. 20 in Twin Bridges at 7 p.m. in the Montana Room at the school.