63rd Session Sworn In At Capital In Helena
As I made my way through the halls of the Capital Building today I noticed there was a lot of positive vibes floating around. Lots of smiles, and chatter.
I watched the swearing in of elected officials on the front steps. Governor Steve Bullock and Lt Governor John Walsh as well as Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and State Auditor Monica Lindeen - all Democrats - were being sworn in for second terms. Republican Attorney General Tim Fox was taking office, too.
I apologize for my fuzzy picture of the Governor and Lt Governor on this post but the newly sworn in Governor told me he plans to improve relationships with Republican legislative leaders taking office today and to start work on the his budget proposal. Bullock promised to work with all lawmakers "regardless of the partisan labels attached to your names."
I was a little bummed that the Congress and Senate were sworn it at the same time..I chose to watch the swearing in of the new Senators, I sat behind Candace, Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich's wife, who was all smiles during the ceremony. The Montana Senate voted Republican Sen. Jeff Essmann of Billings as its president. Essmann says the 63rd Legislature must use tax money efficiently, debate relevant issues and build a relationship with Bullock based on trust and respect. Essmann says they will spend the 90 days focusing on bills which encourage natural resource development. He says he is urging his caucus to focus on bills which have broad application to all Montanans.
House Republicans and Democrats elected new House Speaker Mark Blasdel of Somers without opposition. Blasdel promised to respect different viewpoints and encouraged fellow lawmakers "to make this session more about work, and less about politics."
Republicans control both chambers. But with a 61 - 39 majority in the House, and a 29 -21 majority in the Senate, Democrats will likely be relying on Democratic Governor Steve Bullock to help provide balance.