News from the Executive Director

Interim Study Poll Results

Committee: Executive Director Updates
Author: Susan Byorth Fox
Posted on June 1, 2017

Image of field and the sunset in Montana

With the adjournment of the 65th Legislature, your legislative services staff shifts gears and starts planning for the interim. The first step in that process is a review of the interim study resolutions and study bills passed by the Legislature and the biennial study poll.

The 2017 Legislature directed by bill that only one additional study be conducted during the interim and requested 20 studies be assigned to interim committees by the Legislative Council. This was a significant shift compared to 2015, when the Legislature directed by bill that nine studies be conducted.

House Bill No. 661, the study bill passed in 2017, will be conducted by the Legislative Finance Committee, with two members from each of the Environmental Quality Council and the Economic Affairs Interim Committee. The Finance Committee is directed to study the long-term future of and possible efficiencies to be gained from state-supported labs on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

The Legislature adopted 20 joint study resolutions during the 65th Session. This compares to 15 study requests in 2015, 17 study requests in 2013, and 16 in 2011. In accordance with the requirements of 5-5-217, MCA, immediately following adjournment sine die, the Legislative Services Division prepares a list of the study requests adopted, distributes the list to legislators, and requests legislators rank the study requests in the order of importance that the legislator ascribes to them. The list and corresponding poll were mailed to legislators on Friday, April 28, 2017. The return deadline was Friday, May 12.

Out of a possible 150 responses, the division received 107 ballots for a response rate of 71%. Of the total, 102 of the 107 ballots were used to determine the rankings. The number of ballots returned is comparable to sessions past. Five ballots were returned after the deadline.

With the legislative ballots in hand, staff used the Borda method of selection, which awarded points based on the rankings in individual ballots.  Each top-ranked study -- rated #1 on an individual ballot -- received 20 points.  Each second-ranked study -- rated #2 on a ballot -- received 19 points, and so on, through the study that ranked 20th, which received 1 point.  A study that was not ranked on a ballot received zero points.

The top three studies according to the poll were: HJ 20, study transparency in health care pricing; SJ 27, study Montana State Fund and options for Workers’ Compensation; and HJ 17, study prescription drug pricing.

Legislative staff met to develop recommendations for the disposition or assignment of each study. Staff recommends that all 20 studies be assigned to various legislative committees, and that individual interim committees determine how much time be dedicated to each study. This information will be presented to the Legislative Council at their meeting on June 6, and the Council will be asked to make the final determination on committee assignments. The Legislative Council has the statutory authority to assign or not assign the studies in the ways the Council members believe is most appropriate.

Based on the Council’s final assignments, the interim committee staff will develop work plans allowing members to review the studies in conjunction with statutory duties, other topics of interest, available committee resources, including committee time and budget, and available staff resources.

Click here for the full poll results