Wonky Word Wednesday: Sine Die

In February, I talked about one of my favorite legislative words, transmittal, which is the halfway point of the legislative session.

As important as the Legislature is to Montana, at this point in the session, anyone who is involved is tired. Whether you are a legislator, a lobbyist, an activist, or legislative staff, the session is hard. The hours are long, the debate can be tough to hear, and compromises must be made. So today we talk about what nearly everyone’s favorite legislative word is: sine die.

At the end of each legislative day, the House and Senate adjourn until the next day. So the majority leader will say, “Mr. Speaker, I move the House adjourn until the 76th Legislative Day.” (Or something like that.) However, when it is all said and done, and presumably they pass HB2, the state budget, the Legislature adjourns sine die. In Latin, it means “without day,” so adjournment sine die means, “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing.”

To adjourn sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. It marks the end of the Legislative Session. Every bill that has not passed through both houses successfully dies with no opportunity for resurrection.

It is assumed after sine die, that the Legislature will not meet again as an entire body (there are interim committees and meetings) until the next scheduled legislative session. In Montana that means, the first Monday in January, 2017. However, the legislature can call itself back into a special session, or the Governor can call the legislature back into special session if there is business left undone, or if there is a state emergency.

We are not sure exactly when the 64th Legislative Session will end. According to Montana law, the Legislature has 90 working days to conduct its business, however they can finish early.

After the Legislature adjourns sine die, we will take some time to evaluate what went well, missed opportunities, and what MBPC will be working on in advance of next session. We will publish an analysis of issues dealing with the state budget, tax fairness, Indian Country, and many investments in Montana that were and were not approved this session. Stay tuned.

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