By Donya Parrish, MCU VP – Risk Management
If any of you are familiar with the movie The Help, you might know the reference in the title. (If not, I highly recommend the movie!) Last week, I had the opportunity to watch several hours of the Montana legislative floor sessions. Every day in the news, there are stories at the state and national level that might lead you to believe a legislative chamber is an us vs them environment and they do nothing but bicker about each party’s priorities. What I saw was, pleasantly, the opposite. Let me explain.
By the time a bill makes it to the floor, there have often been hours of work done on it. That could include research, conversations with stakeholders, committee hearings, and even changes made to accommodate those who have concerns with some of its provisions. The bill sponsor is generally well-versed in the legislation’s language, impact, history of the issue, and reason for its need, and they speak passionately about all of those to urge fellow legislators to support its passage. While some legislators tend to run bills that relate to their career, business, or area of expertise, many do not, and they learn as they go. It is impressive how smart these citizen legislators are on a wide swath of topics.
Much of the process of a floor session is done by rules and follows a close decorum that helps keep a level of respect and professionalism to the process. There were times a mistake was made, a legislator erred in how they tried to do something, or a step was forgotten. In those cases, they were gently nudged back to the correct protocol. Here is where I saw humility, grace, and kindness being offered. Legislators are doing work across party lines to resolve issues that have impacted their constituents or will affect their communities. It was clear that there are friendships and collaborative working relationships going on that we don’t read about in the media.
Having a legislative session only every other year lends more urgency to the bills being heard. If a problem needs fixed, it is a long wait to try again if the current effort fails. With the current budget surplus, there are some options available that have not been there in other sessions. My takeaway was that many of these issues impact the most vulnerable in our communities – youth, elderly, disabled, hard-working – many of the same people your credit union is there for on a daily basis!
Whether you are highly engaged in advocacy and the political process or avoiding it due to what you hear, I would encourage each of you to think about looking through a different lens. We have a lot to learn from each other, even those we might think we have nothing in common with. My guess is that you’ll find the “Smart, Kind, Important” philosophy exists broadly across Montana, especially in local financial cooperatives!