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January 3, 2011

CONTACT INFORMATION: Terri McCoy, (406) 444-2807

MT House of Representatives
62nd Legislature; Opening Speech
January 3, 2011 @ 12:00 p.m.
House Chambers, Helena, MT

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s Remarks

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch opening speech at the Montana House of Representatives

Good morning and welcome to Day One of Montana’s 62nd Legislative Session. Sixteen years ago in the 54th Legislative Session, I sat in your seat, Representative McClafferty, and then in later sessions, your seat, Representative Mehlhoff.

In that 54th Session, I served with Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger, Former Lieutenant Governor Karl Ohs, Governor Schweitzer’s Budget Director David Ewer, Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar, and Representative Carolyn Squires.

I remember the opening of my first Legislative Session. I walked into this chamber wondering what would be accomplished. Would my bills pass? What would be the final outcome of the Session?

Folks in this chamber and around Montana are wondering what will be the outcome of the 62nd Legislative Session. What will this Legislature be known for? History does keep track of each Legislative Session, some more prominently than others.

Will this chamber be known for compromising, or for bickering? Will party-line votes outweigh bipartisan support? And will you and your constituents be proud of the work that’s accomplished?

One of the early lessons I learned in public service as a young teacher is “Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.” Just because one party has the votes to outweigh another party, doesn’t mean they should abuse their authority; Just because another party has the power of the veto, doesn’t mean they should rely on it; and Just because you have all been elected to serve your constituents, doesn’t mean you should forget your neighbors.

What matters most in the next 90 days, is that each of you has the power to do good work for the people of Montana. No one back home sends you here for negative reasons. Regardless, of whether they voted for you or not, they want you to do good for the people of Montana…all the people of Montana.

My first session in the House looked a lot like this one. Republicans held a majority over Democrats: 67 to 33. In that 1995 Session, the Governor was a Republican.

Despite a 2 to 1 stronghold, both parties worked well together. Many of us – on both sides of the aisle - were able to pass our bills with strong support. Sure, we disagreed. But we respected each other and considered all opinions before making a decision. Compromise happened then, it’s happened since then, and you all have the power to ensure it happens in the next 90 days.

You are in this room because your constituents believe in your ability to reason, to work through disagreements, and to approach policy making in a civil manner. They want you to not only stand firm in your beliefs, but also to remember that you work for them – their beliefs matter most.

Let’s start this session on more than just a promise to work together. Let’s start on the other side of the aisle…Literally!

***Please stand up and introduce yourself to someone from a different party. Preferably someone whom you do not know.***

At the end of the day, it’s not about Democrat ideas or Republican ideas. It’s about ideas that help Montanans.

Remember the issues. Remember the people you work for. Remember that just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

What will the 62nd Montana Legislature be known for? The 100 of you sitting in this historic chamber in the seats of past Legislators will decide. The people of Montana await your decisions.