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Montana Reporters Secure Page Rate Increase

In an environment that is causing most sectors to cut budgets, the Montana Court Reporters Association this year got a bill passed that will increase official page rates. The effort spanned two years, and many factors contributed to their success.

In 2007 MCRA brought in a lobbyist to help pursue a page rate increase. To ensure transparency of the process, they alerted the court administrator to what they were doing. Also, MCRA formed a legislative committee to facilitate communication between committee members and the association. MCRA and its lobbyist contacted key groups such as the state trial lawyers association and Montana Judges Association to ensure that the groups would not oppose their efforts.

MCRA adapted when economic conditions changed before the start of this year's legislative session. Legislators were not receptive to a bill that spent a lot of state money. MCRA altered the bill by leaving government agency rates alone, increasing private-party fees only, and leaving in a biennial CPI increase for all rates. By taking into account each party's desired outcomes, the court reporters brokered a compromise that allowed the bill to survive.

Following the playbook taught at NCRA's Legislative Boot Camp, Montana reporters committed to expend energy over a prolonged period and to push at key moments that they had the prescience to identify ahead of time. MCRA individually called members asking them to call their representatives and ask them to support the bill.

Montana's experience shows what can be achieved when reporters band together with a unified goal, well organized actions, and the willingness to adapt when the situation changes. Congratulations!