A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

16 November 2017 — 0707 mdt

Special legislative session takeaways


Montana’s special legislative session adjourned sine die early this morning. There was a strong case for recessing and finishing up after a good night’s sleep, but there was a stronger desire to say “we’re done’ and get out of town.

Not all of the bills that were considered passed. Not all that were passed should have been considered. Those that did pass must be signed or vetoed by Gov. Bullock, leaving the final outcome of the session not fully clear until the governor acts. But it’s already clear that vital services for the poor, the aged, the infirm, and the hungry, will be cut, and those people hurt, because the wealthiest Montanans were selfish.

Rage and anti-tax ideology drove the Republicans

Having suckered the governor and many Democrats with SB-261, they did not want to be called into a special session where, enjoying 3:2 majorities in both chambers, they would own the outcome. They oozed truculent piety, resented having to govern, and had but two goals: not raising taxes, and showing the governor who was boss.

The CoreCivic private prison contract caper was well planned and executed

In Shelby, much is paid for by crime. The CoreCivic private prison pays taxes and provides jobs. Republicans Sen. Llew Jones and Rep. Rob Cook, both cheerleaders and advocates for Shelby and the slammer, saw and seized an opportunity to strongarm Bullock into extending the state’s contract with CoreCivic for another ten years (prediction: Bullock will take the money and extend the contract). They also preened and strutted like playground bullies, making sure everyone knew how they rubbed Bullock’s nose in the sand and how much they enjoyed doing so. Termed-out Cook won’t return for the 2019 session. He’s running for the Public Service Commission. Jones, termed-out in the state senate, and running for Cook’s old seat in the state house of representative, could be back for the 2019 session.

Olszewski's birth certificate bill was time wasting mischief

SB-10 passed the MT Senate on a party-line vote, but died of inattention in the MT House. Had it passed, it would have been vetoed. It had to have been introduced to stir up hostility to a beleaguered community as a way of earning “family values” support for Olszewski’s strugging campaign for the U.S. Senate. Roy Moore would have approved.

“Moderate Republican” is an oxymoron

And the existence of a moderate to sometimes liberal governing coalition of Democrats and so-called Responsible Republicans is a myth. There was shouting across the aisle, finger-pointing across the aisle, but perishing little cooperation across the aisle. Anyone who expected more was a fool. The age of bipartisanship, if it ever really existed, is past. If progressives want to govern, they must win enough legislative elections to have working majorities in both houses of the legislature. “Work together” is the mantra of the meek and weak. “Win elections!” must be the rallying cry of progressives.

19th Century governing practices contributed to the budget crisis

Montana’s legislature meets every two years, and only in the winter and spring, a schedule designed to accommodate the needs of an agricultural and natural resource based state in the last third of the 19th Century, a time when travel was slow and difficult. The need for annual legislative sessions, and for longer legislative sessions, has long been apparent to thoughtful students of government, but the state’s voters, mistrusting and fearing government, consider the legislature a barely necessary evil that should meet as little as possible. Until the voters realize that more frequent legislative sessions are in their enlightened self-interest, there will be more budgetary train wrecks — even when revenue estimates are honest and responsible.