Tuesday’s Political Potpourri

When there are several political stories out there that I want to comment about, I combine them into a “potpourri” column.

Today I provide that valuable independent commentary that you only get from The Western Word about Steve Daines the traveler, Americans for Prosperity & Rep. Frank Garner, a state-wide cellphone ban, and Dirk Sandefur wants to join the Supremes.

Daines the Traveler:

On Monday USA Today published a story about Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) being one of the top travel spenders in U.S. House. Buried about nine paragraphs down in the story was this piece of information:

The House members who have spent more on travel than Schock include lawmakers with the largest and most sparsely populated districts: Then-representative Steve Daines, who represented all of Montana in the House before being elected to the Senate last year, spent $155,000 on travel in 2013.

Daines was basically doing two jobs in 2013: Being a Representative and being a candidate for U.S. Senate. Although members of Congress can’t use taxpayer funds for campaigning, there’s nothing to say they can’t schedule an official event somewhere in the afternoon to get their travel paid for by taxpayers, and then hold a campaign event, like a fundraiser, there that night. Both sides do it.

Americans for Prosperity-Montana:

According to this story, it looks like the Montana branch of the group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) met some resistance when they went after Montana State Rep. Frank Garner of Kalispell because he would not sign a pledge card to oppose Medicaid expansion in Montana.

One headline said it all, “Kalispell residents shout down conservative group.”

Garner is a Republican who is deemed not pure enough for the fringe members of the party. So they went after him – and by most accounts they lost. One part of the story was really telling about what type of legislator Garner is:

Garner ended up speaking first at the Kalispell gathering, telling those in attendance that he is willing to listen to legislative proposals before rejecting any ideas.

“I promised the people here when I ran that I would listen to you and not out-of-town special interests,” Garner said. “If every time they want me to sign a pledge card and I don’t do it they are going to rent a room and have a meeting, then this is going to get real expensive, because I’m not signing the pledge card.”

Just imagine if all legislators acted this way instead of first checking to see which group gave them the biggest donation.

Cellphone Ban:

The Montana Legislature is looking into prohibiting drivers “from using any hand-held electronic communication device while driving on a highway or stopped at a traffic light or stop sign.” (Source) The bill is HB 279. Read it HERE.

Many cities in Montana already ban cellphone use while driving. In Great Falls it’s a money-maker with violations costing $115 a pop. It’s helping Great Falls get rid of some red-ink.

Back when this was being debated in Great Falls, I wrote about an editorial in Investor’s Business Daily that cited a 2009 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study that found:

80% of all car wrecks are caused by drivers eating or drinking — not cellphone use — with coffee-guzzling the top offender.

I wish officials were this determined to battle drunk driving in Montana.

Sandefur & the Supreme Court:

State District Court Judge Dirk Sandefur, who is based out of the 8th Judicial District Court in Cascade County, announced that he will run for election to the Montana Supreme Court in 2016. I imagine he is hoping his early announcement will keep others from jumping in.

Sandefur won’t get my vote. In my humble opinion, he is soft on drunk drivers. I wrote about one of his major drunk driving cases back in 2012. Read it HERE. A person killed three people and received about 1.6 years in prison per life.


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