MT Legislature: That’s a Wrap

Back in January at the start of the Montana legislature I wrote:

Many people head to Helena with the best intentions, but for some reason they end up drinking out of a “stupid fountain” that must be somewhere down a dark hall in the capitol. Many of these people end up making asses of themselves and embarrass Montana.

Wait and see…

Yes – it happened!

By now you’ve seen the spin being spewed by both sides and their supporters after the end of the 2015 Montana Legislature. Read on to get an independent view!

Early Tuesday morning the following message was place on the Montana Legislature’s antiquated website:

The 2015 Montana Legislative Session has adjourned, sine die, on April 28th, 2015.

And just like that the fun and games ended for another two years (unless there’s a special session).

Early Monday afternoon I tweeted:

Help Wanted: People who understand what compromise means. Apply in 2016 for MT State House/Senate seats.

I respect those who serve, but if some of these people are really the best Montana has to offer then we’ve got some deep problems. This session started out with the embarrassing yoga pants fiasco and ended with the extreme far-right Republicans looking for anything that they could call a victory. They got it when they did not allow a statewide infrastructure bill to be passed. In claiming that victory, the extremes prevented a Southwestern Montana veterans’ home from getting funded, plus they gave the middle finger to eastern Montana.

The Spin:

Right after adjournment, the Montana Republicans tweeted, “@GovernorBullock denies Montanans critical infrastructure funding w/ all or nothing approach.” They sent a press release saying about the same thing. Soon after that, Ben Lamb responded with, “@MontanaGOP @GovernorBullock negotiated with @RepKnudsen & other #MTLeg folks, but your faction didn’t like it, & killed jobs in MT.” The Montana Cowgirl added this, “@MontanaGOP you’re joking right? Gov negotiated this bill w/ the GOP speaker! It was carried by the former state GOP Chair!”

That was pretty much a slap-down.

For those who have not followed the Montana Legislature game much here’s some clarification: Rep Knudsen is the Speaker of the House and a Republican. Governor Bullock is a Democrat. They negotiated the agreement.

The Montana Democrats waited a little while then sent a press release saying, “Extreme wing of GOP denies jobs, axes fixes to crumbling road.”

That Democrats’ press release seemed to be a little closer to the truth than the GOP press release. The truth is in the eye of the beholder!

My Ideas:

Way back in early November, I wrote about four things that I would like to see the 2015 Montana Legislature accomplish:

  • Toughen Montana’s drunken driving laws
  • Make Supreme Court Judges position a 10-year appointed position by the Governor with consent of the senate
  • Make it easier for independent candidates to get on the ballot in Montana – no more collecting a zillion signatures
  • Revamp the Political Practices Office.

It does not appear that any of my four ideas were accomplished.

The Poll:

I give the legislature as a whole a grade of “D.” According to those who took The Western Word poll, 61% of those participating gave the 2015 Montana legislature a grade of “D” or “F.” Thanks to those who participated.

Statewide Candidates:

During the Legislative session, I am always looking for people who distinguish themselves enough that they might launch a campaign for statewide office. Did anyone lead enough to be a viable statewide candidate? I don’t think so. In regard to leadership, the Republican Leaders were outplayed by the Democratic Leaders almost the whole session. I do not see anyone from either side who would be a viable statewide candidate, but I doubt that stops a few from running. We should start hearing rumors soon!

Acting Stately:

As for the elected officials who stood out and did their jobs pretty darn well, I can think of four:

  • Sen. Ed Buttrey
  • Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick
  • Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill
  • Rep. Bryce Bennett

The Embarrassments:

On the other hand, two legislators were an embarrassment to Montana. They were Rep. David Moore for his bill to strengthen indecent exposure laws that turned into a bill to ban “Yoga Pants.” Hey – he made Time Magazine! The other embarrassment was Rep. Randy Pinocci for his Agenda 21 bill (HB 583), plus he wanted to drug test welfare recipients. The biggest embarrassment for Pinocci was when Tribune reporter Kristen Inbody caught Pinocci without a nap or in a bad mood and he complained about his pay and work as a legislator.

My Favorite Reporters:

I must take a moment to salute the reporters who covered the circus in Helena. Three made my favorite list:

  • Kristen Inbody of the Great Falls Tribune stepped in after John Adams departed and did a superb job.
  • Lisa Bauman of the Associated Press did a wonderful job cranking out the stories.
  • From the broadcast side, I enjoyed the work of Amanda Roley of KFBB.

These reporters deserve some paid time off.

Closing Time:

Thanks to all the new people who followed me on Twitter and read my commentary on this blog during the session. Stick around – I write about politics, sports, the media, and current events year round.

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