One of the most interesting local races this year will be in House District 82, between Representative Liz Bangerter and challenger Moffie Funk. Bangerter, who previously represented District 80, is running for House District 82 after the most recent round of redistricting—and those she’s met with say that she’s running as a slightly different candidate, depicting herself as a “moderate” and member of the so-called “responsible Republicans.” While that’s probably smart marketing, it doesn’t really reflect the truth about Bangerter as a member of the House: while she may not have been a member of the secessionist wing of the Montana GOP, her record is badly out of step with the voters of her district, who would do well to look into the public positions expressed and votes taken by Representative Bangerter before casting their votes.
Bangerter has worked to undermine Montana’s excellent public schools, voting for tax credits to send children to private, religious, unaccredited institutions and for scholarships to support those same schools. She’s also voted to impose her morality over accurate, critical health information for high school students. Her votes on education often reflect the values of the Montana Family Foundation, a reactionary right wing group devoted to replacing Montana’s public schools with charter schools with little, if any, oversight.
Bangerter has one of the worst records on reproductive freedom of any legislator during the past two sessions, scoring a 0% from NARAL/Pro-Choice Montana both sessions. Bangerter has simply chosen to substitute her morality for the values and health of the women she should represent, going so far as to vote for a bill that would have mandated an ultrasound to shame women seeking abortions and a personhood amendment that could have criminalized miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, and legal forms of birth control.
On the Environment
Bangerter is no friend of the environment, scoring a 14% rating in 2011 and 8% in 2013 from the Montana Environmental Information Center. Among her votes were support for allowing arsenic-treated wood to be burned as biomass and treated as renewable energy, unwavering support for tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry, and permitting industry to contaminate land with hazardous waste. Perhaps most troublingly, she voted to diminish Montana’s unique constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. Those votes also led to a 14% rating from the Montana Conservation Voters.
Those who enjoy fishing and recreating in Montana’s waterways probably should know, too, that Bangerter voted, despite overwhelming opposition for HB 309 in 2011 , which would have badly eroded public access to Montana rivers and streams.
On Your Right to Vote/Dark Money
Bangerter was a leading legislative voice against same day voter registration in Montana, despite telling the press that many voters in her district supported its continuation. Almost 30,000 Montana voters have used same day registration since it was implemented in 2005, especially young people who move more frequently.
Bangerter also voted to exempt religious organizations from campaign finance reporting, which would create a gaping hole in Montana law, favoring conservative candidates and organizations.
Bangerter, violating the conservative call for local government, voted to prohibit cities from passing ordinances like those passed in Missoula, Helena, Butte, and Bozeman protecting the LGBT community. She even voted to repeal Missoula’s groundbreaking nondiscrimination ordinance at the state level. In 2011, she voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the Montana Human Rights Act.
Bizarrely, the bill that Bangerter has worked hardest to pass during her time in the Legislature is a bill that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women, a clear violation of the Montana Human Rights Act. Having a woman spearhead this bill was probably seen as an advantage for the insurance companies who lobbied for the bill and financially supported Bangerter, but doesn’t change the nature of her support for a discriminatory law.
On Health Care
Bangerter’s record on health care is a series of contradictions almost impossible to decipher. In the 2013 session, she Sponsored but then voted against the expansion of Medicaid through private insurance companies, voted to legally challenge the Affordable Care Act, and explained her position like this:
Bangarter, the original sponsor of the legislation, is among those who changed her mind.
“It kind of all happened so fast,” she recalls. “The minority leader opposed it, and I was thinking wait a second, I haven’t read the rules. I did that before the second vote and agreed, it was totally legal what he was doing. Myself and a few others switched our votes because of that.”
Bangerter’s position on health care has no doubt been influenced by her membership in the special interest clearinghouse at ALEC, where she sits on the Health and Human Services Task Force.
Bangerter has consistently voted to shift Montana’s tax burden onto the backs of the middle and working classes, voting repeatedly to reduce taxes on corporations (HB111, SB96, HB 523) and the wealthiest individuals and property owners in the state (SB 282, SB394, HB373).
On the Nut Fringe
Bangerter has supported her fair share of bills from the Republican fringe, including votes to:
- allow the use of silencers while hunting.
- restrict federal law enforcement officials from investigating extremist and terror groups without the cooperation of local sheriffs.
- prohibit Montana’s state government from administering the Affordable Care Act.
The truth is that Representative Bangerter seems like a nice person who cares about her community, but a friendly personality and a few moderate votes shouldn’t deceive HD 82 voters: Bangerter, if sent back to the Montana Legislature, will continue to vote against our public schools, our clean environment, our civil liberties, and our reproductive health. Her values are out of step with those of the people of Helena and her district—and it’s time to elect a Representative who will actually represent us.