If you are curious about the priorities of the Republican Caucus at the Montana Legislature, there’s no better place to look than the Legislature’s list of bills requests for the 2015 session. A brief look shows that we’ll be fighting the Civil War one more time in the Montana Legislature, as the Republican Party tries to strip funding for anti-poverty programs and the schools, increase gun deaths, and turn Montana into Mississipi of the Rockies.
This first post will focus on a few of the terrible proposals that have already arrived at Legislative Services, and we’ll continue to look at them as the session draws closer.
Ending Low-Income Phone Service
Keith Regier (who famously compared pregnant women to cattle) is proposing on behalf of the Public Service Commission, to “eliminate the Montana Low-Income Telephone Assistance Program.” This proposal, no doubt inspired by right-wing hysteria about the so-called “Obama phone,” will increase phone rates for the elderly and other low-income Montanans.
Back in 2011, the PSC issued a release discussing the importance of the program, noting that it was critical for low-income Montanans to receive phone service. They wrote:
This week has been designated nationally as “Lifeline Awareness Week,” and the PSC is using the opportunity to promote the programs. “We hope that by making more people aware of Lifeline and Link-Up, we can ensure that more consumers can call life-saving services,” said Travis Kavulla, the PSC’s chairman. “The telephone is an important link and, for rural communities and the elderly, sometimes the only link to a social world of family and friends which needs to remain intact.”
So why is the PSC proposing eliminating this program which helps thousands of low-income Montanans afford slightly cheaper phone bills? No doubt to protect the interests of the poor, beleaguered phone companies who have to pony up a whole $3.50 a month for the state portion of the program.
Removing Jonathan Motl as Commissioner
No doubt upset about a commissioner who has actively pursued enforcement of Montana campaign laws and regulations, Senator Debby Barrett has called for a resolution not to confirm Jonathan Motl as the Commissioner of Political Practies. It makes sense that Republicans would want to remove Motl; given his aggressive work to investigate campaign finance violations during the past few elections, he poses a threat to the Republican Dark Money machine. One wonders if the legislators Motl has found in violation of campaign laws will recuse themselves from voting, given their clear conflict of interest.
Praising the Lord and Passing the Ammunition!
Drone-downing, liberty-loving, and gun-nutting Matt Rosendale, fresh off his defeat for the US House, is bringing a whole lot of crazy to Montana gun laws, including draft requests to “encourage manufacture of ammunition in Montana to ensure availability,” “clarify Board of Regents authority regarding firearms on university campuses,” “revise laws regarding sound suppressors for hunting,” and “revise laws regarding firearms on school grounds.” In short, we’re going to revisit the same old rootin’ tootin’ debates about whether or not school children should be able to bring guns with silencers installed on them to school before hunting from their cars. It must be nice for Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association to have a legislator willing to carry all of his bills, even if he can’t get elected himself.
Dog Killing Roger Webb Defending the Property Rights of Dog Owners
Among the 33 bill drafts in the hopper from Senator Roger Webb, the most unbelievable is his bill to “protect the property rights of Montana dog owners.” That Webb is sponsoring the bill makes me wonder if the draft allows any insecure, middle-aged gun nut to shoot a couple of black labs, but time will tell.
A Lot More to Come
All of the other usual suspects are in place, too, from “school choice” to reducing property and income taxes to unsustainable levels. Despite their failure to end same-day voter registration adn impost a “Top Two” election system, Republicans seem to have embraced the idea of referenda as a means of social change—and 17 of them are already in draft stage, including three from Scott Sales, who wants referenda on school choice, property taxes, and term limits for the Supreme Court. These will certainly be worth watching.