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Montana Newspapers Agree: Special Session is Wasteful, Misguided, Partisan Game

Written by Nathan Kosted
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Montana GOP Legislators have called for a Special Session this July to usurp the will of Montana voters.

Montana Republicans are power hungry authoritarians-not representatives of the people.

Montana Republicans are worried that two citizen-led ballot initiatives will pass this November and they don’t like not having the power to overturn what Montana citizens legally vote into law. So, Republicans have decided they want a costly Special Session to put their own referendums on the ballot that will repeal or significantly alter the ballot initiatives. But, this election for the Republican referendums will be held in January 2019, as a Special Election, costing the state and counties even more money. All this so Republicans can overturn what voters may or may not have already voted on in November.

Republicans are in sole control of the Montana Legislature, but they aren’t using the Legislature as a democratic body, they are using it as a banana republic. Montana newspapers and Governor Bullock are fed up with these partisan and undemocratic games by the Montana GOP.

From the Billings Gazette:

Gazette opinion: Say ‘no’ to wasteful July special session of Montana legislature

Of course, the call includes appropriating money for the special session. Here are the top reasons why this ill-considered special session is a ridiculous waste of time and money for the people of Montana.

  • The first day of the session would cost taxpayers about $90,000. The length of the session would be uncertain.
  • The cost of a special election in January or February would be borne by county taxpayers. Under state law, if a special legislative session in July passed referenda, they couldn’t go on the November ballot. The law says the legislature must transfer referenda to the Secretary of State at least six months before the election, so the special election couldn’t be held sooner than January. The May 2017 U.S. House special election cost Yellowstone County alone $120,000 that wasn’t in the county budget.
  • Preparing for a sudden, summer session is a logistical nightmare for Legislative Services. The extra staff for such a session would need to be available instantly – but it might not be known if they are needed until lawmakers finish voting the day before the session could start.
  • The public is in the dark. There would be no opportunity for effective public participation in a legislative session convened merely to rubber stamp referenda written behind closed doors – without public input. The usual legislative rules and hearings would have to be waived to rush legislation through.
  • This is an effort to thwart the initiative process, which is enshrined in the Montana Constitution, just the Legislature is.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Lawmakers should nix call for special session

A Republican effort to call a special session of the Legislature to address a pair of citizen ballot initiatives is as vague and perplexing as it is ill-timed.

If approved by voters, the first initiative would require mining proposals to include a reclamation plan that would not require the state to mine-polluted water indefinitely. The second would increase taxes on tobacco products to raise money to help pay for continuing the state’s Medicaid expansion as well as other health-related programs. Advocates for both initiatives have submitted voter signatures to qualify them for the ballot. But those petitions have not been formally approved.

What a special session could produce is uncertain at best. If the plan is to create an additional ballot initiative or initiatives to counter the citizen-produced measures, the earliest they could qualify for an election would be in January of next year, two months after voters will have decided on the citizen initiatives – if they qualify for the ballot.

Jones alleges the mining initiative will cost thousands of jobs. But there is no evidence for that. Mining companies would still be able to mine. They would merely have to have a plan that wouldn’t leave state taxpayer holding the bag for the cleanup – a problem that has happened far too often in the past.

And Jones and fellow GOP lawmakers apparently fear the tobacco-tax initiative will take the future fate of the Medicaid expansion out of their hands. He said the state’s share of the cost of the expansion will rise from about $55 million this year to more than $100 million over the next five years. But Jones should welcome the additional revenue the tobacco tax increase will raise to help pay for maintaining health coverage for tens of thousands of Montanans.

Governor Bullock said it best when he said:

It is absurd that the Republicans are considering a special session to subvert the will of the voters. Citizen initiatives are enshrined in Montana’s constitution and Republicans should not be trying to take that right away from voters. We shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary special session, nor should we be asking our county clerks to pick up the tab for a special election that will occur at the same time the Legislature is meeting in regular session in 2019. If there are any issues to be addressed, we can tackle them through the regular legislative process.

I ask that you join me in voicing to your legislators your opposition to Republicans’ attempt to waste Montanans’ taxpayer dollars to drown out the voices of Montanans.

 

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.