Montana Politics

Why Would Anyone Vote Against This Bill?

I was at a gathering of friends when I overheard two women shout with glee and then high-five.  They both work at Hospice of Missoula and were celebrating the passage of Senate Bill 142, the so-called Right to Try bill.

From the Associated Press:

The measure allows terminally ill patients who have exhausted all federally-approved treatments to seek experimental drugs, biological products or devices that have successfully completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial, but have not yet been approved for general use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bill passed the Montana Senate 50-0 and the Montana House 93-7.  I wondered, who were the seven far-right legislators who voted against this bill?  Turns out there was only one: Jeff Essmann (R-Billings).  The other six representatives are Democrats. They are: Zach Brown, Pat Noonan, Nancy Wilson, Virginia Court, Patricia Peppers and Bridget Smith.

I emailed the representative from Missoula County late Thursday to ask about her ‘no’ vote but heard nothing back.  So I decided to email the other five but discovered that it’s Easter Break for the legislature and the web-based email system is shut down for the five-day break.  That probably explains why my legislator didn’t get back to me, so no hard feelings there.

But patience is not one of my virtues — five days is an  interminable wait for me.  And if the fine women on the staff of Hospice of Missoula think this is a good bill, why would anyone vote against it?  Please explain.

Thank you.

UPDATE: I did hear back from one Democratic legislator who said it was the legal note that gave her pause.  She was concerned that the state law would conflict with federal law and FDA regulations.  I didn’t see it as that big a threat but then again, I ain’t no lawyer.  Also, reading between the lines, I believe that many of the sponsors of the bill (and there were a herd of them) weren’t the most palatable: Ballance, Debby Barrett, Fielder, Hinkle, Laszloffy, Monforton, Pinocci, Rosendale, Jenna Taylor … mostly tea party types, but as I told one representative, even a broken clock is right twice a day. There were some Republican moderates and a couple of Democrats listed as sponsors, too.  Anyway, the bill passed, which is good.  I’ll let y’all know if I hear from any other legislators.





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  • The only reason to shut down email for 5 days is to protect legislators from the people they represent. I hate telephones, but in this situation I would try calling. And if I were really steamed, I’d knock on the legislator door at home at dinnertime.

    SB-142 does hold drug companies harmless. Perhaps that was what the six Democrats couldn’t abide.

    • It could be the “hold drug companies harmless” clause, or maybe the fear of unscrupulous entities preying on the terminally ill and their families. I’ll try to get to the bottom of these ‘no’ votes. Still, this bill brings out the libertarian in me. If someone on the cusp of death wants to try some unproven medication or procedure, why the hell not let them?

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Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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