Friday short takes: Montana law enforcement, privacy, and Daines

No tanks for Montana cops

Earlier this week, Donald Trump lifted President Barrack Obama’s 2015 restriction on military gear going to law enforcement. Under the auspices of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, surplus grenade launchers, armored vehicles, bayonets and more will be available to cops, sheriff’s deputies, troopers and patrollers.

National criminal justice reform advocates are now looking to Montana as a way to curb the militarization of law enforcement agencies.

The 2014 “Bearcat incident” in Bozeman spawned legislation that curtailed the use of “weaponized drones, aircraft configured for combat, grenade launchers, silencers, and militarized armored vehicles” by law enforcement. From the New Republic:

The controversy led to action at the state level in 2015, with Democratic Governor Steve Bullock signing a Republican-sponsored bill passed with bipartisan support. The Montana law blocks state and local police departments from receiving certain equipment from the 1033 Program … Police are free to request other kinds of military surplus equipment from the federal government, but they must notify the public within 14 days of doing so.

Every so often a decent bipartisan bill makes it through the Montana Legislature.

It’s not about privacy

The Montana Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union and against the Montana Family Foundation. At issue was the wording in I-183, the so-called Locker Room Privacy initiative. The signature gathering has started to put I-183 on the ballot but the ACLU says the wording on the initiative is misleading — an understatement if ever there was one.

The offices of Republican Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and Secretary of State Cory Stapleton have approved the language. The ACLU disagrees. It’s a discriminatory initiative that would require people using public restrooms and locker rooms to prove their gender (as assigned at birth). So, be sure to pack that birth certificate if you need to pee or change out for a game.

The foundation’s Jeff Laszloffy sent me this email:

There has been some confusion because of a poorly worded newspaper article regarding an ongoing lawsuit by the ACLU against I-183. The bottom line: Nothing has changed. (Emphasis his.)

They are simply challenging the wording of the statement that will appear on the ballot.  If they win, the wording may be slightly modified.  Either way, the initiative will still be on the ballot as long as we collect enough signatures.

The signatures are beginning to roll in.  Please keep collecting, and thank you again for your hard work!

Lord bless you all,


This is one of the least necessary initiatives ever proposed, and that’s saying a lot. For Lord’s sake, don’t sign the petition.

Daft Daines

There are so many D words that can precede the senator’s last name: divisive, devious, dangerous, duplicitous… it’s hard to settle on a single one. In Sen. Steve Daines’ latest email to me, he’s crowing about a disastrous amendment he advanced to see just who in that august chamber supports single-payer health care. The gambit failed miserably with all Republicans voting “no” and 43 Democrats voting “present.” (Four Ds voted “no,” including Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, for reasons I can’t fathom.)

Why Daines would reprise his absurd maneuver is equally unfathomable considering the ridicule heaped on the senator when his ruse failed. From the Atlantic:

Daines’s amendment was far from a true test of Democratic support for single payer, however. Senator Bernie Sanders, the most popular progressive politician in the United States who supports a single-payer health-care system, denounced the amendment as a “political trick” designed “to embarrass Democrats,” ahead of the vote. His office had previously announced that even he would not be voting for it, giving Senate Democrats cover to reject the amendment as a political ploy.

Here are some outtakes from Daines’ email:

I am trying something new in the Senate… something that will finally rid Americans of the disastrous law known as Obamacare.

That “something new” was introduced over a month ago.

To prove my point, I offered an amendment on the Senate floor to do exactly that – to replace Obamacare with a single-payer “Medicare for All” system – to force liberal Senators to put their money where their mouth is.

It came as no surprise that not even ONE Senator voted “yes” – despite many of them publicly supporting this deeply popular proposal.

The italics are his and I’m guessing he meant deeply “unpopular” not “popular.” A Freudian slip? I’m not sure who he’s pandering to with this message except that he’s “$3,475 short of our critical August end of month target.” 

Thanks for wasting our time and taxpayers’ money, senator. Check’s in the mail.

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 would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

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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  • (Four Ds voted “no,” including Montana’s Sen. Jon Tester, for reasons I can’t fathom.)

    You know why Pete, as well as everybody else – Tester has an election in a about 14 months, and he doesn’t want to go back to being a failing farmer again.

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