Montana Legislature Montana Politics

Guest Post: Special Session Sausage Making Rancid

by Mary Ann Dunwell

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’d like to thank those of you who were able to weigh in with calls, testimony and track this week’s Special Session of the Montana Legislature. Your voices that filled the People’s House helped compromises happen. It’s an honor to serve you. At times, it was hard to see democracy in what was a chaotic process. I questioned the limited public notice and transparency that Republicans justified in the name of efficiency. If making laws is like making sausage, much of special session was rancid sausage. But at the end of the day, in the wee hours of the next day, the Legislature had done much of what was needed to help solve the budget crisis – except for $27 million dollars. House Democratic legislators voted NO to Sine Die, end special session and go home, because we were not done yet. We voted NO on the ‘big budget bill’ HB 2 because it was a failed compromise. It permanently codifies reductions in people’s programs, hurts Montanans, and throws folks out of work – all before the holidays. It becomes the new base, the new norm moving forward for years to come. Democrats voted NO on a bill to furlough state workers. Many public employees will be home for the holidays because they’ve already been let go by nearly $200 million in cuts resulting from the regular legislative session. Now others face furloughs. I rose on the House floor that this bill is yet another example of hating on public employees who do the work of the people. This all could’ve been avoided had Republican legislators acted with more fiscal and moral responsibility half a year ago.

During the special session sausage making, the much-promoted third, third and third framework went sideways. The one-third fund transfers happened. To get things moving, the Governor was forced to make one-third cuts early in the week. Yet the third leg of the stool, the one-third revenue enhancers went wonting because of Republicans. The Special session became an exercise in harm reduction and fending off bad bills. While we avoided the $227 million hole, Montana will still endure millions of dollars more in cutbacks to people’s programs. Not as many Montanans will get hurt, but if you’re among those who will, it’s dangerously life changing. Montana’s collective attention will now move towards Thanksgiving, even the Cat/Griz game. To Monday morning quarterback, the special session was no Cat/Griz game. Montanans are on the same team. Let’s not call it until we heal all the hurts. Thank you again, happy Thanksgiving and please pass the dressing without sausage.

Democrat Mary Ann Dunwell represents Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena. You can reach her at [email protected]

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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  • Thank you for your hard work this and past sessions, and the insightful post, although “the special session became an exercise in harm reduction and fending off bad bills” seems to be the best we can do as of late.

  • ” To Monday morning quarterback, the special session was no Cat/Griz game. Montanans are on the same team. Let’s not call it until we heal all the hurts. Thank you again, happy Thanksgiving and please pass the dressing without sausage.”

    I have no idea what this means.

  • Backstory: When I read the frequently published in Montana words *no tax cuts*
    I read in place
    *ongoing tax cuts for Montana 1%ers since 2004 BUT thereafter no more tax cuts*

    From recent Chuck Johnson article at Last Best Place.

    “Bullock said the $76 million in budget reductions that he ordered and that Republicans also put into a bill would probably result in the layoffs of 50 to 100 state employees in the coming weeks and months.”

    imoo ALEC educated MT Legislators, AFP acolytes and advocates, also members of the K Bros alliance, are possibly saying similar sentences re reduction in Montana State work force.

    ALEC, AFP, K Bros alliance know how much they spent to influence our 65th Montana Legislature.
    For instance, that trio maybe spent a million dollars.

    And only for example, could get maybe $2 million a year cut out of the Montana State work force expeditures for human capital and labor.

    Mission accomplished by that trio. Spend $1, get $2 force reduction X years ahead.

    Trio Special Session Mission set up by the GOP covey grossly inflating incoming MT Revenue.

    Trio Mission set in place when Montana spent $75 million on record breaking active fires of forests dryer and warmer at all elevations.

    Forests likely dryer also warmer because of greenhouse gas polluters manipulating government officials to sustain subsidies to fossil fuel corporations while simultaneously oppressing high efficiency renewable energy sources, jobs and capital.

    2018-2020 mission of the trio, and the petro-finance market, is to financially support Montana Legislators who have and will protect 1%ers and greenhouse gas polluters.

    Therefore, what are the operative elements of our individual also collective mission, given that the approaching return of an El Nino phase cycle is expected to make future climate catastrophes even more costly?

    The least we can do is to improve on *tax cut* lingo thinking,
    that categorically narrows and confines such as right thoughts and right actions.

    Love and work with heart, spirit and mindful of principles.

    Example of a simple principle:
    Purpose of government is to protect the people from the rich and powerful.
    (Federalist Paper #10.)

    • You are 100% correct. Now if you could boil that all down to a few words that could fit on a bumper-sticker the average voter might take notice. Until then the Republicans will keep winning with their “low taxes, small government” sales pitch and they will keep us in their Koch Agenda race to the bottom.

      • One idea–
        *Healthcare NOT wealthcare*

        Maybe it’s my old plugger age, here’s what I now like–
        *Resist all oilygarchs*

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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