Montana Legislature Montana Politics

These are a few of my favorite bills (and some real stinkers)

We’ll start with the stinkers: guns, guns, guns. If you’ve visited the Capitol recently, you’ll notice lots of security including Helena cops, sheriff’s deputies and highway patrolmen and women. They’re all carrying guns and are trained on how to use them. SB 304, sponsored by Roger Webb (R-Billings) would “authorize concealed carry for legislators.” One thing the Capitol doesn’t need is more guns, especially when you consider some of the non compos mentis legislators who are serving.

Then there are HB 325 and HB 357, both sponsored by Matt Regier (R-Columbia Falls) which “would remove cities’ ability to regulate where concealed carry of firearms is allowed in their city parks, schools, public assemblies/demonstrations” according to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. Don’t you love it when the party of local control and small government dictates what cities can and can’t do?

Speaking of control, how about a woman’s control over her own body? HB 500, sponsored by Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls) has the frightening title “Montana Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” Like Sen. Steve Daines, Sheldon-Galloway likes to paint the picture of Democrats ripping healthy babies out of a mother’s womb and stomping on them. It isn’t even close to being true. See Don Pogreba’s post on the subject, here.

The most atrocious anti-choice bill is still alive, thanks to continued Republican support for perhaps the most reactionary member of the House — although it’s a tight contest and the verdict is still out — Rep. Greg DeVries’ HB 302. It defines a zygote as a person and wouldn’t allow an abortion under any circumstances, ever. Fortunately, it’s a Constitutional Amendment and needs a two-thirds vote in both chambers to pass, and it’s just short, but still…    

And even more control over your life is being advanced by Carl Glimm (R-Kila). HB 284 wouldn’t allow an individual to make end-of-life decisions to stop suffering by basically charging physicians with homicide if they assist in a patient’s choice to end their own life, which again, isn’t a choice made lightly.       

There does seem to be a unequivicable love by Montana Republicans for Northwestern Energy. There hasn’t been a bill advanced by NWE that hasn’t met approval by the MT GOP, while bills promoting consumer protection and clean, sustainable energy have gone down in defeat. Of immediate concern are SB 331 and SB 199, both introduced by Tom Richfield (R-Billings). Titled, by me, as the “let’s buy failing Colstrip units and stick Montana ratepayers with the bill,” and the “let’s restrict the Public Service Commission from protecting consumers.” SB 331 is in the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee and has yet to be voted on. SB 199 had its hearing in House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations and awaits a vote there. The Billings Gazette has a guest column from the one dissenting PSC member, Roger Koopman of all people, on SB 199.   

Finally, while I continuously rail on Republicans for their horrible bills, Democrats blundered big time on HB 86. The bill would make those suffering with chronic pain jump through unending hoops to get the meds they need, if they can get them at all. This is personal for me as I have a loved one who functions quite well on small doses of opioids. This person doesn’t get high on the drugs and runs a successful small business. Said person is constantly being threatened to have their drugs cut off, mainly because of government meddling. The bill is on the governor’s desk. Thanks, Democrats, for jumping on AG Tim Fox’s war-on-drugs bandwagon. Here’s some right-on analysis from James Conner:

” …(it’s) HB-86, Fox’s “substance abuse” bill that imposes totally unnecessary limits on prescribing opioid painkillers. The death rates for drug overdoses, and opioid overdoses, in Montana are low and have been declining for years, but Montana’s legislators have been caught up in the national panic over opioids and are incapable of responsibly legislating on the issue. For helping pass HB-86, Democrats will feel political pain in 2020. The rest of us will feel bite-the-bullet pain.”

There are some good bills, too, but we’re out of space and time. Sorry, about the misleading headline although let’s face it, any really forward-thinking progressive bills won’t make it out of committee or off the floor. I’ll write about some of the decent bills that are still wending their way through the Capitol in a future post. We have to celebrate the small victories.  

      

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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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