Archive for November 21st, 2010

by Pete Talbot

Despite temperatures in the teens and a nasty Hellgate wind, Missoula was Montana’s hot spot this weekend. Lots of folks out-and-about, and here’s what I gleaned, politically, from overheard conversations (sources, unbeknownst to them, include Sen. Jon Tester, state senators John Brueggeman and Ron Erickson, state house members Sue Malek and Bryce Bennett):

The Montana Legislature will be a microcosm of the U.S. Congress. Both the state house and the U.S. House of Representatives have substantial Republican majorities.

The Republican majority is much smaller in the state senate and the Democrats have a slight edge in the U.S. Senate. The similarity in these two senate bodies, if the Democrats can hang together, will be the ability to stop veto overrides by the Republicans.

We’ll have to wait and see how much the President and our governor wield the veto pen. Judging from some of the bills already being considered in Helena, and the rhetoric coming from the newly elected in the U.S. House, there could be ample veto opportunities.

Here’s a link to the Helena bills. Prepare to take a week off if you want to review them in detail — there are already hundreds.

Some that came to my attention: Missoula’s only Republican legislator, Champ Edmunds, wants to repeal (not just revise) Montana’s Environmental Policy Act. So much for the Montana Constitution’s “clean and healthful environment” clause. Helena’s Republican Senator Dave Lewis wants a resolution demanding that Congress withdraw the United States from the United Nations. I can’t think of anything less important to a Montanan’s day-to-day existence than the doings at the UN. Thompson Fall’s Greg Hinkle (R) has a slew of wacko bills (example: Restrict authority of FWP to regulate ammo or firearms for hunting, otherwise known as “hunting whitetails with a grenade launcher” bill).

Well, the list goes on-and-on.

From the Democrats I listened to, there was guarded optimism. They certainly won’t be advancing any groundbreaking, progressive legislation but feel they can withstand the most virulent bills offered up by the Republicans. The trump card being a Democratic governor in Montana and a Democratic President.

Democrats at both the state and national level see some fissures in the GOP as the Tea Party types jostle for power and prestige with the more establishment Republicans. Democrats also offered encouragement for 2012, which, of course, they have to do after the drubbing of 2010. The point they make, though, is things just aren’t going to get that much better in the next two years, especially considering the dearth of bills from the Republicans actually addressing unemployment, fixing health care, getting us out of wars or reducing the deficit. And the voters, being a fickle lot, will toss the Republicans they just elected.

Finally, some links to outdoor issues in the lame duck Congress and budget considerations in the Montana Legislature to go along with my keen political insights.




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