Mini-Preview: Montana Legislature and U.S. Congress

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.

  1. This upcoming session’s gonna be neato!

  2. Pogo Possum

    A nice try to stir up your base, Pete but you are way off. Fortunately, Montana sportsmen/women are a little more up on this subject than some of the Democratic insiders (do these people know anything about shooting sports?) who are supplying you with information.

    Hinkle’s bill is a response to a recent attempt by Montana’s FWP Commission to ban the use of lead shot for upland game bird hunting on state-owned wildlife management areas which was defeated by one vote earlier this year. After FWP Director Joe Maurier indicated he planned to reintroduce this lead shot ban at future meetings, Hinkle along with a number of sportsmen said publicly they intended to introduce legislation to restrict the FWP from banning lead shot for upland game birds.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinkle included language restricting the FWP from outlawing lead rifle ammunition to protect Montana hunters from the efforts of a number of anti-hunting groups such as the US Humane Society’s who are trying to ban all lead ammunition in the US.

    I will wait to see the final details of Hinkle’s bill before I make up my mind about supporting or opposing it. However, unless you have access to some non-public language in Hinkle’s bill, your description of it as a “hunting whitetails with a grenade launcher bill” is an unfair and gross misrepresentation of Hinkle’s intent.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      Pogo, you insensitive selfish person.

      Can’t you see the lead ban is “for the children”?

      • JC

        Now I see what your problem is. You ate too much duck and pheasant as a kid that your dad brought home after shooting it with lead shot. And you thought you were just chipping your teeth on it. It all makes sense now…

        • Pogo Possum

          Maybe you are onto something there, JC.

          Why don’t you get the entire Democratic legislative body to sponsor a bill outlawing all lead ammunition (shotgun and rifle) in Montana. That should keep your team wandering in the wilderness for another decade or two.

  3. If you can’t take away the guns, take the ammo?

    This doesn’t surprise me – gun control used to be a big issue for the Dems until they figured out what a loser it was for them in 1994, and this looks to me like a backdoor gun-grabbing approach.


    On the rest of Pete’s post, he’s partially right – the legislative session will be interesting.

    Politics in Montana are like the rest of the nation, they are a big pendulum.

    It went left in 2008, and The Great Leader/Reid/Pelosi gave it a big push right. Their mistake was miscalculating the swing left as some kind of mandate, and they fired up a very radical agenda, which the voters rejected.

    If the Dems are acting enthusiastic I can tell you that it’s just an act. Or they’re stupid.

    That pendulum hasn’t slowed down, it’s still headed right, and if the national Dems, particularly Obama don’t change course, 2012 will be worse for them than 2010 was.

    They kept Pelosi as minority leader – big mistake.

    I expect the House to pass Obamacare repeals, start lengthy, embarrasing investigations into the Obama administrations abuses of powers, the special payoffs to get votes, the interference in elections, and into his ‘Czars’ and appointees actions.

    When the Obamacare repeals hit the Senate, I expect Reid to go all-out against them, and I expect that the 1/3 of the Senate who’ll face the voters in 2012 are not going to be as willing to ‘walk off the plank’ for him as the last bunch.

    After all, the Senate could pass those bill, and they have The Great Leaders veto pen behind them anyway. Let Obama walk off the plank they’ll figure.

    Those dissenting Dems in the Senate have nothing to fear from the far-left in their base, because the Dems here, and elsewhere do not have the spine to toss out their DINO’s.

    I hope that Jon Tester continues to be Harry Reids ‘Yes Man’ though. Stick with him Jon!

  4. Matthew Koehler

    I hunt with copper ammo and it appears to work pretty well at knocking down deer and elk. My hunting buddies have had similar luck. By hunting with copper ammo vs. lead ammo, I also gain a little piece of mind knowing that any raptor or predator which may make a meal out the quartered carcass I leave out in the backcountry will eat “lead-free.” But hey, that’s just me I guess. If you love “freedom” I guess the best thing you can do is spray a bunch of toxic lead shot into Montana’s game birds and waterways.

    RE: Sen Tester’s so-called “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.”

    Something I’d encourage Wilderness supporters in Montana to consider is the fact that if Senator Tester and the collaborators (Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited) would have accepted the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s draft revisions back in May 2010, Montana would have likely gained about 660,000 acres of Wilderness designation because the ENR Committee draft would have been approved by the Committee and therefore included in the possible Omnibus public lands bill.

    However, what transpired was actually what we predicted all along.

    The bull-headed insistence from Senator Tester, Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited and four timber mill owners in Montana for a minimum of 100,000 acres of mandated logging and allowing motors in Wilderness cost all of us the opportunity to designate over 660,000 acres as Wilderness and get some good restoration and fuel reduction work accomplished as proposed in the ENR Committee’s draft.

    Perhaps Senator Tester and the collaborators learned an important lesson…but then again, perhaps not. It appears as if Senator Tester and the collaborators will continue to ensure that any Wilderness Designation in Montana is held hostage by mandated logging by reintroducing the FJRA, as is, in the next session of Congress.

    I mean, the US Congress has proven itself to be such an excellent body why wouldn’t we want politicians mandating logging on our public lands? I sure am glad that Senator Tester gave all these newly elected Republican members of the US Congress the great idea to introduce their own bills mandating logging, oil and gas development, coal mining, grazing on federal public lands in their own states. Man, once we get back the Triple R on the federal level in 2 years we can really start to Drill Baby Drill and Log Baby Log and Mine Baby Mine. I mean for the life of me I can’t figure out why in the world would the American people want their public lands managed through an open, inclusive public public process guided by the latest science and research when instead we can just have politicians pass laws mandating all this resource extraction? Heck, maybe once Champ Edmunds repeals the Montana Environmental Policy Act, he can run for US Senate and repeal the National Environmental Policy Act. (Ok, this last paragraph is total snark, but you get the picture about the can o’ worms Sen Tester and the collaborators opened up).

  5. Chuck

    No mention of Max which is understandable as Baucus is going to be tied up keeping his hedge fund buddies flush.
    A couple of Max’s billionaire friends in the news this week are:

    Steve Cohen: SAC and David Ganek at Level Global.
    They are his real constituents and why Baucus won’t raise taxes on the filthy rich.

  6. Turner

    Wow, the Birchers are all over this blog. Don’t they have somewhere else to go?

  7. legofmutton

    Missoula and its place in history-NOT
    Some Democrats statewide will be happy that the ubber left voters in Missoula still toe the far left liberal tenants that sprang out of the socialist and communist parties of yore and some democrats statewide should beware. By the numbers the dark side has 32 seats in the house…….10 of them are from Missoula, or 30% of the total dark side seats. In the senate, the dark side holds 22 seats of the 50 available. Missoula is sending all dems to the state senate. That’s 4 for 4, or about 20% of the dark side seats. Look to see the Missoula democrats try to wrest control within the democrat caucuses and move the state democrat party to the left of Karl Marx and Che Guevera. Word has it that the dems in Helena, caucused in a phone booth. If we have another election like this year in 2012, the state dems will be able to caucus in a Yugo. It will be throwback to 1960 when the college fraternities tried to outdo one another on how many they could crowd into a phone booth or a Volkswagen beetle.
    Although almost inconsequential in the grand scheme of things political in Helena, Missoula democrats will not be able to control themselves and will bring up some of the most left wing, nasty, anti Montana rhetoric they can. Look for anti business, anti 10th amendment, anti 2nd amendment, and anti personal responsibility bills from these social engineers.
    Missoula Democrats control 26% of the total democrat votes of both houses. So the less bankrupt eastern Montana dems will have to cowboy up if they are to hold onto their values that resonate better with the majority of Montana. I am not a fan of the state democrat party, just saying the eastern dems look askance toward the Missoula dems and think of them as kooks. They are not far off

    • Ingemar Johansson

      Maybe those eastern Dems should take a lesson from their cousins in Alabama.

      Party Switchers Give Alabama GOP Supermajority.

      Four Democrats in the Alabama House of Representatives switched parties giving Republicans “the necessary majorities in both chambers of the Leg islature to vote as a bloc to bring up their agenda or to shut down delays from Democrats,” the Montgomery Advertiser reports.

    • petetalbot

      Legofmutton: this is satire, right?

  8. Pogo Possum

    It isn’t satire, Pete. Legofmutton is repeating what many of my Democratic friends (some of them legislators) in far eastern Montana are saying. They are not happy about losing so many seats in the House and Senate (some of them by very close margins) and they are just as unhappy knowing they now have to deal with a proportionally large contingent of Missoula Democratic legislators who, with a few exceptions, they think are left wing zealots who are out of touch with the average Montana voter.

    As one eastern Montana legislator told me, “just wait to see how few eastern Montana votes Dave Wanzenried gets in a democratic primary for governor if he throws his hat into the ring.”

    • JC

      It’s not the role of “left wing zealots” to be in touch with “the average Montana voter.”

      It’s the role of the “left wing zealots” to represent their constituents–the ones who voted them into office.

      If all Missoula democrats were to do was cater to the whims of eastside dems, then they never would have gotten elected in the first place.

      All I hear from PoPo and leg-o-goat is that they want Helena to consolidate around a monolithic right wing supermajority. Well, it ain’t gonna happen. And if it takes Missoula “left wing zealots” to keep it from being so, so be it.

      Conversely, if eastide dems were to act more like their westside democrat compatriots, then they’d have a better chance of countering the far-right extremist agenda that is about to be foisted upon the state when the Leg meets in January.

      It’s all a matter of perspective. Maybe it’s time to split into East and West Montana, and let all the coal/oil/dirt farmers/ranchers do their thing out east, and all of us eco/socialist/commie radicals do our thing in the west. Really.

      • JC, you may get your wish. We’ll see what happens when the redistricting plan is finalized next year, and then hear the howls from an overly Republican legislature.

      • Pogo Possum

        No J.C. I would prefer all of Montana’s Democrats to embrace the far left politics of Missoula’s Dems. That will help ensure the overwhelming GOP contol of Montana’s legislature until my 6 year old granddaughter hits retirement age.

  9. Sopko

    where’s consonant-woman been? Did she put the pen down now that she’s been “outed”

  10. Turner

    I might’ve missed the point a few posts back. Did he say that eastern Montana is like Alabama?

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