Archive for the ‘2013 Legislative Session’ Category



by Pete Talbot

I’m convinced that the only reason I haven’t been appointed to a cabinet post is my wife’s unseemly past.

Take the case of Tracy Stone-Manning.  She’s been nominated by Gov. Bullock to head Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality.  Her husband, Dick Manning, wrote a book nearly a decade ago that apparently criticized certain modern agricultural practices.

Forget her qualifications for the job, her husband wrote something that offended some legislators (although I doubt they actually read the book).

I love this new litmus test being a part of the Bullock administration: let’s hold folks accountable for their spouses’ actions.  Debbie Barrett (R-Dillon) certainly thinks it’s a good idea.

Maybe the husband/wife has a little problem with booze or pills: boot the nominee. Or maybe said spouse opened their kisser at the wrong time or penned a nasty letter to the editor.  That’s certainly grounds for not getting appointed.  I think we should do background checks on the spouses of everyone who holds public office.

For a Republican Senator, a resume isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  Again, take Pat Williams’ nomination to the board of regents as a case in point.  No, it’s all political now.  Or in some cases, the politics of a spouse.

It can’t get much more petty than that.

(By the way, my wife has a pretty impeccable background.  I, on the other hand … )

by Pete Talbot

There are lots of ways to interpret the news and write the story.

One version would say the Democrats “took a big gamble” when they tried to block a pair of bills.

Another might read:

Old, straight, paranoid white guys try to cling to power by suppressing the vote.

Guess which way Lee Newspapers’ Mike Dennison took?

Now I have a lot of respect for Dennison.  He’s covered the Capitol and other statewide issues quite well for many years.  He’d probably get into trouble with corporate (and Lord knows there aren’t a lot of jobs in journalism out there these days) if he wrote the lede that needs writing.

Because let’s face it, the Republicans in the Montana Legislature are, for the most part, a bunch of scared, intransigent, backward-thinking white guys (and a few women) who see the way the rest of the country is trending.  And it’s not in their direction.

The Montana GOP could try to moderate its policy, be more inclusive and play the long game.  Or it could attempt to keep young people, immigrants and the disenfranchised from voting.

It’s doing the latter.

So while I appreciate the mainstream media’s legislative coverage, I’ll look to the blogs for the ledes that cut to the chase.

by jhwygirl

I’ve been watching this bill – and goddess knows there are 300 bills far more important than this one – so I admittedly am “pimping the blog” here to rant, as briefly as possible, about SB114.

It ticks me off for the hypocrisy. For making absolutely no sense. For costing the taxpayers. For passing huge costs on to local governments. All this from a so-called conservative.

SB114 is a bill that would have the registration fee paid on a car go with the car when its sold. So if you sell your car and have 8 months left on the plates, that 8 months of registration is going to follow the car. And if you buy a used car that was registered in Montana, then you’d get whatever is left on that vehicle. If anything.

I watched Sen. Taylor in committee and on the floor of the senate on this one – and her logic is that most people in Montana buy used cars and only the people who buy new cars are going to get screwed, but they can afford a new car so that doesn’t matter. How this tea party, ALEC and agricultural subsidy-loving Senator Janna Taylor from up near Flathead thought that giving away the registration money paid by the seller to the buyer of the car (which could be a dealer or a private buyer) made sense is beyond me.

If I paid the registration fee, then why in the world couldn’t Sen. Taylor see fit to see that I get to keep whatever of that which I paid somehow in MY pocket, and not someone else’s?

That’s aside from the extra processing her scheme is going to require given that no matter what, a person has to register the car for title – and normally the plates and title are done at the same time. Now people will still have to do the registration and somehow tie the previous registration to the plates they’re going to use, and still yet after the time they somehow acquire on the used car they bought, they’ll have to come back and get tags – again!

Make your head spin? That’s ultra-conservative thinking for ya!

AND – and you knew there was even crazier crazy wrapped up in conservative Sen. Janna Taylor’s “great bill” – This bill is going to cost the taxpayers – i.e., reduce revenue – by over $11 million over the next four years.

In other words – the fiscal note on this is ugly.

Not only that – see that line there on the fiscal note about the reduction to county revenues? Well, the fiscal note is only analyzing the impact on the state’s general fund – not counties. So Janna’s taking a chunk out of counties. Counties around the state that all are struggling with keeping up with infrastructure repair and maintenance.

Oh – the votes on this are just as ugly, imo – in the senate, this ridiculous costly bill breezed with a final vote of 36 to 9 – meaning that a whole bunch of Democrats voted for this thing too.

Locally, Missoula’s Sen. Cliff Larson was happy to give away $11 million in state revenue over the next 4 years, and god knows what kind of impact to the local county coffers.

Do remember, people, that someone has to somehow pay for that revenue that they’re giving up……

What you have to just LOVE about this is Sen. Janna Taylor’s “rebuttal” of the legislative fiscal division’s fiscal note. It essentially amounts to this:

I disagree with the fiscal note because the note is mathematically correct given the limited information available, but did not consider common sense.

Ahh….common sense!!!

She goes on with specifics – like “The exact number is unavailable, but less than stated.” She also notes that different numbers have been used over the years – and cites this is an example of “the difficulty the Motor Vehicle Division of the Department of Justice and the Governor’s Office of Budget and Planning.”

Don’t get it? Neither do I – and that was verbatim.

Today, SB114 had its second reading on the House floor. It, too, breezed awfully easy with an 80 to 20 vote (Missoula legislators in the House taking the correct “NO” to the bill.)

Correction: Baucus challenger Rep. Champ Edmunds voted in support of Sen. Janna Taylor’s bill. Missoula’s “other” Republican, David “Doc” Moore voted against. All Missoula Democrats in the House voted No.

Bullock can’t sign this, unless he wants every county commissioner beating down on his door and sending hate mail. How any conservative can so freely spend $11,000,000 over the next 4 years in this environment, screw counties out of who know’s how much revenue – AND then take some of it directly from my pocket is mystifying.

Anyone who voted for this one should be embarrassed.

And seriously – don’t these guys and gals have more important things to take care of than to create a bureaucratic nightmare that’s going to double-hit taxpayers at the state purse AND the county?

by jhwygirl

SB196 was heard on second reading today on the floor of the senate, having passed state senate judiciary on a 9-3 vote.

In a nutshell, the bill prohibits the use of drones by the government unless a warrant is issued or some other judicial process takes place. It also prohibits the use of information illegally obtained through the use of drones.

The bill, proposed by Glendive’s Sen. Matthew Rosendale, a Republican, received bipartisan support, passing second reading 29-19.

All of Missoula’s senators supported the bill – – except for Sue Malek – See her NO vote?

Who knew the Rattlesnake, East Missoula, Bonner and Clinton people were fine with warrantless government drones?

Crazy, huh?

by jhwygirl

Sen. Debby Barrett’s bill to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle had it’s hearing in Senate Energy and Telecommunications yesterday. A roomful of people, with overflow out into the hall, testified overwhelmingly in support of SB180

Northwestern Energy’s attorney Mr. Fitzpatrick spent a significant amount of time – after great theatrical preparation for his opposition testimony – continuing to blur the lines between merchant lines and distribution lines.

Distribution lines being lines which actually serve public uses here in Montana. Public uses that are regulated by the PSC. Public uses that have an elected official answering for the public uses that have, at times, been reason for an eminent domain taking of private property.

2011’s eminent domain bill handed handed the power of eminent domain to private corporations for the purposes of economic development. That, my friends, is the equivalent of the famously decried Kelo v. City of New London, which held that a private property could be condemned by developers in the name of economic gain and tax revenue.

Below the fold is Sen. Debby Barrett’s proponent statement and Missoula Sen. David Wanzenried’s comments submitted to the public record for SB180.

Before I do that, though, I’m going to provide the email addresses of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee and ask you all to write these guys and tell them that keeping eminent domain power in the hands of private corporations in the name of jobs or economic gain or the guise of some sort of public beneficial review during the Large Facilities Siting Act review is wrong. Tell them eminent domain is a necessary component of government, but that the power belongs with the government and not in the hands of a private corporation. Here are the emails:,,,,,,,,,,,,

Barrett and Wanz’s testimony below…. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

What could get me wanting to try and throw out a few words? A bill seeking to repeal last session’s eminent domain debacle, HB198.

I won’t go into the past gory details on the 2011 eminent domain bill – you can click that link above for that – what I will do is offer a heartfelt THANKS to Sen. Debby Barrett, a Republican out Dillon.

Sen. Barrett has proposed SB180 which is a straight all-out repeal of HB198, which handed eminent domain powers straight to the utility corporations, and eliminating any role of assuring that the taking of private property was for public gain, yet alone fair compensation.

In other words, big business who’s priority is only bigger profits, and not necessarily Montana’s best interests, could crisscross this Montana with whatever form of transmission infrastructure they choose, to deliver their energy from..say…Canada to Colorado…and little old property owner in Dillon Montana is left to deal with the barrage of lawyers from big business.

Thank you? You have to wonder what the hell the people who voted for HB198 were thinking and you can’t really paint the Democrats with the lack of respect for private property rights – plenty of Republicans voted for this crappy bill, including Republicans Sen. Dave Lewis and Reps. Janna Taylor, Wendy Warburton and Duane Ankney.

For the Missoula people that care about private property rights, know that only Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Rep. Ellie Hill voted NO to that bill. Occasional commentor (from way-back) Rep. Mike Miller – a self-described Libertarian, I believe – also voted NO to this bill.

Last week, Sens. Wanzenried, Augare, and Windy Boy signed on as co-sponsors to Sen. Barrett’s bill. I’ll be watching this one closely.

Let’s see who respects private property rights, and who wants to let private corporations do what they will, with only the promise of “fair compensation” from their army of lawyers knocking on our Montana neighbor’s doors.

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