Archive for the ‘Scott Sales’ Category

by jhwygirl

Well, since yesterday’s post on Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity’s “Running on Empty” Tour coming to Missoula without a location, they’ve since announced they’ll be at Bonner Park.

I’m sure we can thank AFP’s Montana state director Scott Sales for finally getting that critical piece of information up for this very popular Tea Party event.

I don’t know what, precisely, the Missoula Area Central Labor Council, the Montana Organizing Project and others are planning, but I got an email yesterday saying they were “sponsoring a strongly humorous response to this tour that is “Running on Empty.” We will present an updated version of Lewis Carroll’s classic “Mad Tea Party” from Alice in Wonderland. And we will have other humorous activities. Please come ready to laugh AFP out of town!”

Hmmmmmmm….

So Friday folks, while Koch & Co. are serving up their Tea Party with the sole purpose of eliminating and and all impediments to domestic oil – while keeping those tax subsidies intact for Exxon and BP and…well… Koch Industries, there will be a group of Missoulians serving up their own Tea Party.

Don’t miss the show at Bonner Park – Friday, noon.

Let’s give American’s for Prosperity a better welcome than what they got when they kicked off their tour in Jacksonville. Seems like could use some company. Show ’em some Montana hospitality!

And don’t forget to wear your Mad Hat.

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by jhwygirl

Koch Industries-funded Americans For Prosperity’s Running on Empty Tour is coming to town, and they’re clearly afraid of Missoula.

They’re so afraid of the liberals here in this little ol’ university town of Missoula Montana that they’ve removed Karl Tyler Chevrolet from its event’s calendar for the tour, replacing it with “TBD”.

Missoula is the only stop in Montana with a location yet to be determined.

The Running on Empty Tour stops here Friday at noon.

Supermontanareporter John S. Adams had a piece in Sunday’s Great Falls Tribune that provides some background on Americans For Prosperity and the main thrust of its Running on Empty Tour:

Kyla Wiens, an energy advocate for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the driving force behind AFP is one of the nation’s wealthiest energy companies working to preserve its profits.

AFP was founded in 2004 by billionaire Charles Koch, of Koch Industries. Forbes magazine listed Koch Industries No. 2 on its list of America’s largest companies in 2009 with revenues toping $100 billion. The company made its fortune in diversified companies involved in oil refining, minerals, commodities trading, and others.

According to the New York Times, AFP’s budget surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010, an election year.

Wiens says AFP’s claim — that “illegal” offshore drilling moratoriums, the canceling of oil and gas leases on public lands and the Endangered Species Act are driving up gas prices — is false.

“They are just wrong and they are lying intentionally,” Wiens says. “This is just false rhetoric from the Koch brothers’ group that is funded by industry and is working to protect big oil’s profits.”

For the local connection, it’s good to find out that Scott Sales (a long-time favorite ’round these parts) is president of the Montana chapter of Americans For Prosperity Foundation. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise – Scott Sales has long been a corporate apologist who defended tax cheats while a state legislator.

What’s really surprising is that Scott Sales is apparently one of the last people on earth who will still champion the free market.

Yep – that’s right. Supermontanareporter John. S. Adams grabs a quote from Scott Sales championing the free market for the oil industry:

Sales says the free market, not government regulation, will bring energy prices down.

“That’s the beauty of the free market. If there’s a lot of something, it means you’re going to have fewer dollars chasing more product. Conversely, if you have supply restrictions, you have more dollars chasing fewer commodities,” Sales says.

Hilarious. Free market is impeded by regulation. Not subsidy.

Scott Sales, still the idiot we always knew he was.

~~~~~~~
I’m hearing rumours of a counter-protests for Koch & Co. when they hit Missoula.

I guess that’s if they hit Missoula, given that Americans For Prosperity and Scott Sales seem pretty scared to even let Missoula and Montana know where it is they’re going to be stopping.

And you know what, if I had to guess, maybe they’ll be stopping to refuel here at a Holiday Station. Why? Because Holiday Station gets its fuel from the Canadian Tar Sands, and it’s refined in Canada by Flint Hill Resources.

Who owns Flint Hill Resources?

Flint Hill Resources is wholly owned by Koch Industries.

When I get info on the Missoula welcoming party for Koch/Americans For Prosperity/Scott Sales Tour, I’ll let ya’all know.

(a hat tip to @KirsteninMT for the Holiday Station info – big THANKS to her for that!)

by jhwygirl

And I know a whole lot of them were inside working…so just to make sure they don’t miss the bigger picture out there:

KGVO AM 1290 – conservative talk radio down here in Missoula – reported today that “less than a dozen protesters” were at the rally.

Reuters has even joined in, reporting that protesters were Outnumbered by the media and politicians in attendance”.

It was a gun-toting rally that had to have special permission to carry the guns on the Capital grounds.

Bring Your Gun to The Capitol Day? What is this? Show and yell? Or just a redo of Sen. Joe Balyeat riding a donkey into the rotunda during the 2009 session?

I’m going to suggest puppies and kittens next time. I’m thinking they’d draw more attention.

Which, speaking of, Reuters has a nice little slideshow (4 or 5 pics) of the freak show, including this nice pic of Tim Ravndal, Executive Director of Lewis & Clark County’s Conservative Tea Party:

Even former state representative Scott Sales, Montana director for Americans for Prosperity got into the mix.

Honestly? Maybe we should be giving the MTGOP credit for creating jobs – its practically bank now that out-of-state journalists are here to watch the show…which means they’re getting a hotel room, eating in restaurants and I’m sure enjoying some of Montana’s fine 8.75 microbrew in the 4000 foot elevation of the state capitol.

The “freak show” statement might sound harsh, but do put that in the context of the fact that there had been a rally in support of workers and middle class America held in conjunction with the freak show, yet there’s nary a mention of that protest, which drew hundreds.

And seriously – if Sarah Elliot isn’t inviting Stephen Colbert for a visit with the Governor and his buddy Jag, she isn’t thinking outside the box.

by jhwygirl

I don’t write about affordable housing enough, although some of you might disagree. It can’t be overstated, though, and having affordable housing in any community is key to facilitating economic growth and development.

Missoula is going to continue to have a hell of a time attracting good paying sustainable jobs until such time that it has entry level ownership opportunities for entry-level professionals. This is all the more important with the closure of Smurfit.

I mention this because the Gallatin County Commissioners will be deciding on Tuesday whether to accept a $7 million grant that would go to the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) for a housing development that will service those making 50% of the median income.

Now, apparently, the teabaggers have gotten wind of this grant – the application of which was approved by this very same county commission this past May in a 2-1 vote – and there is pressure on one of the commissioners (one who, by chance, happens to be up for election) to vote “no” on accepting the grant.

Blame it on – seriously, I’m not joking – the irrepressible (and apparently irresponsible) Scott Sales (who is hinting that running for said county commission seat just might be in his future).

It’s amazing to me how shortsighted these teabagger-types can be. Turning this grant down is going to put greater pressure on an already overpriced housing market. Not only that, it is going to make finding employees for the large number of service-related jobs harder and harder.

Because – and I know this is a hard concept for teabaggers to understand since they don’t do much more than soundbites – Montana isn’t dropping in median housing costs like a whole hell of a lot of the rest of America. We’ve been lucky – just ask any realtor – in that the housing market here in Montana (and even less so in places like Missoula and Bozeman) hasn’t been greatly affected by the downturn.

It’s pretty basic: Businesses can’t run without employees. Affordable employees. Simple concept, really.

So why does Scott Sales and his teabagger friends hate small business?

Having decent housing for these service-related jobs – jobs a community can’t do without – ensure that the market housing maintains as much semblance of affordability as is possible. This grant is for those making less than 50% of the median income.

The median income for a household in Bozeman is $45,000…which makes 50% of median a full-time $10.00/job.

Thing is – few will say that housing in Bozeman is affordable, right?

Which is probably where Scott sales comes in. It’s sheer lunacy – Scott Sales-type lunacy – to turn this money down. It’ll go somewhere (and I bet Missoula or Helena or Great Falls would be glad to take it) – and with it will go a more stable pro-business economy to whatever community gets it.

There are people and businesses in Bozeman and Gallatin County that are counting on the county commission – at least the 2 that had the pro-business common sense to approve the application – to have the pro-business common sense again to accept the grant.

That is, of course, unless everyone wants to start having to pay more for all those sorts of things that employee $10/hour employees – banks and universities and restaurants and conveniece stores and box stores and local main street stores. Hell – I’m betting the county itself employs quite a number of people that make around $10/hour.

But don’t worry Scott Sales and Gallatin County teabaggers – when the county has to hire another roadworker or police officer or office assistant, and they cost more because the cost of a basic need (housing) just went up, they’ll just pass that bill onto you – the taxpayer.

by Jay Stevens

The bill that would close the tax loopholes for out-of-staters was scuttled by the House Republicans. In response, the equipment tax reductions for businesses was scrapped.

That’s not terribly surprising. The GOP has been against the tax-collection bill since day one. What’s interesting about this particular report is what Sales has to say about the bill:

House Speaker Scott Sales sent a clear signal to Democrats on Tuesday that the “revenue enhancements” would not get through the House.

“Hell no,” he told Senate President Mike Cooney after Cooney asked him in a morning meeting to reconsider the issue.

“I’m not raising taxes on someone to cut taxes for someone else,” Sales said.

Got that? First, Sales acknowledged the bill would have meant more revenue from the state. Second, the Speaker also considers tax collection to be a form of “tax increase.”

It appears that Speaker Sales is saying that poor tax collection is a known form of tax cut for big business. It’s an interesting moment of truthfulness from the House Speaker, isn’t it? He apparently would undermine the laws and government agencies of the state in the name of ideology. Classy.

by Jay Stevens

Oops!

The House adjourned after passing its tax and budget bills without waiting around to see if the Senate will pass them. If the Senate rejects any of the bills, the Governor will have to call another special session…

As ID’s Jason says, “I am beginning to think that Mr. Sales really just doesn’t get how the Montana Legislative system works.”

The first casualty in the brouhaha is now former House majority leader, Michael Lange, who was stripped of his position, largely over his obscenity-laden tirade.

A couple of things. First, I told you so!

Second, I actually feel bad for the guy. Apparently having learned his lesson from the fallout of the angry rant, he was one of the 13 House Republicans to reach out to the Good Guv and rescue the state’s budget.

I suspect there will be other casualties from the 2007 legislative session. I suspect we won’t ever see another Sales Speakership, for one. Or another Constitution party member in the body (Jore terms out after this session). Or Sinrud given the reigns of the Appropriations Committee.

Whether Schweitzer has suffered any damage this session remains to be seen, but despite some institutional criticism in the papers, some critics in the blogosphere (myself included), and general disgruntlement in political circles, I suspect it may be Schweitzer who may emerge from this session as the “winner.” Certainly it could be – and likely will be – spun that Schweitzer stepped in and saved the day.

Update: It’s over

by Jay Stevens

Dagnabit! Just when I was going to sit down and write a post about how the special session was hummin’ along for budget issues, but foundering on tax issues – and not over the substance or amount of relief – but on the collection of taxes, I see David Sirota beat me to the punch:

…the Republican leadership in the Montana legislature has no problem with resident taxpayers paying higher taxes because out-of-state landowners and corporations are being allowed to get away with not paying what they owe. This, folks, is the war on the middle class at work.

The Great Falls Tribune gives us more details, reporting that Republicans offered “amendments rang[ing] from reducing the number of lawyers in the state Department of Revenue to cutting funding for a tax-gap analysis.” And the Billings Gazette and the Daily Interlake gives us some details on exactly who is pulling the strings – it’s Republican Reps. Scott “My Vote’s For” Sales, Bob Lake and John Sonju.

From the Daily Interlake’s piece, Bigfork’s Bill Jones sums up the current session’s logjam:

Rep. Bill Jones, R-Bigfork, said he’s not aware of the details, but he is “disturbed that we’re talking about revenue enhancements when we have a surplus.”

Jones was not among the Republicans who met with Schweitzer’s staff last weekend, but he often votes with that group. He voted in the Republican bloc to pass the major education bill Friday and the governor’s energy bill Saturday.

“There’s two steps that I’ve supported them on right there,” he said.

Looks like Republican corporatists are caving on the budget, on the composition and amount of tax relief (Interlake: “Sonju and Sales, R-Bozeman, both said the bill is laden with so much harmful tax policy that they would not support it even though it also contains tax relief provisions”…), but are trying to derail the process over collecting taxes. That is, they don’t want big business to have to pony up.

And while the Governor is not winning any friends this session and has made a lot of bonehead blunders, it’s quickly becoming evident that this whole Legislature crash has been about protecting out-of-state big business from their tax responsibilities.

I’m not as quick as Sirota to accuse Sales of being bought. After all, Sales and the gang may actually believe it’s in the best interest of the state to relieve business of their tax obligations. It makes for a “business friendly” state! Unfortunately for the rest of us, being “business friendly” means having to pony up and pay a disproportionate amount of taxes.

Sirota calls it a “war on the middle class.” As much as I often chafe at Sirota’s demagoguery, I have to agree.

by Jay Stevens

There’s a nice story in today’s Gazette on how 13 Republican legislators met over last weekend with members of Governor Schweitzer’s staff to come with a broad agreement on spending and taxation for the legislative special session.

First, the thirteen. Revile or praise them, as is your wont:

–Llew Jones (Conrad)
–Alan Olson (Roundup)
–Michael Lange (Billings)
–John Ward (Billings)
–Edith Clark (Sweetgrass)
–Tom McGillvray (Billings)
–Elsie Arntzen (Billings)
–Gary Maclaren (Victor)
–Wayne Stahl (Saco)
–Jesse O’Hara (Great Falls)
–Carol Lambert (Broadus)
–Bill Nooney (Missoula)
–Walter McNutt (Sidney)

Nooney, for one, had to know his voting record this legislative session won’t play well in this town, even in the conservative neck of Missoula he represents. That’s the downside of marching lockstep with your caucus, especially if it’s on the extremist side. No doubt he’s anticipating a reelection battle; compromise now will help him appear to be a moderate.

Then there’s this little nugget:

Conspicuously absent was House Speaker Scott Sales, the highest-ranking Republican in the House.

Sales said later he wasn’t invited. Those at the meeting said they wanted people there who were willing to negotiate. Sales, an outspoken conservative, has been adamant in his call for deeper spending reductions and longer-term tax cuts.

Even his own party views him as an obstructionist.

There was some talk to rehabilitate Sales’ image – Lange, notably, said that Sales intransigence gave the 13 Mutineers some advantage in their negotiations with the Good Guv’s people. In other words, the GOP went along with obstructionism and helped scuttled the general session for…a bargaining chip?

I know how much the Speaker enjoys his manly war analogies, so I’ll offer this one up: when you surrender, you offer up your sword with the hilt given to you enemy. Don’t stick him with the point.

by Jay Stevens

So far and so good: nothing unusual or unexpected has yet occurred in the special session of the legislature. It looks like the education bill will leave the Senate tonight for the House tomorrow – where it’s likely some sparks will fly. The budget bill is still being hashed out.

Matt Gouras filed a story about this morning’s Republican caucus, in which Scott Sales confronted his mutiny:

House Speaker Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, called a meeting of House Republicans and told them he was not in on the compromise, didn’t authorize members of the caucus to cut a deal and won’t support it.

A Republican moderate then stood up in front of his GOP colleagues, many of whom didn’t look pleased, and explained why he has decided to go along with a package being put together by Schweitzer’s office.

“This common ground is something I can accept,” said Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad. “Is this common ground acceptable to everyone? I don’t know.”

[snip]

Jones, in talking about his decision to be among the dozen or so Republicans who took it upon themselves to negotiate with the governor, said he believes “folks on the extremes are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

[snip]

Right afterward, conservative Republican Rep. Ed Butcher of Winifred, stood up to take issue with the package.

He said Republicans supporting it are “rolling over to give the governor what he wants.”

[snip]

Sales told the House Republicans at their meeting that he would not tell anyone how to vote over the next three days of the special session.

“You are accountable to yourselves,” Sales said.

Me? I’m just glad some Republican moderates stepped up and made the deal, putting the interest of their state over their political party.

by Jay Stevens

We got ourselves a humdinger this legislative session.

Governor Schweitzer called the special session of the Legislature this weekend – starting Thursday — and has declared it will meet for three days, through Saturday.

Here’s what we know from the news reports. Schweitzer and his administration have met with “a dozen Republican legislators,” including House Majority Leader Mike Lange. Apparently the Governor and the rogue Republicans have struck some sort of deal.

My thoughts, and things to look for:

— It appears that John Sinrud, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Scott Sales, Speaker of the House, were excluded from the deal.

That’s huge, and means that the Governor has to line up more than just a couple of Republicans to his tax and budget plans. Sinrud can table any appropriations bill – such as, say, a budget bill – that passes through his committee. Sales can tweak procedures to sit on bills. He can use “pocket vetos” – simply putting passed bills into a desk drawer or refuse to sign them. Both men have this past legislative session used those procedural tactics to deal with legislation or legislators they don’t like. (Yes, a lot of bills vanished.)

In order to bypass these procedural difficulties, the Governor needs 60 House votes to “blast” bills out of committee. That means he needs at least eleven Republicans to vote with a unified Democratic bloc to get bills past the Sales/Sinrud bottleneck.

— If Schweitzer does have his “dozen” Republican legislators, we’ll see some internecine sparks fly on the House floor. Maybe even more angry speeches from Sales again questioning the morality of his opponents and no doubt some of his one-time allies.

If Schweitzer does have his “dirty dozen,” then we may be witnessing the beginning of an internal struggle for the Republican party. Scott Sales won the House speakership over the more moderate wing of his party by a single vote; is this the first sign of a moderate versus radical struggle in Republican electoral politics, we’ll see intensify in 2008? Are state party leaders and donors pulling the party back to the center?

— Schweitzer’s plans and call for a special session caught the Democratic leadership completely off guard.

That doesn’t bode well for some of his pet projects, notably the “green” energy bill he tried to pawn off on the Legislature this session. A complete mess, possibly illegal as it’s written, only one Democrat voted against it the last time around – Jim Elliot, a Senator who’s facing term limits, and who had nothing to lose politically by opposing the Governor. You can bet more Democrats step up against this dog when the bill threatens to become reality. Does the Governor have enough Republican votes to overturn his own party’s defection on questionable legislation?

— Right now, this is the Governor’s game. By most accounts, his leadership – or lack of it – was a major reason why the 2007 Legislature’s regular session failed so spectacularly. (The other major contributor, of course, was demagoguery from the House leadership.)

 I’m really beginning to hear a lot of negative comments about the Governor’s communication style, and a lot of internal, muffled disgruntlement with policies and politeness stemming out of Helena.

The bottom line is this: if Schweitzer pulls this special session off – and there’s a lot of reasons why this session could crash and burn – it’ll be a major political coup for the Governor. If so, it’ll be seen as a validation for Schweitzer’s diplomacy and policy-making. That’s not a good thing, but I’ll take it if it comes with a budget and the public humiliation of right-wing extremists Sales and Sinrud.

(I know the Good Guv reads the blogs, so let me make a personal appeal: a crash is coming. Poor policy and poor manners will catch up to you. It may not happen now, it may not happen before your re-election; but if you’re thinking bigger and beyond, you need energy policy that’s well written and effective. And you need friends.)

So there’s my views on the special session. Your thoughts?

by Jay Stevens

Everybody’s angry that the Legislature adjourned without a budget. Partisan gridlock is to blame, they say, Democrats, Republicans, ptui! They’re all the same!

Yeah? Read over the transcript from Scott Sales speech after the Legislature adjourned:

…we’ve met a brick at every stage of the way. There was absolutely no compromise with the Democrats. They wanted to spend it all, and then some. We took the historic step of breaking the budget into eight…er…initially six bills became eight…we did it for one reason, and one reason only: we wanted to bring forward a sustainable, accountable budget for the people of Montana, so that we could then offer the tax, uh, tax cuts that they deserve!…and we received not one bit of help from the Democrats. In unison on 49 votes, they fought us tooth and nail and refused to participate in the budgeting process.

The bills went over to the Senate, and they blew the budget up way beyond the subcommittee work…I believe about a hundred seventy-five million, if the — correct me if I’m wrong – about 27 million above the Governor’s budget…they were horribly irresponsible! They spent money that…uh…uh…nobody could even imagine! I think it was obscene and immoral how they bloated that budget up. Without giving any concern to the taxpayers of Montana again!

Um, it’s unfortunate the way this thing turned out. We came in here this morning, and…uh…what the intention and every, uh, uh, effort, to try to come some sort of resolve with the Democrats, and come up with a sustainable, accountable budget and tax relief, and in fact, a couple of our guys – Representative Lange and Representative Glazier – were in the midst of a negotiation with the Senate to provide some sort of tax relief, and they were called out of that meeting, it was adjourned abruptly so they could sine die and run away.

Now yesterday…we have repeatedly made offers to the Governor and to the Senate, ah, what we wanted to get accomplished. Uh, yesterday we got an ultimatum from the Democrats, I don’t know if anybody brought it here, but I’d sure like the press to get it in their hands. Basically it was an ultimatum, you do it our way or the highway. They demanded unilateral surrender from us yesterday, if we wanted to adjourn. Um, we held firm, on the belief that the money belongs to the people, we turned down that offer, and they decided to unilaterally surrender against us.

And somehow we’re to blame. Somehow we’re to blame because we are fighting for the citizens and hardworking people of Montana.

I disagree. I think we’re very unified in this. I hope when we come back in the next session the Governor is willing to work with us. He’s called, I’m sure he’ll call a special session. And when he does I hope he decides to attend that one instead of being gone, like he was so much of this one. And, uh, that’s my challenge to the Governor. If you’re going to call a special session, please attend it. And please come to the bargaining table with House leadership, so we can work out a compromise.

It’s all the Democrats’ fault, they’re immoral and obscene, they refused to compromise, and by golly! The House Republicans preserved their collective manhood by standing firm and forced the opposition to “unilaterally surrender”!

The Democrats offered a tax rebate, and even increased the amount of the rebate after complaints from the Republicans.

The Governor did try to compromise, but was told to “stick it in his *ss.”

While manly Scott Sales “held firm” in the name of saving Montana taxpayers money, he’s also sticking us with $38K a day for the costs of the special session.

Honestly, could you think of a more acerbic, more confrontational speech on exit from a confrontational legislative session, which nearly every Montanan has decried as being too acerbic and confrontational?

No wonder Republican Senator John Cobb had public thoughts about the House leadership:

[House Appropriations Committee chair John] Sinrud continued to cut off comments by [Rep. Eve] Franklin and other Democrats. During a brief recess, Cobb stalked from the room after telling committee member Dave Kasten, R-Brockway, that the Republicans on the committee were “a bunch of idiots.”

“They’re using the rules to abuse people,” said Cobb during the break. “They think they can bully the governor. It’s no different than what goes on in a Third World country.”

If this is the kind of thing Republicans are saying in public, what are they saying behind closed doors?

Let’s hope they’re discussing a change in leadership. Because right now it seems likely as long as Sinrud, Lange, and Sales are in charge, the acrimony will not subside.

by Jay Stevens

As I guessed, House Republicans wouldn’t let the bill abolishing the death penalty to reach the floor for debate.

I’m with Bigfork Republican, Bill Jones, who responded to Scott Sales’ implication that considering a death penalty ban would hurt Republicans politically:

“There’s more liability for those who obstruct the legislative process than those who vote their conscience,” Jones said.

The notion that death penalty support or opposition falls purely along party lines is a quaint notion. On one hand, you’ve got Wulfgar!, who supports the death penalty, and on the other you have Montana Headlines, who opposes it. (And by the way, anytime MH starts a sentence off with “liberals think…” you can skip the paragraph. If MH actually knew how liberals think, he’d be one.)

The death penalty is expensive, it’s not an effective deterrent, it’s unfairly applied, and it’s subject to mistakes, as the recent spate of pardons based on DNA evidence attests. Unease about the practice has grown, not just among liberals who are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of a government putting its citizens to death, but among Christians who value life, repentance, and an eternal soul; lawmakers, who hate to see the courts bogged down in endless appeals; prison officials who have to deal with the ugly and difficult mechanics of the process; and citizens of all ideological stripes who are beginning to realize that there are innocent men and women on death row, more than we can be comfortable with.

At the very least, House Republicans should be open to debate. Let the public record show how our representatives feel about the issue. Let them suggest ways that we can fix the obvious and glaring problems with the death penalty. It’s time we address this issue again.

by Jay Stevens

Oops.

The House Republicans have sure made a mess.

I touched on this a little in earlier post, commenting on the GOP’s plans to trim $3 billion in funding for the elderly, children, and the mentally ill. But things got worse since.

They’ve trimmed the state Health and Human Services budget to $300. That’s no typo – that’s all the zeroes there are in the budget. The Gazette:

This amendment would wipe out programs serving more than 300,000 Montanans. These include the Children’s Health Insurance Plan; Medicaid, the federal-state health program for poor people; mental health programs and hundreds of others.

The three hundred dollars is, of course, just a symbolic flip of the bird.

Matt Singer:

But the bottom line here is that it is very important for the Republican Party to emphasize their core principles.

Like hating poor people.

I don’t even know how to satirize this any more. It’s like if a Democrat introduced a bill to tax looking at the moon. It’s beyond parody.

jhwygirl:

Montana Republicans disgust me. Absolutely and thoroughly disgust me. If the people that voted these idiots into office don’t or won’t speak up, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to speak to a Republican again with out thinking of a swear word. The basic lack of common respect dished out today by the Republican House was appalling.

Ed Kemmick, who had earlier praised House Republicans for their “gamesmanship”:

But when I mentioned games, I was thinking of chess, or football or baseball, games of skill and maneuver, games in which experience counts for a lot. I don’t know what to say now, when the Republicans appear to be playing Go Fish or T-ball….

But now it’s the Republicans whining because the Democrats refuse to play by the re-written rules. The Democrats were perfectly within their rights—in fact, the Republicans hardly left them any choice—when they simply decided to sit out and let the Republicans try to pull off this farce by themselves.

Political games are defensible only if they are played in pursuit of some worthier goal. If the Republicans even have a goal anymore, except to make themselves look stupid, I don’t know what it is.

Yesterday, the Missoulian chided the House GOP for splitting up the budget:

No one’s talking about budget specifics in Helena. It’s all about the process – one bill or six or eight. The political theatrics likewise divert public attention. Whatever budget emerges, it promises to be the least scrutinized tax-and-spending package in modern history.

The paper calls on Republicans to return to HB 2 and use their “powers of persuasion” in negotiations with the Governor to get reductions in spending.

The Great Falls Tribune on the H&HS cut:

We hope Montanans are comfortable with the idea that one man whose politics are somewhere to the right of the entire Republican Party appears to be dictating much of what passes the state House of Representatives.

We refer to Rick Jore, the affable lawmaker from Ronan who is the Legislature’s sole member of the Constitution Party, a group that probably could hold its annual convention in the back of a van.

The Billings Gazette’s editorial board – who are a day behind the news – were pretty harsh on the House Republicans and their “leader” Scott Sales today because of their creation of two additional budget bills – upping the tally to eight — without any chance for public input or scrutiny.

Tuesday morning, The Gazette editorial board chatted with House Speaker Scott Sales in a telephone conference call that he had requested last week. It was a cordial exchange with Sales describing how the six GOP budget bills would be brought to the house floor in the next two days and that the “six-pack” eventually would be sent to the governor at the same time so he would have a full 10 days to make a decision on signing them.

Imagine the editorial board’s surprise to find that at the time Sales spoke with the board, other GOP House leaders were scrapping one of their six major state spending bills and breaking it into three parts.

“I almost told you, but it wasn’t quite ready for public consumption,” Sales told the editorial writer later Tuesday.

That, or Sales didn’t know about the changes, either.

How can the public participate in this quick-change legislation? Seventy-two-hour notice was posted Tuesday for the Friday hearings, Sales said. That would mean the notice would have to have taken effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday, before the bills were introduced. They weren’t all accessible at the legislative Web site as of late Tuesday afternoon.

The editorial chides Sales for not letting folks have their say – people who are “important to the process,” even if they happen to be experts on the issues – and in the end skewers the GOP’s budget:

The governor’s budget certainly can be improved. But it isn’t the reckless spending spree that his critics have said. There’s no “rainy-day fund” in the House GOP plan, although Schweitzer and senators of both parties have proposed saving some of this biennium’s extraordinary surplus for leaner times. The GOP bills set no money aside to pay for future public school building repairs as the governor proposed. Schweitzer’s budget contains millions in one-time-only spending, including financing capital projects with current revenues instead of bonding. Schweitzer’s government funding and tax-cut proposals appear to be sustainable.

Can the GOP House leadership say the same about its larger, permanent tax cuts and smaller government funding? Asked about that on Tuesday, Sales didn’t answer the question.

Me, on March 6:

There’s been some touting of the Republican party’s shift to the right in recent state politics, as if that meant a new and dedicated sense of unity and mission. There’s been some crowing that the Republicans’ response to Schweitzer’s budget was completely unexpected, and surprised overconfident Democrats.

I admit it was hard to predict that House Republicans would choose such a contentious, time-consuming, and ultimately hopeless means to tout their ideology in the legislature. In the end, of course, it will be that ideological stubbornness that sinks the GOP in this budget battle.

To add to Ed’s collection, it looks like the chickens are coming home to hatch before they were counted.

by Jay Stevens 

You may have seen the news: Rep. Ed Butcher (R-Winifred) made some inappropriate remarks in the legislature this week:

Republican Rep. Ed Butcher said he meant nothing derogatory when he referred to Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder and a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, as “Chief Windy Boy” before a House Agriculture Committee meeting Thursday. Butcher also later asked Windy Boy whether his large gavel qualified as a “war club.”

“The whole thing is absolutely absurd,” said Butcher, who also was criticized in 2001 for calling American Indian reservations “ghettos” and apologized in 2004 for referring to severely developmentally disabled students as “vegetables” at an education meeting.

Classy.

Apologies were made, and it appears that the Winifred Representative is a moron, good for a snark or two.

And just when we think it’s over, we get stunts like this, where Butcher’s racist and ignorant remarks are contrasted with the left blogosphere’s dubbing of loose cannon and House Speaker, Scott Sales, “sideshow.”

There is a little something I would like to point out though. There are a number of blogs in Montana that refer to the Montana Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Sales, in a derogatory, name calling manner and they think that is fine and dandy while disparaging Ed Butcher for his name calling. I know, they will defend themselves by saying Rep. Ed Butcher’s comment is racist and theirs isn’t. I will admit that is true but name calling is not necessary. They should be able to get their point across without the use of prejudicial names if the point they are trying to make is strong enough.

You know, this type of thinking drives me crazy. How in the world could anyone compare calling Sales “sideshow” with Butcher’s remarks? It boggles the mind.

Yes, calling Scott Sales is juvenile, belittles the most powerful political member of the state’s lower legislative body, does not foster a climate of dialog and bipartisanship, etc & co, but — in my opinion — Sales has earned his nickname. In other words, Sales is “Sideshow,” not because he was born with an extra head or any other such accident of birth. No, Sales is a “sideshow” because of the things he’s said or done.

To compare “Sideshow” to Butcher’s remarks is…well…insulting. Butcher spoke from ignorance and made demeaning remarks based on Windy Boy’s race. It’s the worst form of thinking, really, to generalize character based on a person’s appearance or background, things they have no control over. It’s narrow-minded and lazy, at best.

It’d be bad enough were Butcher a blogger. But he’s a representative of Winifred’s citizens serving in the state legislature. His words and actions reflect on his constituents. When he says dumb things he makes all of Winifred look dumb. Besides displaying the lowest form of thinking, he’s also supposed to be more respectful of his fellow legislators than some partisan hack.

Ultimately, Sarpy Sam’s defense of Ed Butcher by saying, “well, golly, look at what the left bloggers are saying,” is absolutely, one-hundred-percent utter bullsh*t.

It’s a far too typical knee-jerk reaction when folks are called out for our worst impulses. It’s not honest. It’s — wait, what’s that term right-wing Christians invariably trot out? — moral relativism, at its worst.

You think an earned nickname should be held to the same standard as racism?

 (For more reasonable criticism of left blogosphere’s rants against Scott Sales, see Mike’s post on “Legislative Demonizing.” Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias counter the crit against left blogo tone, and Drum argues that bloggers should be considered “salty” or “colorful,” not hysterical or vulgar.)

by Jay Stevens 

Jennifer McKee has an amusing piece in today’s paper about the spirit of bipartisanship in the Montana legislature:

The first recorded vote of the 2007 Montana Legislature in the closely divided House of Representatives on Wednesday fell along party lines.

The 51-49 vote came just minutes after House Minority Leader John Parker, D-Great Falls, gave a gentlemanly speech on the spirit of cooperation.

Cooperation was in slim supply moments later when Democrats tried to change the makeup of the House committees that take first crack at all legislation.

All 50 Republicans and Constitution Party Rep. Rick Jore of Ronan, a former Republican, voted to reject the Democrats’ initiative.

Hilarious. As shown throughout the last six years of federal-level Republican rule, any GOP request for “co-operation” means “do as we say.” Yesterday, Montana Republicans operated under the old playbook.

But I also expect Senate Democrats to give House Republicans a difficult time, too. While everyone trumps up “bipartisanship,” it’s obvious that this legislature in reality is going to be rancorous. What else would you expect when the Republican House Speaker – Sideshow Scott Sales – declares “war” on state Democrats?

Compare Republican legislative promises – war, obstructionism, opposition to the Governor at every chance – to the Democrats’ agenda:

In the Democrat-controlled Senate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, the first woman to hold that post in the Montana Legislature, outlined what she sees as core issues to address this session.

Those include investing in a “world-class education system,” extending health care coverage to children and others without it, improving relations with tribal governments and protecting Montanans’ access to “rivers, streams, hunting grounds and fishing holes,” she said.

I can’t wait for Sideshow Scott and his dog & pony show to obstruct health care for children, or protection of open spaces, or improving education. At least rhetorically, as a blogger. As a father, homeowner, and taxpayer…well…I’ll probably be p*ssed.

Yup, it will be fun in 2007 – for bloggers!

by Jay Stevens 

John Adams has a sweet profile of nutcase Rick Jore in today’s Independent, centered around a visit by Constitution Party members to Hellgate High School in Missoula.

In the story, Jore calls public funding of schools “welfare for education,” and promises to make life difficult for a legislature that will soon toil under a Montana Supreme Court order that the body must “develop an adequate funding mechanism” for public education:

“The Legislature is not constitutionally bound, in my opinion, under the separation of doctrine, to acquiesce to the court’s opinion,” he says. “I’m not at all convinced that continuing on the same path of just giving more money, and not addressing accountability and parental rights and authority, is the course we want to go.”

Rick Jore:

The Federal government has no Constitutional authority to fund or interfere with education and I will oppose all federal funds appropriated for education.

From Rick Jore’s Constitution Party’s platform:

All teaching is related to basic assumptions about God and man. Education as a whole, therefore, cannot be separated from religious faith. The law of our Creator assigns the authority and responsibility of educating children to their parents. Education should be free from all federal government subsidies, including vouchers, tax incentives, and loans, except with respect to veterans.

Because the federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction concerning the education of our children, the United States Department of Education should be abolished; all federal legislation related to education should be repealed. No federal laws subsidizing or regulating the education of children should be enacted. Under no circumstances should the federal government be involved in national teacher certification, educational curricula, textbook selection, learning standards, comprehensive sex education, psychological and psychiatric research testing programs, and personnel.

This is the guy Sideshow Scott Sales thought appropriate to sit in the state House’s most powerful seat for state education.

Jeff Mangan – hardly a liberal – is calling Sideshow Scott’s committee appointments indicative of the leadership’s “extremist attitude towards education,” and claims “the credibility of the Republican Party is at stake.”

Matt Singer is calling for Jore’s ouster from the chair of the House Education committee. I agree wholeheartedly. We shouldn’t be playing politics with our children’s education. To help prod moderate Republicans into action, go sign Forward Montana’s online petition and forward it to other interested Montanans.

by Jay Stevens 

There’s been some crowing among those on the right that Montana’s 2006 state elections were a victory for Republicans, because…well…they picked up a couple seats in the state senate, and their candidates generally out-polled Democratic nominees.

Fair enough, I suppose. While other states – like Colorado – were bleeding conservative state legislators, Montana’s GOP stemmed the flood and lost “only” their federal Senate seat. (I’ll take it!) I guess when your ideology is consistently and thoroughly rejected across the country, you take your victories where you can find them.

The only thing is, is that the Montana Republicans “won” this election with their legislative promises: the “handshake with Montana” (pdf), which said, “We will support and provide funding to reduce college tuition,” among other things.

So…what happened to this promise? “Sideshow” Scott Sales jettisoned it even before the legislature convened, and has replaced the “handshake” with “a kick to the b*lls.”

Is that the fastest dropped campaign promise, ever?

Is the “handshake” the Montana Republican Party’s “read my lips” moment?

Over on Left in the West, Matt published an email from Rep. Mike Jopek, a Democrat out of Whitefish, who reiterated the importance of education and introduced some of the legislation that will be proposed in the upcoming session. Concrete legislation, a strong interest in Montana’s children and the future of our state, coherent and reasoned rhetoric. This is your Democratic Party. No declarations of war, no promises kicked to the curb even before legislating starts, no planned obstruction of government.

So, to those GOPers crowing about “winning” state offices, how many more Montanans would have eschewed Republicans had they known the party was planning on (a) abandoning its promised platform a week after the election, (b) obstructing state government, and (c) declaring “war” on education?

by Jay Stevens

Matt got to this first, but the Montana House Republicans chose Bozeman Representative Scott Sales to be their leader. A better choice couldn’t have been made – for the Democrats.

First Sales is an “outspoken conservative,” according to the report, Sales promised to make future elections even uglier than they were in 2006:

The fireworks were in the House Republican race, where Sales beat out a more moderate candidate and promised to use the chamber to groom Republicans for future races.“Our leadership has failed us,” Sales said, promising Democrats will be hit harder in future elections and challenged on legislative policies.

Republican Corey Stapleton, who was expected to be picked by the GOP as their House leader, mentioned that he’d like to work with Governor Schweitzer to increase funding for education in the state. Sales bristled.

Sales dismissed the idea of putting more money in higher education, saying “I think Corey and I are going to have to have a conversation.”

Besides being anti-education, an obstructionist, and proponent of negative campaigning, Sales has a very…er…unimpressive record in Montana’s House. Over the last two legislative sessions, exactly one of Sales’ bills was voted into law, and that was the creation of a Class B-13 Nonresident Youth Big Game Combination License. Um. Yippee.

As for his rejected proposals, well, there’s quite a few more of those. There’s the usual opposition to hate crime legislation (and those pesky civil and human rights) and funding for scholarships, education, and charity; and a proposal to eliminate the position of commissioner of higher education. (The first step in killing off public education?)

The one that cracks me up is his proposal to lift the ban on big-game trophy hunting. That one shows that he’s woefully out of step with Montana’s hunters, most of whom do it for the meat, not for the antlers. That’s the fancy Texas businessmen way of hunting, which usually means dumping the carcass somewhere and hiring a Montana guide to do the actual shooting. And come to think of it, that’s probably why Sales likes this bill, because somebody’s likely to cash in at the cost of our wild spaces.

But the most telling bill in Sales’ history is his support of a regulatory-takings initiative that’s much more extreme than Howie Rich’s version, CI-154. Sales’ bill would allow property owners to collect compensation “with respect to any statute, administrative rule, or ordinance enacted between the date that the person purchased the land and [the effective date of this act].” Imagine the lawsuits that one would burden the state with. Ugh.

The first casualty of Sales’ tenure as the leader of the House Republicans? The GOP’s “handshake with Montana,” (pdf). I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing – but considering that he’s from the conservative wing, I’m guessing his “handshake” is probably more like a “kick to the b*lls” to working- and middle-class families.

The defeat of the GOP in recent years has little or nothing to do with back-room dealing and redistricting as harried MT GOPers claim. Instead, the party is laced with corruption and has tacked hard right in recent years. It’s only good news for the Democrats, who will open their arms to moderates like Sam Kitzenberg and his constituency, that Sales will push his party right and promises to make the Republican party’s participation in the 2007 legislative session a bitter cacophany.




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