Monthly Archives: March 2011

GOP Legislature Poised to Overturn Citizen Initiatives for First Time in State History

GOP Claimed to Support Will of Voters Before They Opposed It

FLIP: Before the election, GOP leadership claimed they supported ballot initiatives as the will of the voters.

Senate GOP Leader Jeff Essmann, speaks about the sanctity of the ballot initiative in support of CI-105

“At some point the voters of the state of Montana have to say enough is enough,” says Montana Senator Jeff Essman (R-Billings).

Essmann even offered the view that ballot initiatives should supercede the legislature.

“None of these bills have progressed in the legislature, the goal of the supporters of the initiative is to make sure that it just never happens,” Essman commented.

FLOP: Republicans are forcing through bills to overturn citizens initiatives against cyanide heap leach miningtobacco prevention, medical marijuana, and more.

If these bills pass, it will be the first time the Montana Legislature has voted to overturn a citizen-approved initiative in the state’s history.

Montana Democrats Get Some Game

Rep. Betsy HandsRep. Dick BarrettIt’s a proud moment for Montanans.  Democrats in the Montana House of Representatives took the opportunity, during a debate of a prominent piece of the GOP agenda,  to masterfully expose the Republicans for who they really are.  The Montana Lowdown has the story and the video.

Ridicule and satire are powerful political tools, especially when applied so deftly as they were yesterday, because they allow the Dems to point out the deficiencies in the GOP’s agenda in such a way threat they become absurd–even hilarious, and therefore allow them to be entertaining, and reach a wider audience.

A few highlights: In a series of tactical moves during a session of the full House of Representatives,  Democrats blatantly mocked a GOP bill to require that business be transacted in gold and silver.

First master of debate Rep. Dick Barrett (D-Missoula) a professor of economics, got Rep. Bob Wagner to refuse to publicly acknowledge that “dollars” (rather than gold) even exist.

“I don’t know what other people to know as to be a dollar” said Wagner and would only call them “federal reserve notes.”

Then, Barrett proposed that money be transacted in other in-kind goods, such as chickens (a reference to Nevada Republican who, during the last election year, proposed allowing people to pay their medical bills with chickens) or coal.  Next,  Rep. Pat Noonan, spoke up for job creation in Butte America, by proposing Montana use a copper currency instead–a not so subtle jab at the lack of job creation on the GOP agenda, which has rather focused on extremist and downright kooky social engineering bills.

Ridicule is also effective because it’s hard for the Repubs to counter effectively -  if they try to respond logically, they acknowledge the absurdity of their agenda.   If they don’t respond at all, they look like their ideas are indefensible.  As we saw yesterday, the tactic caused the Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Bob Wagner, to lose his cool, making the R’s look like hotheads, and forcing a Republican to stand up and try to defend the caucus more rationally, which can’t really be done.

If the pointed satire wasn’t enough, Rep. Betsy Hands (D-Missoula) put the final nail in the coffin when she pointed out that the new currency and the militia bill are the first steps proposed by those who advocate seceding from the union, or, as Rep. James Knox calls it “succeeding.”

Jamee Greer RT of James Knox Hilarity

Kudos to Minority Leader Jon Sesso and the leadership in the House for hitting on the perfect technique for a session such as this.  Your strategy is a winning one.

Montana Republican Says Drunkenness is “Way of Life”; Opposes DUI Laws

TEA party legislator Alan Hale yesterday made an impassioned speech on the floor of the Montana statehouse for the elimination of all DUI laws.  Intelligent Discontent has the story and the must watch video.

Alan Hale, a frosh legislator from Basin, MT, says that “taverns and bars connect people together” and are “the centers of our communities”.  To get to them, says Hale, “you must drive,” and thus DUI laws “are destroying a way of life” and should be eliminated.

Of course, Hale should know: he’s a bar owner, so I guess he’s doing a little self-dealing in his new job as legislator.

Generally, Republicans have had a long and difficult romance with alcohol in Montana– what with the heavy-drinking Congressman and his many drinking escapades, the Secretary of State who ran for office from rehab in 2010, the last governor’s chief-of-staff who drove drunk and killed the speaker of the House, and numerous GOP legislators who have recently been busted for drinking and driving and drinking and boating.

A few months back, Governor Schweitzer was harshly attacked by the GOP for having suggested publicly that the new GOP legislature legislature would have its share of “big boozers.” Schweitzer discovered data that showed a huge spike in liquor sales when the legislature convenes in Helena.

The GOP senate president saw an opportunity (and took the bait): he quickly penned an OpEd (entitled “Schweitzer Insults Sober, Hardworking Lawmakers“), decrying Schweitzer for having dared to suggest that alcohol has any meaningful presence during the legislative session.

A few days later, the GOP senate judiciary committee chairman was pulled over when a cop spied him drinking a homemade “red beer” (a special, yummy mixture of beer and tomato juice) while driving home from the statehouse.

Even Fox News Mocks Montana Republican for Kooky Bill

Remember way back a long time ago earlier this session when the GOP tried to portray themselves as the party of the Constitution, even hosting a “seminar” about the Constitution from the conservative National Center for Constitutional Studies. Even now, you’ll still see one of these legislators occasionally whip one out, although it is usually only to try to brush some snack cake crumbs off of their other papers or to misapply it to justify their own kooky ideas.

No, the hypocrites in GOP can’t hide utter disdain for the actual document. Take Rep. Greg Hinkle (R-Spearhunter) who, when confronted in his anti-constitutional stance by Fox News of all things in a segment titled with the double entendre “Taking Liberties,” immediately dismisses the document.

Other GOP lawmakers have endorsed a seemingly endless list of proposals to rewrite the Constitution into something barely recognizable. These range from a bizarre proposal to create a new, incredibly cumbersome method to repeal federal laws, to more distressing proposals to strip people of their citizenship, enshrine discrimination into the Constitution, eliminate all federal education programs, and even repeal the right to privacy and the right to a clean and healthful environment.

FACT CHECK: Republican Misquotes Party’s Founder

In today’s Twitter frenzy of enlightening and intelligent statements by Representative Derek Skees (R Whitefish Kalispell), this statement appeared:

If Republicans can't even get quotes from their own founder right, what else are they getting wrong?

However, according to the book They Never Said it: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions, these words are not from Lincoln. The quotes were published in 1942 by William J. H. Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister.  He released a pamphlet titled Lincoln On Limitations, which did include a Lincoln quote, but also added 10 statements written by Boetcker himself.

This is not the first time that legislative Republicans have been caught misinforming the public about the words of President Lincoln.

On January 5, 2009, MT House Minority Leader Scott Sales (R-Bozeman) read a series of quotes that were attributed to former President Abraham Lincoln. A newspaper reporter looked into those quotes and found that they have been mis-attributed to Lincoln.  Sales was forced to apologize on the House Floor on Jan 8, 2009, to address the issue, saying he’d been “duped” because he got his information from the internet.

We’re not sure where Skees gets his information, but if his source was the internet, he must have missed this article about the gaffe and Sales’ apology and retraction here.

The Worst Kind of Hypocrites

Republicans are keeping up their track record of doing absolutely nothing on job creation, ostensibly what they were sent to Helena to work on, but they are doubling down on looking out for numero uno: Gutting health care benefits for their neediest constituents, while making sure their own families are taken care of.

Despite running campaigns largely focused on repealing government funded health care, and introducing dozens of bills designed to prevent the implementation of the program in Montana, the Missoulian is reporting that 95% of Republicans in the legislature take government health care benefits themselves:  even as they voted to cut health care for seniors, Montanans with disabilities, and children.

This explains why Republicans opposed a simple measure to make transparent whether members of the legislature accepted government funded health care. Polling shows most Americans oppose health care hypocrisy.  Most Republicans think those who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they’re in office. [Public Policy Polling, 11/23/10]

A list of legislators taking the benefit can be found here.

Bloom is Coming Off the Tea Party’s Rose

They were a national sensation, but they are fading away one by one. The crazy bills that the Montana GOP introduced upon taking office–encouraging global warming, funding militias, giving sheriffs autonomy over the federal government, and many more–in the Montana legislature have slowly and quietly been killed by the GOP leadership, which had to face the stark reality that if they didn’t do something to extinguish the craziness, they would do additional damage, additional to the already permanent damage that the Tea nuts have done to the Montana GOP.

If you think it’s not permanent, check Denny Rehberg’s numbers. He’s tanked. He shot his mouth off last fall, about how he’s a Tea Partier. He joined the Tea Party Caucus. Then in February, stupidly thinking that Tea was something more than an idiotic fad of the moment, he showed up at a joint session of the legislature to deliver one of the angriest, fringe speeches ever recorded in the chamber. Now, with the help of the Tea Party’s notorious craziness in the legislature which has left a bad taste in Montana’s mouth, Rehberg’s association with this movement has brought his job approval down to the 40s, for the first time in many years. Months ago, polling had Rehbherg with a strong lead against Tester. Now they are dead even.

Tea, anyone?