Roger Koopman Should Not Be In Charge of Taxi Cabs
Rep. Ellie Hill of Missoula has proposed deregulation–not of energy, but of taxicabs. Little did anyone know that the Public Service Commission is the branch of government that regulates taxis in Montana. That is ludicrous. If you’ve ever tried to get a cab in Missoula, you will know that Ms. Hill is on the right track here. There is a government-granted monopoly in the city, and that needs to change. Hill is trying to move authority over cab regulation from the PSC to the Montana Legislature. After all, can anybody, Republican or Democrat, say that it’s a good thing that Roger Koopman is in charge of taxis? The bill is LC1416.
GOP Voter Suppression Bill
The Repubs have wasted no time in trying to revive their bread-and-butter, old faithful favorite piece of legislation. Representative Ted Washburn of Bozeman has introduced a bill (HB 30) to do away with election day registration. If Washburn were from Billings, he’d not be sponsoring this bill. Voters waited on line several hours to vote in Billings in 2012, and if there had been no voting-day registration option, many would have been turned away after the long wait, even though they were lawfully qualified to vote.
Thankfully, Schweitzer vetoed the bill in 2011 and Bullock will almost certainly do so as well. Funny enough, the GOP does not believe this type of shenanigans has any political repercussions, that you can brazenly make a legislative move to take away voters’ rights and voters won’t notice. But I think they do notice, and Democrats will remind them in 2014. In fact, in 2014, Democratic volunteers should be walking the line of voters, explaining to the people waiting on the infernal line that the reason they have to wait so long, and waste half a day, is that the GOP likes it that way.
Although it’s not in the bill, Washburn told the committee he believes voting should be restricted to “driver’s license, the person that pays taxes in Montana, the person that actually resides here in Montana,” Chuck Johnson reported. Meaning if he had his way, many seniors, students, the disabled, and the very poor would not get to vote.
The Ruling Class
Washburn wants to restrict voting to taxpaying residents, but another GOP legislator wants to expand voting to non-residents–non-resident property owners, that is. Rep. Terry Murphy’s bill (SB 130) would let non-residents vote in municipal elections, including mill-levies, bonds, and candidates.
The Flathead County Commission tried a similar scheme in 2011 to decide who will control zoning in the outskirts of the city of Whitefish – the city, or the county with an “official survey.” They sent surveys to all those who owned property in the area–some of whom didn’t actually reside in the area at all. Some people got multiple votes depending on how many properties they owned. If you resided in the area, but didn’t make enough to own property, well, you weren’t allowed to voice your opinion. According to a citizens group who analyzed the survey results, “less than half, 47%, of the survey cards mailed out went to people who actually live in the two-mile area around Whitefish, while another 53% went to people who don’t even live in Whitefish.”
Speaking of stupid bills, the GOP has also revived the “immigration sanctuary bill” from 2011. An immigration sanctuary, as best I can tell, is a state of affairs in which a local government refuses to order its policemen to go hunt for dark-skinned people and ask to see their passports. This bill was vetoed last session and will be no doubt vetoed again as is it is utterly ridiculous. HB 50 is sponsored by David Howard (R-Park City).
Many Novice Legislators
Chuck Johnson has an interesting piece about a tough fact: lots of newbies in the Montana Legislature. Term limits have created a rookie majority, and several observations made in the Johnson piece are worthy of discussion and perhaps demand a re-examination of term limits. A few of the points struck me as intriguing: that the legislative branch of government is weakened by a lack of institutional knowledge that once resided in veteran legislators; that the executive has been strengthened, because legislators must rely on executive-branch bureaucrats for policy expertise; and that reliance on lobbyists for legislative expertise has become excessive. One wonders, looking back, whether Schweitzer’s successful bullying of the legislature was made easier by a weakening of the House and Senate by term limits, which eliminate veterans.
Reduce Size of House and Senate
Republican Jason Priest of Red Lodge has put in a bill to shrink the Montana legislature to 40 and 80 members, Senate and House respectively. I don’t know what to make of this, although one can assume that if a right-wing Republican is introducing such a measure, it probably disadvantages Democrats in some way. But here’s another idea: How about a unicameral legislature, like Nebraska? Actually, Nebraska has no party affiliation for members. How’s that sound? 100 legislators, one house, all independents by law.