Interesting developments yesterday on the rules of the Montana Legislature. Cowgirl tipsters are reporting that Montana Republican lawmakers got calls from Zinke and Daines, members of the the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever (with only a 10% approval rating) telling them what to do to ensure that the will of the people of Montana never sees the light of day.
Here’s what’s happened.
John Adams reports today that new proposed rule to grant speaker of the House Austin Knudsen what members of his own party called an “insanely powerful tool” to basically kill any bill he didn’t like–and require a super-majority instead of a majority to stop him– was rescinded by Democrats and Republicans alike in a unanimous vote of the house rules committee under considerable public pressure and outrage.
The Cowgirl blog was the first to report on the proposed new rule here. So far I haven’t seen reporting on whether the GOP will also canceled its proposed new rules to ban all members of the public from the house floor at all times and ban technology from legislative committees.
But Cowgirl tipsters are reporting a disturbing occurrence related to these rules changes yesterday–indeed an effort to quash, at least for now, a bipartisan coalition of legislators who were working to fix another problematic supermajority rule in the house.
A small faction of GOP leadership, who set up the committees and also decide which bills go to which committees, have the singular ability to create “kill committees” –committees that they can control to ensure no bill they don’t want pass will ever even get to be considered by the majority of the Montana legislature. These shenanigans can only be overridden by a supermajority of the legislature as a whole through what is colloquially called a “blast motion”–and a 60 vote supermajority. Anyway this bipartisan coalition saw that this rule too was contrary to a fair public process and the concept of majority rule, so they had planned to also change this rule.
That is, until, Cowgirl tipsters say, Republican lawmakers started getting calls from Congressman Zinke and TEA Party Sen. Steve Daines – urging them to “stick with their leaders” and leave their supreme powers untouched. Thus, tipsters say, at least at the committee stage, Knudsen lost his new power to send any bill back to committee to be killed but retained his powers to keep bills in certain committees from advancing in the first place.
This folks is the hard-right GOP’s brand of governing. We shall see what happens when the rules resolution goes back to the house floor for a vote. If Montana Republicans are going to continue to follow the orders of and strive to emulate the U.S. Congress, so too will their own approval ratings.
UPDATE: Sources report that the GOP also agreed to remind their proposed rule change to ban the public from the House Floor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are a member of the public you may now enter the House Floor except at limited times–unless you are registered as a lobbyist, in which case you remain banned.