Lots to catch up on today in the Legislature.
First, a confederacy of imbecile Tea Partiers in the House tried to block Gov. Steve Bullock’s campaign finance reform bill, SB 289, which is being carried by a Republican legislator Sen. Duane Ankney. It has the support of moderate Republicans and all Dems, and will therefore pass the House. It’s already sailed through the Senate. Tea Partiers can’t do a thing about it. Although they tried to. They offered dozens of amendments, trying anything they could to bottle up the measure with unpalatable language. Rep. Greg Hertz (R-Polson) offered 17 of the 22 amendments designed to defeat the measure.
He then ludicrously tried to claim that the reason he doesn’t support the measure is because it didn’t go far enough–and that he plans to tell voters that he tried to address the issue of dark money. Sen, Ankney, as you can see in the picture above, was not impressed.
But the coalition held strong, and it passed out clean. Now it will head to the Governor’s desk.
And when I say imbeciles, I mean imbeciles. The best part of the debate came when a few Tea Partiers began complaining that the new law would seek to have candidates file their financial reports online, which most do already. Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman) said that this was a bad idea because 50% of people in his district don’t know how to use a computer. If White thinks that 50% of people in Bozeman can’t use a computer, then he is 100% an idiot.
Clayton Fiscus, (R-Billings) topped that, though. He proudly informed the chamber that the year he graduated college, the word “computer” wasn’t in the dictionary. Therefore, he said, has no interest in being forced into doing anything on any computer.
And Rep. Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) decried the bill as unworthy of passage because, he said, it was all about “more regulation.” Yes, it is. Um, that’s the point.
Worse, for the duration of the debate, the “designated legal counsel” on the floor was the uber-angry Mathew Monforton. At one point, he opined that the bill was unconstitutional simply because it requires candidates to file their reports online. Even if the bill did require this, it would not be unconstitutional. But the moderate Republian Geraldine Custer (R-Forsyth), who has been on the right side of all election bills, scolded Monforton and told him to read the bill, and he would see that it says a candidate “may” file online. At which point he mumbled something and then sat down, and was heard from no more.
Also opposing the bill in recent days is Jeff Laszloffy of the Family Foundation, who has tried to claim that this bill would require churches to report small donations in the donation box. This absurd claim was proven without merit. Laszloffy, by the way, is only a host for a virus: his money, virtually all of it, comes from Greg Gianforte, the religious nut who is the presumed challenger to Steve Bullock next year. And the two of them directed huge funds into attack campaigns during the 2014 legislative primaries, attacking moderate Republicans, many of whom ended up winning anyway. And it was they that Laszloffy tried to lobby on this campaign finance bill. You can understand why was shown the door by these Republican legislators, as Troy Carter points out in this must-read Bozeman Chronicle piece.
Its all another way of saying that the Tea Party has created for itself a giant mess. As a result, we will see campaign finance reform and probably reform to close the health coverage gap as well, meaning that Montana will end up accepting the $5 billion in our own federal funds for healthcare and jobs. We will also see an infrastructure bill, more closely aligned with the format that Bullock wants and Montana needs.
Speaking of Gianforte, incidentally, he was sited two weeks ago in the Capitol, rubbing elbows with legislators and taking their temperature on their feelings about a gubernatorial run by him.