Legislature Adjourns: Cowgirl Analysis

The Montana Legislature adjourned today “sine die.” For Tea Party legislators who do not understand Latin, this means literally “without day,” meaning no specific return date.

The 2016 session was generally an excellent one for Governor Bullock as well all Montana citizens. The state now has a budget surplus of several hundred million dollars which can remain in the bank and protect us against any future unforeseen financial headwinds, in what is known as a “rainy day fund.” This is a concept that was invented by Democrats in the last decade, has always been fought by Republicans, but is the chief reason why Montana is rated as the best fiscally managed state in America. When we had Republican governors, we often had a very slim margin of safety and sometimes had budget crises and deficits because the state did not stash money away, and thus had nothing in the bank when revenues fell. That’s Republican Stupid. Now we are Democratic Smart.

The budget that passed yesterday excludes one important item, an infrastructure bill which would have helped us beef up our old roads and bridges and build new buildings in university towns and elsewhere. This required two thirds vote of both houses, and the Tea Party would not relent. Even a few legislators from eastern Montana, where Republicans always complain about the lack of infrastructure in the Bakken, voted down the measure. Likely we won’t be seeing those legislators returning.

The new budget also contains also a pay increase for both state workers AND state legislators, assuming Bullock approves it. That’s right, legislators got a raise. Many Montanans will no doubt grumble about that, but there’s a positive side to it. It’s important to remember that legislators are part-timers who work for a small stipend. If the job pays a bit more, more perhaps we can attract to the Capitol something other than the breed that now populates the two chambers: wealthy men whose ideas and world view are completely out of touch with the 21st century.

In addition to the good fiscal news, we of course have the important passage of the CSKT Water Compact and the Medicaid expansion. This package passed with the help of 12 moderate Republicans who understand the value of an infusion of $5 Billion in federal funds over the next eight years, as well as the fact that 70,000 Montanans don’t have health insurance because they cannot afford it. For conservatives, a few bones were thrown in such as malpractice reform and requiring the poor to pay more for care.

Other highlights include the voting up of Jon Motl as Commissioner of Political Practices. Motl almost got denied, because he made the mistake of believing that laws should be enforced. He has lately been prosecuting candidates and officeholders who believe that laws should NOT be enforced, and they in turn tried to sink his nomination. But that strategy backfired. And in a disgraceful show of bad sportsmanship, the irritable Dee Brown, Republican Senator, tried to get the Senate to not even take a vote on whether to confirm Motl. But she got stuffed by the same several moderate Republicans who voted with democrats for most of the session. Motl received 29 out of 50 votes in the Senate, including seven Republicans.

Governor Bullock also succeeded in fixing a major inequity- survivors of domestic violence in Montana had been denied unemployment insurance–until now.

While Bullock and the Democrats were the big winners, the big losers were the Tea Party Hot Heads. They got trounced. Austin Knudsen was their man, elected speaker with visions of right-wing glory. But it went quickly up in smoke, without a branding iron. His leadership was quite disorganized and feckless, and thus final results of the session–Bullock getting most of what he wanted–were rarely in doubt.

Also with a stink on him now is Art Wittich. So odious was Wittich’s behavior in this session that that it is being whispered within the walls of the Capitol that Wittich single-handedly caused the moderate Republicans to walk away from their own party. And yesterday, a big businessman from Bozeman let it be publicly known that the town would band together to oust Wittich because of his refusal to vote for the infrastructure bill. That bill would have brought dough to Bozeman, a town with growing pains. Now they won’t get it. Wittich was not representing.

Over in the Senate things were a bit more orderly although Tea Partier Debby Barrett, the figurehead Senate President, was ultimately forced, like Knudsen, to deliver Bullock what he wanted. Barrett’s svengali, whispering advice in her ear for the duration of the session, was none other than Dave Lewis, a retired state Senator from Helena. He did so on a volunteer basis. What Lewis wanted out of this arrangement is unclear. Perhaps as a moderate Republican, he saw an opportunity to undermine the Tea Party. More likely, having been defeated by Schweitzer so many times over the years, he thought he could finally take out some payback on Bullock. But as you can see, that didn’t go so well either.

My final observations are two-fold. First, Democrats should not shed tears over being in the minority, because there are really three political parties represented in the Montana Legislature. One is the Democratic Party; the other is the Tea Party; and the third is the working majority–a coalition of Dems and moderate Republicans who behaved as independents. But the sum of those parts is a legislature that governs by coalition and seems capable of producing most of what a Democratic governor would want.
Second, I don’t see how anyone, Greg Gianforte or anyone else, can now have any path to victory.

Conservative Republicans were able to kill a badly needed infrastructure and jobs bill. That was their lone contribution to this session–and a major misstep. Bullock negotiated the bill with GOP Speaker Austin Knudsen and the bill was carried by Sen.John Brenden, former chair of the state Republican Party. Yet the TEA party wing voted against the bipartisan agreement. Then they shut down the session and left town- closing the door on any possibility of further talks or negotiations. The failure to pass this bill–and the consequences–can only be blamed on them.

How can voters possibly trust a scenario in which Republicans–Tea Partiers, in fact, which is what Gianforte is–will control both the legislature and the executive? I don’t see any Republican winning that argument. The Conservative brand is something that Montanans are happy to send to Washington but want nothing to do with in statewide elections. Crazy is not a brand that sells, when running for Governor. Montanans want an adult.

And now I, too, will adjourn Sine Die for a while to a few days off where internet access is not an option. See you soon.

 

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37 Comments on "Legislature Adjourns: Cowgirl Analysis"

  1. I suppose it is now time to change the diapers and put the little children to bed. I fully understand now why the facilities at Boulder were voted for closure. The tea baggers were afraid that they would all end up there!
    I know full well that the word retard means and it is very damaging to individuals to be referred to as such. However, this bunch are all fine examples of the word and all of its meanings. My only hope is that a bridge fails due to poor maintenance while these retards are driving over it.

  2. I live in Miles City. Our freshman legislator voted against the infrastructure bill and the Quality Schools bill. Miles City was ranked No. 1 for that grant and it would have made some major updates in our lovely but elderly school buildings. I suppose he was told to vote against those bills but he is doing to have some ‘splaining to do when he gets home.

    Our freshman senator got his ‘screw the consumer, help the banks’ bill vetoed.

    So, not a good term of the local boys

  3. On May 22, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, started with the Corps of Discovery for the Pacific coast. They made it and came back, which means they did their job. The recently adjourned Legislature chose not to do its job. So I have modest suggestion: A contest to commemorate this non-performance. Let the legislative C of D naming begin.

    Here are a few examples to get things rolling:

    1. Misled by Captains Mendacious Loser and Witless Clone, the Corpse of Dysfunction blazed a new paths in Montana political infamy.
    2. Captains Mediocrity Lickspittle and Whackjob Claptrap moved the Constipation of Decline to its end.
    3. Captains Munchkin Lunatic and Weasel Clueless steered the Clowncar of Dingbattery past all perils of rational legislating.

    Here is you chance to hang an appropriate title on these Culprits of Delusion.

  4. I guess I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy. I’m just really tired of playing defense all the time. Yes, Medicaid expansion was passed, but with too many strings attached. Campaign finance reform, check, but we need so much more in that arena. And the CSKT water compact, good, but strong environmental legislation, not so good.

    The time wasted on bad legislation was unconscionable: Gary Marbut’s ‘more guns in more places’ bills, for example, or the banning Sharia law, or turning federal lands over to the state, or opting out of childhood vaccinations and, of course, the “yoga pants” bill, to name but a few. The folks who introduced these bills should be kicked down the capitol steps. Thank God the governor vetoed the worst of the worst.

    I’m looking forward to the day when we don’t need “moderate” Republicans to pass moderate legislation; you know, passing real, progressive legislation that benefits the majority of Montanans.

    • If you ever use the word “progressive” in public again, Democrat and liberal, you’ll be quartered.

      It’s annoying when members of the second right wing party lay claim to ideals they do not promote.

      • So, Mark “In4it” Tokarski, you’re going to quarter me? Anytime, buddy.

        I was reading Charles Bukowski recently, came across this quote and immediately thought of you;

        “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

        Time to quit trolling at Cowgirl and go back to that ever-so-relevant website of yours, what is it called again, Piece of Sh**?

        • I love it! “Trolling!” If by chance someone comes here and speaks against the Democrat-goodness tide, it’s “trolling.”

          Which is why I define trolling as speaking freely in thought-controlled environments.

          Doubt is the beginning of the thought process. If you ever have one, you silly pointless man, come to my Piece of Sh** blog. I’ll quarter you.

          • No you won’t. And, once again, begging for hits at your website is pretty much the exact definition of “spamming”.

            • Without wanting to deal with a creature like you, I will answer the arguments you put forth: I am not “begging for hits,” as the website is neither linked nor named properly. And the argument is not about spamming, but rather, trolling. Further, Democrats if they visit the blog at all visit once and once only. They usually lack broad context and only want to deal in the wedge issues put on their plate at blogs like this one. It’s all they can muster.

              And it would seem to me at least one small aspect of trolling to inject oneself in conversations in which one is not invited as an expression of angst – at inability to gain respect one feels entitled to? Your own blog has mutated into from over-serious collection of mundane thoughts imagined to have import and treated with feigned intellectual gravitas … into a blog that over-analyzes matters of no lasting importance.

              Wow. Just realized as I wrote that, your blog has not changed at all over the years.

          • surelyyoujest11 | April 30, 2015 9:45 AM at 9:45 AM |

            In4it said: “Which is why I define trolling as speaking freely in thought-controlled environments. ”

            How about we just stick with the accepted definition of trolling/troll. You fit the description quite well. To a T in fact.

            Your pomposity is a nice addition to your clear lack of intellect though.

          • Mark, you go to the few sites where you aren’t banned, stalk individuals and hurl insults, add nothing substantive to the discussion except for “all Democrats are whores” and derail threads. That’s the definition of a troll.

            • Pete, he’s already been banned here several times. He returns because he simply can’t resist his addiction to being a complete asshole. Spamming is trolling, and that is his addiction.

            • Pete, I stalk no one. If you keep to your home ground, Democrat/liberal, and stop claiming to be a “progressive,” we don’t meet.

              I do not speak with respect about Democrats, as that party is the problem. It is the repository of ambition to fight the right wing, and your party leaders, the,selves Republicans, derail it. I think that is what you mean about hurling insults. I’m not good at duck speak.

              Cowgirl, “her”self anonymous, can hardly object to the use of pseudonyms. She is one, and her rules state that people are free to use them.

              Pogie has banned me and claims he hasn’t. He’s not much of a man, kind of a tiny Tim caricature among thinking people, a lightweight with a ukulele. Is that what you mean.

              I do beleive kailey has words somewhere here. Never met such a huge phony.

    • Old Line Democrat | April 28, 2015 6:53 PM at 6:53 PM |

      Peter,
      I am just replying to your post because it was the last on this thought process. Luckily I am represented by Democrats who voted to support Montana and its real values. Those of you who have sent these Tea Party nuts to the Legislature need to work to point out their tainted positions and get some decent folks in the Legislature to do the common good.

      Gallatin County , you cannot find someone to defeat Wittich, Burnett, Monforton and the rest?

      Flathead County Reiger and his cronies?

      Yellowstone County, Fiscus, Lasloffy, Essman and the rest you can’t do better than them?

      Come on you all can get somebody to run against THESE GUYS records,

      • Regier is finishing his fourth term in the MT House. Thanks to term limits, he must switch to the MT Senate. I believe he’ll run for SD-3, the Whitefish and west and south district now held by Bruce Tutvedt, who is being termed-out. I doubt that in Flathead County Tutvedt can successfully run for anything except his life, and I believe that Jesus himself would have trouble winning SD-3 if he filed as a Democrat.

  5. Spot-on analysis as usual. Thanks for all you did and enjoy your rest!

  6. Thank you, Cowgirl, for helping me see the forest for the trees. I am DISGUSTED that my county is represented by 3 of the Tea Partiers that made up the crazy wing of the legislature, but I am so GRATEFUL for the cooler heads that prevailed. I agree with Pete Talbot that I wish for better, but I feel gratitude and a HUGE sense of relief that the water compact and Medicaid expansion passed. I can’t even imagine how disatrous the years ahead would be without those two things. Our schools and towns lost BIG from the lack of infrastructure funding, though. Sigh… another election season ahead.

  7. We can wish all we want that these folks will be voted out in the next election cycle, but that is highly unlikely. Despite the fact 2016 is a general election, which typically brings out more Democrat voters, redistricting protects them from any real threat from a Democrat candidate. Term limits will force new versions of the same old nonsense in some cases, but even then the sad truth is these districts will continue returning Republicans to the legislature. Hoping a less bat sh.. crazy Republican will win over a full blown bat sh.. Republican is not something to celebrate.

  8. The budget has always been an estimate. Do we actually have some 300 million sitting in a bank account somewhere? We don’t. I haven’t heard how each party will proclaim it helped balance the budget, when state law requires a balanced budget before the Legislature can go home. This legislature cared more about tax cuts for corporations rather then protecting our privacy Several good privacy bills were stalled in Committee, while SB 171 was stuffed with more corporate welfare.

  9. I agree that this legislature was one packed with terrible ideas and harmful deep and nonsensical budget cuts. Given that people like Randy Pinocci were there, who demanded IN THE PRESS, to be given the opportunity to visit a school for deaf and blind kids so that they could PROVE to him that the cuts the legislature made were harmful, I think that the Governor and dems won much more than I believed possible for Montanans. Truly incredible hard work and perseverance ( and also full of many terrible budget cuts.)

  10. Well said MT Cowgirl. Thank you for your blog and factual posts.

  11. Dear Cowgirl – Your blog is fantastic – it is one of the best sources of legislative and political news and in the state. Thank you very much for doing this. I subscribe to your email list and share it with my friends, so I know a lot of people who are thankful for your work.

  12. Wonder if the Tea Partiers learned anything.

  13. Dear Cowgirl,
    With all due respect we are not out of the woods yet. We the taxpayers still have a $3 billion hole in the state employee pension system that needs to be brought up to date. In real world accounting that means we’d be showing a 2.5 billion deficit. Both D’s and R’s love to play this silly accounting game, and as always, most citizens fall for it every year. It was, recall, our current Governor during the 2012 campaign, who tried the Gaydar Schweitzer stunt in wanting to refund the surplus in the form of property tax refunds to boost his chances in the election. Thank goodness that, “Democratic Smart,” idea was DOA, otherwise D’s would not be crowing about the imaginary surplus now. Hey anything to get elected right?
    Disclaimer: This in no way supports or defends the Tea Party Republican’ts mindlessness in not having a clue what government is for, or how it functions. That they are now some of the best political entertainment on the globe is unquestioned. Bring back Spearchucker Hinkle!!

    Sincerely
    John Marshall

    • I find arguments about viability of programs like Social Security and Medicare and PERS – the so-called “unfunded liability” issue, to be a PR gimmick, nothign more. The same arguments could be used to argue the viability of our weapons system or Microsoft’s balance sheet liabilities – where will the money come from? The answer, that the liabilities represent a legal claim on assets that either do, or will exist, works easily when they talk about the Pentagon and all its grandiose future plans, but when they talk about programs of immense and immediate benefit to ordinary people, suddenly there is panic in eyes and voices. Unfunded mandate!!! Unfunded mandate!!!

      Why the PR gimmick used only against Social Security, Medicare, PERS, but not F-16’s or Mars missions? The answer likely is those who squawk about funding of such programs want to programs to cease to exist. It’s a public expression of a private agenda.

  14. If we do not find a way to pay for all this wonderful stuff we certainly are screwed. MT does not have a great deal of “rich” people to tax the shitt out of – so we are going to need sources of income. Certainly all can agree on that. But then….. more hateful name calling, finger pointing division will probably be the response. After all, according to this site, there is one political party far superior to any other so no need for honest debate and problem solving. Domination is the goal. It’s been an interesting session for sure. Time will tell what the impact of the compact will be – perhaps I’ll be dead and gone by then. Whatever.

  15. “Also with a stink on him now is Art Wittich. So odious was Wittich’s behavior in this session that that it is being whispered within the walls of the Capitol that Wittich single-handedly caused the moderate Republicans to walk away from their own party.”

    This is the gossip of an ninth grader. Please provide provide evidence.

    “And yesterday, a big businessman from Bozeman let it be publicly known that the town would band together to oust Wittich because of his refusal to vote for the infrastructure bill. That bill would have brought dough to Bozeman, a town with growing pains. Now they won’t get it. Wittich was not representing.”

    Bozeman has growing pains? Were the rest of the state to be so fortunate. Bozeman has plenty simolea. Surely it can pay its own way. Wittich not representing? What, one well heeled constituent getting hot over a kink in the product hose means that Rep. Wittich has failed the district?

    Please provide cogent arguments to refute the positions of Mr. Wittich and his “tea party” associates. The ad hominem bullshit is childish and ultimately counter-productive. Thanks, Neil.

  16. “Also with a stink on him now is Art Wittich. So odious was Wittich’s behavior in this session that that it is being whispered within the walls of the Capitol that Wittich single-handedly caused the moderate Republicans to walk away from their own party.”

    This is the gossip of an ninth grader. Please provide evidence.

    “And yesterday, a big businessman from Bozeman let it be publicly known that the town would band together to oust Wittich because of his refusal to vote for the infrastructure bill. That bill would have brought dough to Bozeman, a town with growing pains. Now they won’t get it. Wittich was not representing.”

    Bozeman has growing pains? Were the rest of the state to be so fortunate. Bozeman has plenty simolea. Surely it can pay its own way. Wittich not representing? What, one well heeled constituent getting hot over a kink in the product hose means that Rep. Wittich has failed the district?

    Please provide cogent arguments to refute the positions of Mr. Wittich and his “tea party” associates. The ad hominem bullshit is childish and ultimately counter-productive. Thanks, Neil.

  17. hmm, 14 paragraphs in the Cowgirl Post.
    Why focus on paragraph 9?
    An ad hominem , re: Mr. Wittich, in that paragraph?
    Quite to the contrary.
    I could find only a phrase that suggested that some people
    were talking of additional consequences, of Mr. Wittich’s Legislative activities!

    Consequences very important to Montana History!
    Similar has happened before.

    Mr. Templeton, your applying TOTALLY INACCURATE TERMS “bullshit” and “ninth grade” to the Cowgirl Post are perhaps to favor your position with people important to you.

    Let’s remember to treasure the Treasure State!

    • The arguments are ad hominem because they are devoid of factual content, and instead are based on emotive appeals to slander of identity. I had thought this was a serious blog where issues could be debated on merit and substance. I was in error. I apologize for my coarse delivery. Thank you, Neil.

  18. The “new phoenix” that rose from the ashes this legislative session is named Jon Motl.

    See: http://mtcowgirl.com/2013/01/16/leaked-emails-show-civil-war-in-montana-gop/

  19. What a memory! Cowgirl Post of 2013.
    What a gem!

    The Montana Tea Party alliance is the New Phoenix,
    fledged out in 2013, powerful in 2015, fully mature in 2017.

  20. Its a miracle that any sane and constructive legislation was passed at all this session! I am still reeling and baffled that nutjobs including Wittich, Laszloffy, and what’s her name Michelle Bachman wanna be were ever elected. How did this happen? In the Montana I remember growing up in Great Falls, it seemed even the most righteous of right would at least hear the voice of reason and consider common decency. After all, how would Montanans survive the seasons of extremes – environmental and economic, without common sense and courtesy (empathy) in spite of the political leaning of their neighbors? In the good ol days the nut jobs were tolerated -even the Freeman had their day to shine, but we did not elect them to public office! The Wittich et al posse is a mockery of Montana democracy and rational thinking! Jesus, we elected Pee Wee Herman and his clones to represent the will of the citizens of Montana! I don’t want my tax dollars in that clown car. Millions of dollars spent by the Koch brothers in Montana did not buy one cent of common sense and decency.

  21. Yadda Yadda, Dem Smart Repub Stupid Eric Stern king of reverse cowgirl. I wonder if he ever wakes up, looks in the mirror and thinks “man I am the most boring redundant travesty of a self proclaimed intellectual the world has ever witnessed”. But then that ole voice come creeping back….Dems smart, Repubs stupid, either or dichotomy, me smart they stupid.

  22. dems smart repubs stupid yadayadaya

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