Political Gossip, Satire, and Analysis from MT's Capital City "...an uncanny knack for sharp insider information..."--AP "...amazingly accurate inside info..."--Politico.com "...a viral sensation..."--Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos "Among the best state-based political blogs in the nation."--Washington Post
The bill to accept money from the federal government and thereby extend private health insurance to 70,000 working poor Montanans has been sent to state the Health Human Services Committee, where the GOP hardliners hope they can kill it.
If they should do so, however, we can expect to see the Medicaid expansion proposal (in true form, not the current GOP version, a compromise, which uses public funds as vouchers with which insurance may be bought from private insurance companies) on the ballot in 2014. As a ballot initiative, it is likely to pass with broad support. Continue reading →
Joe Balyeat has resigned from the Bat Crap Crazy Legislature to become the new leader of the Montana TEA Party. The Washington D.C. TEA Party booster club Americans for Prosperity has struggled with keeping and finding leaders since it started meddling in Montana politics in 2009. Now, the group has quietly instated its fourth new leader in less than three years. Henry Kriegel, Jake Eaton, and Scott Sales, have all come and gone, making the organization less about pretending that the TEA Party is a grassroots phenomena and more of a contest to see who can be America’s Next Top Crackpot. So Joe Balyeat it is.
Balyeat’s first acts as the new TEA Party leader include sending out a robo-call on behalf of TEA Party Dennis Rehberg, which can be heard here. A leaked photo of Balyeat’s remodel of the TEA Party offices can be seen below. (Don’t tell anyone where you got this, I don’t want AFP to know I have a tipster on the inside.)
Montana Cowgirl Blog readers know Joe Balyeat well. For some reason, however, the TEA Party’s official biography of Balyeat does not mention that he’s the author of “Babylon: The Great City of Revelation,” (from $7.95 used on Amazon.com) which attempts to make the teabaggers’ case that if Christians don’t get involved in politics, “not only will hell prevail against us, but abortionists and homosexuals and humanists and pornographers and tin-horn TV networks will as well.”
Shortly after Balyeat’s world class work of non-fiction was published, Balyeat became vice-president of the Christian Coalition of Montana. This was the group that fought to uphold Montana’s unconstitutional law that actually made it illegal to be gay in our state. When a Montana court struck down the law making it illegal to be gay in the 1990s, the Christian Coalition was outraged, saying that the law making gay people illegal was “a necessary health and safety statute.” Balyeat is also known for introducing a bill to require creationism to be taught in schools. His bill failed in committee even though Republicans controlled the legislature by a wide margin.
Balyeat’s TEA Party bio doesn’t mention Balyeat’s attempts to declare war on Montana voters with a myriad of failed and legally flawed ballot initiatives. In 2006, Balyeat was behind the infamous ballot initiative scandal in which three initiatives were stricken from the ballot after a judge cited “pervasive fraud in the signature gathering process.” (CI-97 would have arbitrarily limited state spending, CI98 allowed for recalling judges for any old reason, and I-154 would have made governments pay corporations if they passed consumer health and safety laws which the big wigs claimed limited their profits.) This year, the courts rejected two more of Balyeat’s ballot measures: to restrict the ability of every Montanan to vote in all Supreme Court justice races and to gut the Montana budget with a tax give-away to big corporations.
Anyway, it seems Balyeat’s former pursuits weren’t wacky enough so he went looking for another fringe cause. He definitely found it in Americans for Prosperity.
Supporters of the right-wing City Commission candidate Lorabelle Behlmer took to the streets in support of her candidacy this weekend–or rather a supporter did. A Cowgirl tipster captured this photograph of Behlmer’s “Honk and Wave” event. It doesn’t look like her candidacy was able to garner much of a turnout. Matt Elsaesser and Katherine Haque-Hausrath are running against Behlmer.
More Time Off for Rehberg
Congressional Republicans released their 2012 House calendar recently. Did you know that there is no month in which they plan to work more than 14 days? As the Slate Political Gabfest reported on a recent podcast, there are only two weeks of 2012 that the House plans to put in a five-day week like the rest of us. The House will be in session 109 weekdays, and on recess 151 weekdays. That’s 14 more vacation days than last year.
Mississippi to Vote on Birth Control Ban Tomorrow
A Mississippi initiative so broad that it would likely mean not just a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life, but also a ban on birth control and in vitro fertilization will be voted on tomorrow. As USA Today points out in an editorial page piece against the measure:
Backers of “personhood” angrily deny that some of these things would happen, but the amendment says what it says, not what they say it does.
The law is so far outside the mainstream that no state has passed it. Mississippi’s extreme government intrusion initiative could appear on Montana’s ballot in 2012. Montanans have twice declined to sign enough petitions to get it put on the ballot and Colorado voters have twice panned the proposal. According to the same article, only 20 percent of Americans support a total ban on abortion. If the measure passes in Mississippi (or in Montana or other states facing petition drives–OH, MI, and FL among others), it would certainly face immediate constitutional challenges. Whomever is Attorney General in those states would then defend the initiatives against the challenges.
Caught on Tape
Congressman Dennis Rehberg was caught on tape this weekend waving around a picture of Obama as Qaddafi. Talking Points Memo has the story, picture and video. A Rehberg staffer says that the Congressman was just being “polite” by brandishing the cartoon. But if someone hands you something that ridiculous isn’t the ”polite” thing to do putting the cartoon away, not promising to give it to a campaign staffer, as he appears to do in the video? I mean, if he had been handed, say, pornography would he have done the same thing? As this Missoula Independent article points out, a classier candidate would have handled the situation differently, while Rehberg “didn’t exactly stand up and set the record straight like McCain did in 2008.”
These lowly citizens have the audacity to suggest an amendment to the Montana Constitution. This amendment would require that citizen-passed ballot initiatives that are gutted by the brain trust at the Montana legislature must be actually sent back to citizens to ratify those changes.
This is obviously a bad idea, especially since we’ve seen an unprecedented level of high quality legislation proposed by Republicans during recent and even not-so-recent past sessions. And who could forget the important changes Republicans have always proposed to dumb citizens initiatives like ethics reform, Children’s Health Insurance, and medical marijuana.
Of course Republican State Senator Bruce Tutvedt is angry about this. Tutvedt can be seen in action below–that’s him in the upper right-hand corner. As you can see, he’s much better suited to make Montana laws than you are.
Wendy Warburton, tea partyist legislator from Havre, made the mistake of admitting to Emily Ritter, Montana Public Radio that the reason she has introduced two anti-abortion constitutional amendments is that these two measures, if they appear on the ballot, will “drive Republican voters to the polls,” and thus benefit R candidates in 2012. (Listen to the story here: click “Click to Listen” the story is about 5 minutes and 10 seconds in.)
Putting things on the ballot to drive up turnout is an old trick that the GOP loves, like CI-105, a ballot measure which proposed eliminating a tax that didn’t exist. But the ballot measures are usually put on the ballot by citizen groups or other private interests, which are required to get the signatures from citizens to prove that enough citizens want the measure on the ballot. The measures Warburton is pushing have failed twice in two years to get anywhere close to the number of signatures necessary. It takes 49,000 signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment before voters.
The Montana code clearly prohibits using government time and facilities for political activity.
Here, a legislator is being open about the fact that she has just wasted the legislature’s time–a significant amount of it, I might add–with a political task assigned to her by GOP operatives, to carry out an electoral strategy. Someone should probably file a complaint.
Beyond that, does this woman have any sense of appropriateness at all? Some common sense advice to Wendy: when politicians do things for purely political motives, they’re supposed to at least pretend to make up some sort of legitimate policy reason.
When Republican Representative James Knox (R-Billings Heights) testified in front of a Senate committee this week in favor of repealing Montana’s medical marijuana initiative, he appeared to be near tears.
In spite of the phony claims, barrage of folksy mailers and advertising, and guest editorials confusing the issue, CI-105 is backed by none other than John Sinrud and the Chicago-based National Association Realtors. An outstanding letter to the editor in the Missoulian gets to the heart of the matter on CI-105, an initiative driven by the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors which is attempting to carve out tax breaks for moneyed special interests:
In Montana, various legislators, from both sides of the aisle, have explored transfer tax possibilities to help fund higher education, land conservation, or even ways to decrease property taxes. All failed for lack of broad-based legislative support. That’s the way our state’s constitutional system is set up, with such matters debated and decided by elected representatives. But winning at that level hasn’t been good enough for the big-moneyed proponents of CI-105. They want to re-write the Constitution itself.
Have you received any of the expensive, glossy mailers with small town houses and families sitting around the table? Here’s what’s really rich, as the letter writer explains:
Who are these citizen-advocates? By the end of May of this year, “The Coalition to Prevent Double Taxation” had spent more than any other group promoting or opposing Montana ballot initiatives. It had raised more than $606,000 – virtually all coming from the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.