It’s time to fix up the ‘People’s House’

Print Article

In the waning hours of Montanaís 66th legislative session, good public policy squeaked through, including Medicaid expansion and an infrastructure bill. But, public works canít fix the deferred maintenance of the outdated way these bills made it through. That takes political will.

Montanaís current legislative system dates back to statehood. Yet, we face 21st Century demands. As we stuff more into each session without evaluating how itís working or making important updates, public transparency clouds, democracy fades and Montanans lose.

I was co-chair for Minority Democrats of the House Legislative Administration Committee, where majority Republicans killed bills to consider updates like session timeframes, length and frequency, number of bills, and objective, plain-language bill descriptions.

Far-right committee chairs clogged meetings with back-to-back controversial hearings, instead of spacing them out. Large numbers of folks waited to speak, to no avail. Each side was limited to 20 minutes. People who traveled treacherous roads during this winterís deep freeze were denied time to testify. Extreme conservatives at the helm sent progressive bills to kill committees or never scheduled hearings. This is not trains running on time. Itís bad governance.

Some Democratic women legislators were shut down, allowed fewer questions than Republican men or told to keep it brief. No matter what political ideology is in power, all legislators represent the same number of constituents and have the right to speak and understand. We need to level this uneven floor, so future generations of women and minority legislators are spared this double standard.

Thank goodness for journalists who hold legislators accountable. Sadly, the 66th Legislature frayed the fabric of the Fourth Estate. The far-right leadership refused to revoke the official press pass of a non-journalist blogger with ties to hate groups.

When session convened, our state was still reeling from severe budget cuts, after Republican legislators in 2017 inflated the official revenue estimate to avoid generating public money for essential human services. I sit on House Taxation and witnessed them do it again. They refused to listen to expert economists with Legislative Fiscal Division Ė their own staff Ė or the Governorís Budget Office. And this far right leadership never moved the revenue estimate to the floor or Senate.

The majority shaped a budget that ďrobbed Peter to pay Paul.Ē even though Peterís broke. The far-right couldnít scrounge up enough public money to prevent youth suicide, yet voted through plenty of tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations. We faced a Hobsonís choice for public preschool, and had to decide between pennies for people with disabilities who depend on home help to eat and dress for work, or crumbs for seniors struggling to stay in assisted living.

Bad policy got stuffed into good bills. Some argue itís just the way itís done. I donít buy that and encourage you to weigh in, contact legislators and demand that we make positive change for future legislators and Montanans.

ó Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor June 16

June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The whole truth Itís a sad day for the Daily Inter Lake when the front page headline article (June 9) references the Southern Poverty Law Center as a source of authority for news. I wonder if the jo...

Comments

Read More

Playing politics with public lands

June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Senator Steve Daines is playing politics with our public lands. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a powerful and proven public policy that our lifestyles rely on and Montanans support. ...

Comments

Read More

How President Trump is delivering results on drug prices

June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Just over a year ago, President Trump and his health secretary, Alex Azar, stood in the Rose Garden at the White House and told the American people they were going to start putting American patient...

Comments

Read More

Political purity has its downsides

June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake Ideological purity and consistency of opinion over time are two standards to which many Americans want to hold their political candidates. People want to elect candidates who think about things th...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X