When I covered the 2007 Legislature, I wrote a story for the UM Journalism School’s Community News Service where I approached different lawmakers asking them what they thought the under-reported stories of the session were. I received some interesting answers, but one that stuck with me was a comment from then-Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton, R-Billings. Stapleton praised his colleague, Sen. Bob Story, R-Park City, as one of the Legislature’s most powerful members, but one who managed to maintain a low profile in a statehouse filled with big personalities.
“(Story’s) inside every story you guys write, whether you know it or not – from budget to taxes to education,” Stapleton told me. “He forms all of our policy.”
Considering those comments, the only thing surprising about Story being selected as Senate president this week is that he doesn’t pine for the spotlight (unlike some of the other contenders for the job). Story is, however, someone respected by both parties and likely to be an excellent leader of the Senate. By the same token, the Democrats’ selection of Rep. Bob Bergren, D-Havre, as House speaker – a smart, outspoken and well-liked moderate – was another inspired choice.
Things got real ugly in the House last session, but even during the most partisan moments, Bergren stood tough for his caucus and criticized Republicans while always managing to maintain a sense of decency and decorum. It’s encouraging that, at this stage, both parties have opted to elect experienced, moderate pragmatists over polarizing partisans. Both Story and Bergren will take their duties very seriously and are unlikely to lose sight of who they’re working for: Montanans.
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