The GOP’s Message Machine

By Beacon Staff

State Republican lawmakers today released a list of their priorities for the 2009 Legislature. And while some of the goals are vague, like “address the aging population,” the release is yet another indication that the GOP is doing everything it can to get its message out there. The last session, in 2007, is now infamous for the bitter partisanship on display almost every single day. And while both parties maintained that they were fighting for the issues and policies they believe in, a lot of those moves were based upon legislative procedures that were such “inside baseball” to the average citizen, that the reasons for the bickering were likely completely lost on most Montanans. The result was widespread frustration with Republican and Democrat state lawmakers.

From the outset, the 2009 session appears more subdued in just about every way. But Republicans have clearly taken to heart the idea that they need to communicate what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Part of this almost certainly derives from the results of the last election. Republicans’ only real victory in Montana was to gain the majority in the Senate, while the House remains tied 50-50. But while U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg walked to a re-election victory against an opponent who barely campaigned and Republican presidential candidate John McCain won here, the highest statewide office held by a Republican is now public service commissioner.

Democrats feel the wind at their backs right now, and simply don’t have to work as hard on the public relations side. They took complete control of the state Land Board with Gov. Brian Schwetizer re-elected by a wide margin, and they can now let the policies that emerge from the current legislative session speak for themselves.

Making up this ground is forcing Republicans to take steps to become more accessible, hence the new GOP blog, RotundaReport, which has proven an interesting and lively addition to the conversation so far. And expect to see more press releases, like the one below, outlining the GOP’s actions and intentions as the session goes. How and to what extent Republicans are able to act on these ideas remains to be seen.

From the press release:

HELENA—Today Senate Majority Leader Jim Peterson and Republican House Floor Leader Scott Mendenhall released a seven point list of goals for this session.
Senator Peterson said, “This is about accountability. When this session is over, we mean to have a list of what we said we would do, and a series of checked boxes right beside it.”
Representative Mendenhall said, “Republicans have always been the guardians of the people’s liberties and of their checkbook. Today, we’re outlining specifically how we plan to accomplish that.”

The seven points of the plan are:
Live within our means
–regular updates of the state’s estimated revenue
–maintain a $250 million fund balance.
Stop the property tax increase
–recommend mitigation of the current reappraisal
–address the reappraisal process for the future
Responsible natural resource development
–reform the permitting process.
Openness in government
–put the state checkbook online
–establish an online database where taxpayers can search the entire state budget
Keep energy costs low
–create energy tax credits
Real solutions for education
–address the differences between rural and urban schools
–put accountability measures in place
Think long term
–address the growing differences between urban and rural Montana
–health care solutions that will last
–address the aging population

Peterson concluded, “These are items that most Montanans would agree with. They’re common sense ideas first, and Republican ideas second. All of us in both houses are looking forward to cooperative dialog with the other side of the aisle, and with the Governor. We’re confident about getting this done.”