The Worst Month

There are those pet bills that, instead of defying the will of the people, simply lack common sense

By Kellyn Brown

The worst month is upon us: February, whose only attribute is that it is the shortest on the calendar. It is cold and dreary. It includes Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day, holidays no one cares about. And every other year it is even worse.

That’s because it’s the same month our biennial Legislature begins debating and voting on its pet bills. Let’s take a look at just a few of them.

House Bill 176 would eliminate same-day voter registration — something Montana’s clerk and recorders never asked for. Still, it was proposed again this year, just like it was two years ago before it was tabled.

Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen has called the legislation one of her office’s top priorities, which is weird because the state’s residents voted to keep it in place as recently as 2014. Jacobsen apparently doesn’t care. I can only assume that she has bought into the myth that when more Montanans vote it benefits Democrats.

That was dispelled again in the 2020 general election when a record number of ballots were cast and Republicans cleaned house. For her part, the chair of the Montana Association of Clerks and Recorders said the state’s residents already “voted to keep late registration on Election Day. Being an election administrator, I just can’t go against that.”

That’s supposed to be how it works.

Speaking of which, last year Montana voters overwhelmingly (57-43) opted to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill already faced its first opposition a month ago when lawmakers balked at the cost of implementing the program.

In addition, how the initiative was crafted and what Gov. Greg Gianforte proposed in his State of the State address are not the same. Voters approved a program whose revenues would largely benefit conservation programs and the general fund, while the governor said the Legislature will decide how revenue from pot sales are divvied up. He wants the money to be used on addiction recovery programs.

Then there are those pet bills that, instead of defying the will of the people, simply lack common sense.

There’s the proposed law requiring parental consent for sexual education to protect Montana youth from being taught a “progressive agenda in schools.” The bill’s sponsor is concerned that instead of physiology, biology and anatomy, “a lot more attention is given to things like feelings, attitudes, relationships.”

There is a lot to worry about today’s kids, who are glued to their phones for about half the day, but I’m confident what they are learning in health class doesn’t crack the top 50.

Speaking of schools, our elected officials think you should be able to bring firearms to college campuses even though the state Board of Regents opposes the measure. The bill would also allow Montanans to carry concealed weapons in public places such as bars even if they don’t have a concealed carry permit. Do we really want patrons with no firearms training drinking copious amounts of alcohol with a gun on their hip?

To be sure, there is some good work our citizen Legislature is churning out that is worthy of debate. But it’s still February. The worst month of the year, made worse every other year by proposals out of Helena that few people care about, especially during a pandemic.

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