Reality Check

The Assault on Local Control

We have a legislative majority uneducated in and defiant to long-held Republican principles

By Tammi Fisher

The discomfort in community discussions is palpable. It’s become clear that the promise of a return to principled Republican leadership rings hollow. Instead, we have a legislative majority uneducated in and defiant to long-held Republican principles. Most concerning is the lurch toward a nanny-state reflected in the Legislature’s all-out assault on local government, which defies these Montana Republican Party platform principles: 

1. “centralization of political power … enables the rise of totalitarianism”; 

2. “each level of government should continuously strive to limit the scope of its activity”; 

3. “return control and authority to local communities, as the government closest and most responsive to the people”; 

4. “No level of government should mandate responsibilities or programs to lower levels or subdivisions of government”; and 

5. “the rights of individuals to vote on local governmental tax or fee issues and officials are fundamental to protect Constitutional rights.”  

These statements back the prevailing principle: “We promote legislation for more local control.”

Against this backdrop springs legislation sponsored by Reps. Carl Glimm and Matt Regier, two legislators who claim to be Republican. First, Rep. Glimm seeks to undo the Whitefish City Council’s efforts in developing an affordable housing program. I agree the program will be ineffective at creating the desired outcome, but for a state agent who doesn’t live in Whitefish to seek elimination of a lawfully created program without compensation for the taxpayer dollars spent in its development is the epitome of authoritarian overreach. 

Rep. Regier seeks to eliminate the local gas tax Missoula County implemented after Missoula voters authorized it in 2020. Using the weight of state government – wielded by a legislator who doesn’t reside in the community affected – to overturn a locally developed, wholly lawful, and citizen-supported tax used to offload infrastructure costs to tourists blatantly defies the Montana GOP Platform. And the opportunity for tourist-affected communities to offload infrastructure costs on all users via local popular vote? Forget about it.

These departures from principled leadership foretell a bleak future for the Republican Party in Montana. The Montana GOP has in its hands an enormous opportunity and responsibility. It is a responsibility to adhere to the Platform sold to voters as a fundamental guide to governing. When the local government behaves indifferently to its taxpayers’ needs, the solution is to change the local government’s face at the ballot box, not embed tyrannical principles in state government. This political hopscotch between state and local control creates chaos and undermines city and county government work. Republicans favor an orderly response to issues; we respect local control and the efforts of Republican-aligned members of local councils and commissions. It is pathetic we now have to rely on a Republican governor’s veto power to prevent the Republican Party Platform’s desecration by authoritarian legislators who masquerade as Republicans.

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.

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