Guest Column

Reckless Legislating

High-speed, chaotic lawmaking will result in devastating consequences for you, your families, and generations of Montanans to come

By Mary Ann Dunwell

As we get closer to the end of Montana’s 68th Legislative Session, one thing rings clear: With a supermajority, the way Republicans run things is no way to legislate responsibly. 

This session has seen an historic number of bills. Republicans have slammed committee meetings with more bills than what any legislator can reasonably or responsibly consider. They’ve scheduled hearings for bills with virtually no public notice, restricting the right of Montanans to engage in government decision-making. Too often this session, Republicans tabled Democratic bills with no debate, meaning that we never even discussed the merit of certain bills before they were killed. 

Some of you might remember an old “I Love Lucy” TV series, Lucy and her friend Ethyl in the chocolate factory. They’re working on the chocolate assembly line, then the line speeds up, faster, and faster. Lucy and Ethyl can’t keep up. It’s a whirlwind. They stuff chocolates in their mouths, hide them in their pockets, and throw them on the floor. It’s funny. Perhaps a metaphor for this session. But there’s nothing funny about that kind of high-speed, chaotic lawmaking that will result in devastating consequences for you, your families, and generations of Montanans to come. 

Any time official legislative rules inconvenience Republicans, they just waive them. We saw that last week when House Republicans voted to suspend the rules regarding the deadline to introduce new bills. They did that to protect the monopoly Northwestern Energy from a recent court decision, rushing to introduce and pass a bill that prohibits the Department of Environmental Quality from considering the impact of pollution and greenhouse gas when issuing a permit. 

I serve on the Senate Local Government, Taxation, and Transportation Committees and can say firsthand that rewarding corporate polluters is far from the only thing Republicans have rushed through. We saw bills pass through our committees faster than the time it takes to read just one bill. These bills—soon to become law—bind the hands of local governments so they cannot meet the needs of their residents, protect state government from accountability to the people of Montana, benefit out-of-staters, leave renters with no relief in Montana’s housing crisis, and give tax breaks to the super rich. 

HB 2, the state budget, will be on the Senate floor over the next week. As a state, how we spend our money is a direct reflection of what we value. I encourage you to tune in to the Legislature’s website leg.mt.gov to see for yourself exactly what Republicans are pushing through, what they’re claiming, what they’re denying, and what they’re defending. You’ll see the rights and freedoms of Montanans they are fighting against. And, with no doubt, you’ll see what Democrats are fighting for—for you. 

Mary Ann Dunwell is a Democratic state senator from Helena.  

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