Like I Was Saying

Bludgeoned by Culture Wars

This was a coordinated effort among lawmakers to find something, anything, that could be used to scare you

By Kellyn Brown

One of the most un-Montanan legislative sessions in recent memory has thankfully come to an end.

To be sure, a number of bills proposed and passed by our lawmakers have merit. The state budget includes both tax relief and refunds to property owners, many of whom will welcome an influx of cash with inflation running the hottest since the 1980s. There is also legislation aimed at making housing more affordable, even if proponents and critics dispute its effectiveness at the expense of local control. There were also laws, many proposed by local lawmakers, that would expand funding for advanced learning opportunities and increase starting salaries for teachers.

Unfortunately, those were overshadowed by a state Legislature that decided it would bludgeon us with every culture war it could find. Remember, two years ago, when the session was dominated by discussions about laws that would dictate how parents of transgender youth should raise their children? I don’t either.

So, what changed?

The Republican supermajority, apparently drunk on power, decided it would spend much of its time elevating the most divisive issues possible to further divide the state populous and further marginalize the most marginalized among us in the name of combating “wokeness,” a word that means nothing.

In many cases, legislators blatantly targeted a sliver of the population to feed red meat to its base. This was a coordinated effort among lawmakers to find something, anything, that could be used to scare you and to, subsequently, use that fear to shore up support for banning behavior they don’t like.

And boy was it contagious.

Along with gender-affirming care in youth, the Legislature proposed banning or restricting drag shows, third-party candidates, diversity training, and the social media app TikTok. Oh, and the Montana Republican State Central Committee also excommunicated former GOP Gov. Marc Racicot because he spoke out against many of these proposals and his party’s candidates.

Be afraid!

Legislators have decided that Montana and its reputation as a place with both an independent and libertarian streak should be replaced by a nanny state. Instead of embracing small government this session, lawmakers proposed the most bills since 1973, which was the first session after the state adopted a new Constitution.

Speaking of our state Constitution, lawmakers proposed 67 different ways to amend it in 2023, far more than previous sessions. Thankfully, all of them failed. You know what you don’t hear a lot while living in Montana? People complaining about a state Constitution that was adopted by a bipartisan group of delegates and ratified by its citizens.   

Many of the laws passed by this year’s Legislature and signed by the governor are certain to be challenged in the same court system that has been consistently attacked over the last few years by state lawmakers and the attorney general. In fact, those same lawmakers proposed bills this year that would dilute the autonomy and independence of the Montana Supreme Court, including one that would do away with elections altogether and instead allow the governor to appoint justices.

Perhaps banning elections is a ban too far.

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