Republican lawmakers don’t trust and don’t care about you

October 3, 2021 7:51 am

The Montana State Capitol in Helena (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).

At least four times this last legislative session, the Republican majority showed us that they do not trust Montanan voters to decide their own future.

House Bill 176 eliminated same-day voter registration. Originally passed by a bipartisan legislature in 2005, a majority of Montana’s voters affirmed their support of this voting right on the ballot in 2014, when 57% of us voted to keep same day voter registration. The 2021 Legislature took that right away.

HB273 took away our right to vote on approval of nuclear energy projects being constructed in our state. Montanans gave themselves this right by citizen’s initiative in 1978, with 65% of the vote. Without asking if you wished to surrender that right, the 2021 Legislature took it away.

HB701 drastically altered the citizen’s initiative that legalized recreational marjuana. Less than a year ago, 57% of Montanans approved statewide legalization. A couple of months later, elected opponents of the measure got their hands in the pot, too. They altered voter-approved beneficiaries and amounts of the incoming tax revenue. They also un-legalized marijuana business in certain counties, pending another round of voting in those counties. This creates a patchwork of differing regulations, not to mention the lost business and tax revenue in those counties.

Finally, HB651 doesn’t overturn any citizen-led laws of the past, but it does make it harder for you to pass one in the future. The bill has injected the legislature into the citizen’s initiative process, requiring legislative committees to weigh in on the initiative’s merit. By weighing in, I mean putting their thumb on the scale, before the signature gathering even begins. Republican officials don’t trust you, the citizens, to decide if an idea is bad. They need to tell you what they think first.

151 people get to change our state law. You get to vote for three of them: your representative, your state senator, and your governor. In the next election, consider who will defend your right to have your voice heard, and who will silence you.

Montana has a rich history of our citizens telling the government how we want to be governed. Republicans in the legislature and our governor have made it clear: They don’t care.

Kelly Kortum serves in the Montana House of Representatives. He is a Democrat from Bozeman.

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