Wrong Side Of History

An excellent post by The Montana Cowgirl (reposted with her permission)

Montana lawmakers who have spent the entirety of their paltry careers voting against equality now find themselves on the wrong side of history.  In the wake of the upcoming supreme court decision on equal marriage, no one who reads a newspaper can come to any other conclusion.  Even Rush Limbaugh says marriage equality is inevitable.

The nutjob wing of Montana’s Republican Party  aren’t just wrong, they’re way out in right field, and soon to be there alone.   Montana is one of only four states that has a law on the books that makes being gay an imprisonable offense.  This fact alone is despicable, but when you consider what else the Montana Legislature has done you start to wonder if the Montana legislature isn’t among the most bigoted in America.

Consider this: During the past 21 legislative sessions least 32 bills have been introduced to make all Montanans equal under the law.  Some, like Sen. Facey’s SB 107 attempted to repeal the “deviate sexual conduct” law, other would have prevent discrimination in housing, or stopped the bullying of young people in schools. Many have been introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, of Helena.

Not a single one of these bills has ever passed in the history of this state.

But it’s worse than that.  The Montana legislature isn’t content with blocking equality bills.  They’ve tried year after year to make things worse.
Montana LegislatureLook what they did in 1995, when Republican Senator Rick Holden added an amendment to a bill to require gay men and lesbians to register as felony sex offenders. Democrats tried to remove the amendment, but 32 of 50 Senators voted to keep it in.

It was only after twenty-four hours of scathing national press coverage from CNN that the Republicans were finally forced to take the sex offender amendment out. But not before Billings GOP Sen. Al Bishop decided to share his beliefs with the world.  He said consensual activity between people of the same sex was “a worse offense than rape.” (The bill was HB 214 and predates the online legislative search.)

Anyway, the Chick-Fil-A munching bunch was not happy to be denied a “felony sex offender registry” of gay citizens. A couple of days later anti-gay slurs and graffiti were “scrawled across the doors of the capitol, and a famous statue was defaced. With no sense of irony, and no mention of the anti-gay nature of the spray-painted slogans, Senators introduced a bill to make defacing the capitol a felony.”

And who could forget what happened ten years later in 2005, when the all-day kindergarten was opposed by religious right Repubs, who claimed bill was part of the “gay agenda.” “The purported evidence given by these groups was that gay activists were NOT at the hearing, proving it was part of the activists’ secret agenda.”

Public sentiment is now so firmly behind equality that the reaction to democratic politicians who announce their support at this late date ranges from “who isn’t” to “where were you earlier.”  The Montana Senate even voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

Now, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

Any day now the bill will be voted on in committee, and then on the Floor of the House.  No assumptions can be made about body which includes Verdell Jackson, Krayton Kearns, David Howard and Jerry O’Neil, so start contacting  the lawmakers in the House of Representatives, which you can do via this online form. FYI, you can always use the back button after submitting your message, which allows you to skip retyping all your info when you contact multiple legislators. Or you can cut and paste this list of House GOP legislators.

Conservatives were on the wrong side of history with women’s suffrage, they were on the wrong side of segregation.  Let’s see whose side they’re on now.

Montana Medicaid Expansion Fails

I’m posting this as sent out in press release today. I’m still too angry to comment on the stupidity involved in this cock up.
STATEMENT: HOUSE MINORITY LEADER RESPONDS TO MEDICAID EXPANSION FAILURE
HB 590 Access Health Montana Tabled In Committee
 Today, HB 590 was tabled in committee on a party line vote. If passed, HB 590 would implement Medicaid Expansion in Montana, create a medical home program and expand the WWAMI program in Montana.
“Montanans from all over our state and from all walks of life support expanding critical healthcare coverage to over 70,000 Montanans. Small businesses, physicians, nurses, financial firms, Republicans and Democrats, hospitals, health clinics, ranchers, churches and veterans stood in line for hours to make sure their voices of support were heard.”
“Sadly, I am both appalled but not surprised with this vote. Republicans have told Montanans today, they are unwilling to put aside partisanship to better the lives of so many. When we came here in January, Democrats told Montanans our number one priority in this session was to fight for Montana families. Republicans had and missed the opportunity to join us in that mission today.
“There are many reasons to support Medicaid expansion. $1 billion dollars in new, direct spending in our economy, upwards of 13,000 new jobs created, opportunities for real and meaningful reforms. However, I am most disheartened that my Republican colleagues refused to simply do the right thing for Montana.”

How The Sequester Hits Montana

Here’s the link to the effects of the sequester for Montana.
One of the great “benefits” being the inability to pay for 117,000 HIV tests- now free for any Montana resident. And there’s more besides.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/Montana.pdf

See The 10 Montana Senators Who Want Gays To Be Criminals

From Cowgirl:

 

On Tuesday, the Montana Senate voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

 

But yesterday, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

To see them, click here.

Racing in the Wrong Direction on Gun Issues

The most common type of gun confiscated by pol...

The most common type of gun confiscated by police and traced by the ATF are .38 special revolvers, such as this Smith and Wesson Model 60 .38 Special revolver with a 3-inch barrel. LaPierre, Wayne (1994). Guns, Crime, and Freedom . Regnery Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 0895264773. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The terrible events in Newtown sent my mind racing this weekend. I kept coming back to where we in Montana stand on preventing gun violence in our state. It was clear that we’re not just moving in the wrong direction on preventing gun violence in Montana we’re racing in the wrong direction.

The best way to illustrate this point is by looking at the work of Sen. Dave Lewis (R-Helena). Last session, Sen. Lewis chaired the Senate Finance & Claims Committee (the primary Senate budget committee), and, as chair, he slashed funding for crucial services- including mental health services. He and his Republican colleagues maintained that the state didn’t have enough money to pay for treating and providing support for those with mental illness (and some other issues as well).

While Lewis was busy slashing services for Montanans, he sponsored a bill that would have given tax cuts to gun ammunition manufacturers to “ensure availability.”

So in Sen. Dave Lewis’ world, we have enough money to give ammunition manufacturers tax cuts, but we don’t have the money to provide mental health counselling for Montana’s most vulnerable people.

While I do find Lewis to be one of the most detestable political figures in Montana history, this post isn’t about him. It’s about the fact that through their decisions, Montana’s elected officials are making our communities more vulnerable to the types of gun violence we’ve seen throughout the country over the past few years.

In the 2011 legislative session, there were 13 bills introduced related to guns and firearms. Only 2 of these bills could be construed as gun control measures. The rest would have done things to allow guns in banks, bars and other buildings. These bills would have allowed people to carry concealed weapons (simply by telling themselves they were allowed to), and would have even allowed students in public schools to bring guns on campus.

We as a state, much like the country, have to get beyond partisan dogfights over guns and gun violence, and have an honest effort to pass policies that will keep our communities safer. These policies must deal with not only rules about who, when, and where you can carry guns, but they must also deal with ensuring adequate mental health services for all Montanans.

I’ll be honest, I don’t expect our elected officials to display the courage to push responsible gun control laws. But I do think we have an opportunity to tackle the mental health aspect of the puzzle.

The Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act is our best chance to expand mental health coverage to tens of thousands of currently uninsured Montanans. This expansion is the part of the Affordable Care Act(ACA) that the US Supreme Court ruled states had the option of whether or no to implement.

Unfortunately, this expansion is sure to get marred by political games by Republicans who refuse to vote in support of anything related to the ACA. While Republicans may hold majorities in the legislature, Democrat Steve Bullock will hold the Governor’s office, and its bully pulpit and veto pen. He should use this bully pulpit and veto pen to ensure the Medicaid expansion is implemented in our state.

Governor Schweitzer accounted for the expansion in his final budget proposal, but thus far Bullock hasn’t said whether or not he’ll push for the expansion.

I hope that the horrible events of Friday will provide Bullock with a little more incentive to champion the expansion of Medicaid as a means of preventing gun violence in our state, without taking on a battle over gun control laws that he almost certainly cannot win with the legislature. If Bullock does this, we’ll begin to finally take small steps towards preventing gun violence in Montana.

Sandy Welch’s Bizarre Campaigns Ends Bizarrely

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Today, Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Candidate, Sandy Welch, finally admitted to what every other Montanan has known for over a month: Welch lost. She finally conceded the race after she was unable to raise the bond to pay for a manual recount of the vote.

Now I know some will say that once a candidate concedes, especially in a lower-level race like this, that candidates deserve to return to private life without too much scrutiny. However, because of the way Welch ran her campaign, it deserves a postmortem.

The first question that came to mind upon hearing Welch was giving up her recount crusade was, “How much did this recount fiasco cost Montana taxpayers?” Welch held on to the hope that somehow she’d be able to win this election- right up until it was time to put her money where her mouth was. She sought an unnecessary court ruling saying she had the right to a recount, despite the fact that state law makes it pretty clear that she has this right, provided she pays for the recount. This lawsuit cost Montana taxpayers thousands of dollars. (Cowgirl has already covered her theory on Welch’s goals with her recount crusade.)

By asserting right up to the last minute that she was going to pay for the recount, she also cost all Montana counties time and money to prepare for the recount, as well as the Secretary of State’s office.

While the most timely questions is about the cost of the recount charade, the more important questions remains, “Why was Welch running in the first place?” Throughout her campaign Welch wasn’t able to give a coherent plan to improve the education and educational opportunities for Montana children. Instead, she focused on improving a few administrative issues in the OPI office–issues that Superintendent Juneau has already been working to solve.

While Welch hadn’t told Montanans why she wanted to be the top educator in the state, the current Superintendent, Denise Juneau, was receiving national attention for her work and programs such as the Schools of Promise and Graduation Matters Montana programs, while standing up to a dysfunctional US Congress and their Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” program.

I wish I had more answers about what the purpose of Welch’s campaign and recount crusade are. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Hopefully though, this is the last we’ll hear from Welch in Montana politics.

 

Political Science Says “A Romney Presidency Would Be Doomed”

Jack Balkin, writing for The Atlantic, applies theories of political science regarding a Romney presidency. Excerpt:

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usually called a “standard” in official U.S. government terminology). It is defined in Executive Order 10860. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The predicament of a Romney presidency is that he may make George W. Bush look good by comparison. During most of Bush’s eight years in office, the Republican Party was united and willing to follow his lead. Romney will not be so lucky. The party he heads has become so rigid, radical, and unrealistic that, despite his best efforts, he may end up as the last of the Reagan-era Republican leaders — a disjunctive president like John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, or Jimmy Carter.

Republican partisans have often compared Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter, but Obama’s situation is quite different from Carter’s. Like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama is a Democrat swimming against the current of Reagan-era Republican politics. Carter, by contrast, took office as the defender of an exhausted New Deal Democratic regime; he offered himself as a problem-solving pragmatist who would get the country moving again. He tried to fix the New Deal coalition but found it beyond repair.

The next Jimmy Carter will be a Republican president — a Republican who, due to circumstances beyond his control, unwittingly presides over the dissolution of the Reagan coalition. If Obama is reelected, we might decide in hindsight that George W. Bush best fits that description. But if Obama loses, the president who finally unravels Reaganism could turn out to be Mitt Romney.

 Very interesting. The theories of “Reconstructionist”, “Disjunctive” and “Affilliated” presidencies is a fascinating one- filled with historical precedent. And he’s planning to use the same theories to evaluate the possible Obama second term- I’m looking forward to it.

Read the article here.

Steve Bullock Has My Vote

…and so does Jon Tester, Kim Gillan, Pam Bucy, Denise Juneau and, locally, Tom Woods.

And, as I explained in a previous post, here’s why:

I’m voting for the candidate who most represents my views, just as everyone should. I’m against the death penalty, want women to make their own choices about their health, support legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and am a fan of higher education and preserving a clean planet. I want healthcare and insurance companies to be reasonable and efficient- and treat people with mental illness and substance issues with dignity and respect. I want the justice system to be fair to all citizens. I want church and state to be separate. I want the poor and disadvantaged to be given every chance to succeed.

The Democratic Candidates in this election most closely reflect these views.

And, I believe, have the most experience and qualifications under their collective belts.

None of the Republicans even come close.

Change 2.0

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the President’s speech last night- and tweeted, along with thousands of others. Mostly about my philosophical agreement- and about the facts that seem so distorted by the other side.

I’m buying in to the man and his vision. Because it most agrees with my vision of social justice, economic fairness and the need to lay a firm foundation for continued growth in education, science and technology. Yeah, I’m still buying in to the hope, but I think that’s what the American Dream, the American Vision calls for. Plus, it goes along with every bit of my Christian faith perspective.

From today’s NYT:

Mr. Obama explicitly shifted from his 2008 appeal of hope and change to talk of tough choices and tough paths. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”

Mr. Obama went into this convention with an actual record at governing — not just the Republican posture of saying “No” to everything. He has far better ideas about how to create jobs, make Americans’ tax burdens more equitable and improve ordinary Americans’ economic prospects than the tired, failed trickle-down fantasies served up by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.

He ended the war in Iraq, tried to rescue the Afghan war that Mr. Bush bungled, stepped up the offensive on terrorists far beyond Mr. Bush’s vision and rallied the world to ratchet up pressure on Iran.

He blunted the extreme message of the Tea Party by offering an alternative vision of government’s obligation to help the neediest, provide everyone with the basic structures of society and the economy and end unconscionable discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. He has protected women’s constitutional rights and liberties, despite his own misgivings about abortion. He ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden — an act that was mentioned repeatedly on the last night of the convention.

Not that the killing of bin Laden would have been sanctioned by Jesus, but the protection of the people by the elected government is nothing to pooh-pooh.

Reverse.

So, what is my response to Mitt Romney picking a man who conveniently disregards his church’s teaching on universal healthcare and caring for the poor, doesn’t think women need protecting, doesn’t believe in hate crimes, supports banning of same-sex adoptions, wants to gut medicare and keep allowing corporations to buy elected offices in this country?