Dirty Dancing Exposed

Hot on the heels of my Dirty Dancing post yesterday, Charles Johnson of the Lee State Bureau (Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Independent Record, Montana Standard, Ravalli Republic) has posted an article outlining the complaints against House Judiciary Chair Ken Peterson, R-Billings. Excerpt:

Advocates for civil rights, human rights and abortion rights say they aren’t getting a fair shake from House Judiciary Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, at public hearings.

They are critical of Peterson’s fairness in scheduling and running hearings, his limiting the ability of people to testify or at least state their names, and his failing to stop representatives or witnesses from making inflammatory comments such as calling abortion providers murderers and homosexuality an abomination.

For his part, Peterson, serving his fourth term in the Montana House of Representatives, defended how he runs the committee and dismissed the criticisms.

“I would say they’re absolutely wrong,” he said. “I try to be fair to everybody. That’s my goal. I’m an attorney. I know it’s very important that all parties be treated the same.”

Au contraire!

Johnson’s article continues with numerous examples complaints of unfair treatment from Planned Parenthood,  Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Human Rights Network- all known organizations that Republicans fear and despise. The shenanigans on display by the Judiciary leadership provides an opportunity for Republicans to use code words to invoke a familiar response to their followers, making over  these human rights groups into bogeymen, conjuring up terror in the hearts of the ignorant and easily led. More:

“The chair is shutting down public comment, he’s shutting down hearings on bills that are life-and-death situations for Montanans,” (Stacy) Anderson (of Planned Parenthood of Montana) said, adding, “I think the civility has degraded, and I think some of the questions to people are degrading.”

…One committee member, Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said she believes Peterson violated House rules by not allowing people to come to the podium and at least state their name and their positions on four bills. She said she couldn’t recall this happening before, but figured out a way around it by reading to the committee the names on the sign-in sheet and having people stand as she called their names.

“It only takes a few minutes for people to stand and say their name,” Sands said. By not allowing people that courtesy, she said, “it shows disrespect to those people and to the legislative process.”

Diane Sands- a giant in Montana human rights as far as I’m concerned, is a shrewd and yet firmly convicted politician who has served this state- well beyond her constituency-with passion, distinction and strength. She’s well worth listening to. And Johnson’s article is worth reading in its entirety.

Maybe twice.

And Carol Williams, D-Missoula’s response for those of you who haven’t seen it: