We’re less than a month away from the 2013 Montana Legislative Session. This session, much like the 2011 session, is sure to be a tough session for causes, issues and people that we value. It’s imperative that everyone who shares our values gets involved by either testifying, contacting your legislators, writing letters to your local paper or simply talking to your friends and neighbors about what is happening in the session.
As a primer for the session, I decided that I’d do a few short profiles on some of the legislators that are sure to be making news throughout the session–bot for good reasons and bad.
With that, I’m proud to bring you the first edition of From Eternity to Here’s “Better Know a Legislator” series, where I’ll profile one of my favorite legislators Rep. Edie McClafferty (D-Butte) and one of my least favorite legislators Rep. Kris Hansen (R-Havre).
Rep. Edie McClafferty, HD 75
Rep. Edie McClafferty is serving her 3rd term representing the people of Butte and Silver-Bow County, and was recently elected as part of the leadership in the House, where she’ll serve as one of the Democratic Whips.
Rep. McClafferty is a Butte native, and is a public school teacher. Her commitment to a strong public education system is why I was thrilled when she was named vice-chair of the House Education Committee. In this committee she’ll almost certainly see attempts to divert public funds to private, unaccountable charter and religious schools. She’ll also serve on the House Tax and House Rules committees.
In addition to being a staunch advocate for Montana’s students, Rep. McClafferty has also been a strong ally to the LGBT community in Montana. In the 2013 session, as she did in the 2011 session, Rep. McClafferty will be sponsoring a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, hiring and public accommodations. While this bill faces long odds, Rep. McClafferty never backs down from an opportunity to stand up for her values.
Rep. Kris Hansen, HD 33
I intentionally chose to profile Rep. McClafferty with Rep. Hansen because they are essentially polar opposites.
Hansen represents one of the two Havre House districts. She’s serving her second term, after barely winning her election.
Hansen formerly served as a deputy county attorney, but abruptly resigned last year in order to work on education policy. After resigning her job, Hansen promised to disclose who was paying her for her services, however she has never lived up to her promise.
The fact that we don’t know who is paying Hansen for her educational policy lobbying is especially troubling because she’s going to be the chair of the House Education Committee in 2013. As you watch her decisions and the bills that come out of the House Education Committee, it’s important to remember that she’s receiving her paychecks from an undisclosed educational policy group. This is corruption at its worst.
While writing this post I looked at Hansen’s financial disclosure form- something she’s required to fill out to run for office. Interestingly, she claims that her primary source of income is from a private law practice. However, when I looked at the Secretary of State’s database of registered businesses, it appears that Hansen’s private practice was established just two days before she filed to run for reelection. Not only that, Hansen’s private practice is registered out of her own house. It sounds to me like Hansen is trying to cover her tracks. It’ll be interesting to see if any reporters investigate this during the session.
However, if you’ve heard of Hansen, it’s probably not because of her corruption on education. It’s probably because Hansen sponsored a bill last legislative session that sought to prohibit municipalities from expanding protections beyond the state’s Human Rights Act. This bill essentially would have nullified the Missoula, and now Helena, nondiscrimination ordinance. Thus far Hansen has not requested a similar bill for the 2013 session.