Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Billings Gazette headline confusing on out-of-staters

Jennifer McKee, as usual, wrote a most interesting article for the Lee chain of newspapers. This time it is about out-of-state lawmakers. This is, of course, Montana, so a newcomer is defined as someone who didn't graduate from a Montana high school. Montana Headlines wonders if even this is too lax a definition of being a native, but it is a useful starting point.

Since the most prominent Republican in the current legislative session, House Speaker Scott Sales, was born in Idaho, if anyone cares about the issue, it would slant him in particular. But the article talks about native and "transplant" Montana lawmakers from both parties.

The interesting thing, though, is the headline, which asks whether Montanans care whether their lawmakers are natives or not.

The article clearly shows, however, that lawmakers of both parties are more likely to have grown up in Montana than the average Montanan. Statistics show that "38 percent of all Montanans moved to the state after they turned 18."

The headline, which reads "Lawmakers out-of-staters: Do you care?" seems to imply that the legislature is overpopulated with non-natives.

Another headline could have read, "Native-born Montanans disproportionately represented in Montana legislature."

Since the body most heavily populated with out-of-staters is the Democrat contingent of the state senate, this is not really a partisan issue. The reality is that there is something about Montana that inspires people to dream of living the good life. The real question is what that good life is, and how it does or doesn't change with each new wave of immigrants to Montana from the outside.