Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday potpourri

So much going on, so little time. Montana Headlines realizes that our faithful readers probably prefer things like our Harper's-length musings on the Edwards bloggers and bipartisan political correctness. Yet there are a few things in today's press that are notable enough to deserve brief comments, but not so much as to receive lengthy treatment.

Political Armageddon comes to Montana: Yes, it's true. Monica Lindeen has started campaigning for the State Auditor position 3 1/2 months after the last election. You heard it right -- State Auditor. Interminable campaigns are annoying enough when it is for offices like, well, the President of the United States of America. But are Montanans really going to have a stomach for this?

Constitutional amendments and reapportionment: It never ceases to amaze Montana Headlines that so many state constitutions are cluttered documents full of things that should be simple statutory law. With the magnificent simplicity of the U.S. Constitution as an example, it is a wonder that states don't imitate it more. So we look on most of the proposed amendments to the Montana Constitution with a jaundiced eye, even when we agree with the proposed policies such as limiting the taxable value of properties owned by senior citizens, whose fixed incomes are strained by exploding property values in some Montana communities.

One that is probably worth considering, however, is the amendment by Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, "to require that the fifth member and presiding officer of the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission chosen by the other four members be a retired state or federal District Court judge or retired state Supreme Court justice." The last reapportionment drew attention to the highly partisan composition of the Montana Supreme Court at that time, which was not all bad, since it drew attention to the way that the Montana Trial Lawyers Association has come to dominate the judicial selection process in this state.

But we should not have to depend on hopes for a non-partisan Supreme Court for fair reapportionment. If the 5th member has to be a retired judge or justice, then there is a higher chance that Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on that 5th member, and if the Supreme Court still has to appoint someone, it will be someone whose record of legal fairness or unfairness will be a matter of public record.

John Tester refuses to get his hair cut in D.C.: We learn this in the midst of a fluffy Great Falls Tribune article about how Sen. Tester is settling in there in Washington. It is a relief to learn this, though. We had been getting quite worried about what those Beltway barbers would do to that flattop.

The Missoulian wants to eliminate a government position: In an opinion piece, the editors make an excellent case for why we don't need a Commissioner of Political Practices in Montana anymore. They rightly point out that it is outdated in the era of the internet, since reporting campaign finances was the "most useful function of the office." We're all for eliminating many government positions and jobs -- this sounds like a good one to put at the top of the list.

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