Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nonsense in the Montana House

On this, the last day of the session, readers will perhaps excuse Montana Headlines for discussing the political equivalent of "who gets Anna Nicole Smith's body?"

Consider the substantive things we could have discussed:

The Senate approved paying for birth control for teenagers under CHIP, a privilege that most Americans with private health insurance don't have.

Rick Jore's proposal to opt out of the amazingly intrusive "No Child Left Behind" Act (that every teacher Montana Headlines has talked to complains about) was not even given a serious discussion in the House.

Dan McGee led the way to shoot down a fund for buying land, something that as Sen. Bill Tash, R-Dillon, pointed out, accomplishes nothing that good programs like Undaunted Stewardship already accomplish.

Montana remains one of only three states in the nation that refuses to grant religious exemptions for vaccinations for children in preschool and daycare, a subject we have discussed before at length.

And so on.

But what gets a full half-page in today's Gazette, and thus our attention? You guessed it -- Ed Butcher again. Democrats demanded a rare censure of Butcher for his "insensitive" remarks. Not satisfied with his comments this session, they cited a "pattern of misconduct" going back several years.

The irony is that what brought this on was that in a discussion of voting on a "Liberty Day" to "celebrate the inalienable rights and cherished liberties that we all enjoy as Americans," Rick Jore proposed an amendment to insert the words "God-given."

The story differs at this point -- the AP story in the Gazette says that the amendment was to replace "inalienable" with "God-given," but we suspect that given how well Jore knows the documents in question, that the Great Falls Tribune story by Gwen Florio got it right: that he wanted to put "God-given" in addition to "inalienable."

While we understand that Rep. Eve Franklin, D-Great Falls, probably had valid concerns, it is ironic that an amendment that would read "God-given inalienable rights" would be controversial in a country whose Declaration of Independence says that men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" -- which is, we're sure, the language and content that Jore was wanting the Montana declaration to reflect.

The Tribune piece has a section that summarizes nicely the ridiculous demand by the Democrats:

Hal Harper, who served his first term in the Legislature in 1973 and now is Gov. Brian Schweitzer's chief policy advisor, said he's never heard of anyone being formally disciplined for bad behavior during the session.

"I have actually broken up fistfights on the floor of the House. I've seen people sprayed with fire extinguishers. I've seen people almost falling over balcony railings because they were yelling at legislators," he said. "But I've never seen anybody censured."

Montana Headlines tries to walk that fine line -- being civil and fair, without writing milquetoast commentary. We fail regularly at both, and that is in spite of the opportunity to reflect on and discuss what we want to say.

Anyone who has watched on C-span the sterile nature of "discussion" in our U.S. House and Senate, with members talking into a microphone in a largely empty room, should be enlivened by watching our legislature actually debate bills and issues as a body. Anything that stifles that, however much in the interest of civility, should be approached with caution.

So Republican leaders were right to reject this measure, which doubtless would have resulted in future retaliatory calls for censure of Democrats, who, believe it or not, say insensitive things about Republicans all of the time. Some of them (who we're sure have never worn a hard-hat in their life) were heard this week making fun of Mike Lange in the hall after Lange brought his hard-hat into the chamber and pointed out that he has a good blue-collar job and wants to create more such jobs.

There are more Ed Butchers in Montana than there are spiffy and smooth-speaking Democrat attorneys, and there's nothing wrong with their gritty voice being heard on the floor once in a while.

1 comment:

Hallie said...

You are so right.