Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Narrow escape: special legislative session ends

In spite of (or perhaps because of) threats floated by Republicans in the Montana House to pass a fire-fighting funding bill and then adjourn, peaceful agreement was arrived at and the session appears to be over. Notably absent was the kind of take-no-prisoners strong-arming from Democrats that was so prominent during the regular session and during the special session called to finish the final budget this spring.

The real reason for Republican firmness was legislators like Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, who is most widely known because of his opportunistic party-switching after having been given an unadvertised state job by the governor. Kitzenberg wanted to use the session to find other ways to spend money. OK, it was "for the sake of the children," so no-one should have had the audacity to dare oppose Kitzenberg.

Kitzenberg would of course love to have extra education spending credited to him in the Democratic primary. He is campaigning to be the state's educational Grand Poo-bah -- which apparently pays more than does the state job he currently has.

That "for the sake of the children" act begins to wear thin after awhile -- and one suspects that his Democratic primary opponents would have raised a fuss within the party had he used the special session to gain an advantage over them.

Senate President Mike Cooney perhaps knew as much when he joined with Speaker Scott Sales in quashing any ideas of using the special session for anything but funding fire-fighting. It's not that Cooney might not have wanted to spend money, but out-of-control special session spending would have hurt Democrats more than Republicans in the coming legislative elections, so enlightened self-interest likely was at work.

Although Charles Johnson's article equally credits Democratic and Republican leaders for keeping the special session under control, notably absent were Republican plans to spend more money. It was the Democrats who appear to have had more grandiose plans and dreams for the session. In other words, it was the Democratic legislators who needed to be reined in, both on extra spending and on the expansion of powers for the state executive branch.

(Although we Republicans did get blamed for wanting to spend more money in the regular session on fire-fighting rather than on hiring more tax collectors -- silly us with our silly priorities.)

Anyway, it's over, and we can watch our wallets a little less closely -- for the moment, anyway.

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