What the heck is going on in Montana?
Montana Republicans have a huge majority in the State House and a small majority in the State Senate, so they should be moving productive legislation along without trouble. Unfortunately, two recent examples show that they are not committed to common sense government at all, but are instead beholden to special interests, corporate socialism, and the nanny state.
You’re not even going to believe the legislation being courted by Montana Republicans! Check it out:
Montana Republicans Try to Gut Medical Marijuana Law
With the exception of Republican Liberty Caucus-endorsed State Representatives Jerry O’Neill and Mike Miller and several moderate Republicans, the rest of the Republican elected officials in Montana voted to gut the voter-approved medical marijuana law last week.
Because Governor Brian Schweitzer (Democrat) vetoed the Republican attempts to kill the law, BusinessWeek reports that “Many lawmakers from both parties say something needs to be done to rein in medical marijuana in Montana now that it has reached beyond those with severe illnesses for whom voters in 2004 meant the law to apply.”
According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, there are 29,948 registered users in the state. As we reported earlier, last month the federal government decided they needed to step in by raiding medical marijuana businesses in the state under the guise of investigating “drug trafficking and tax evasion.” This despite a promise from the Obama Administration claimed it would not override state law.
According to BusinessWeek,
“Three lawmakers from each chamber will begin meeting this week in a conference committee to figure out the final form of the overhaul measure, Senate Bill 423, before it lands on the governor’s desk. Since the beginning of the session House Bill 161, a repeal of the voter-approved marijuana law, has been the favored measure of Republican leadership. House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, carried the bill through the Legislature but the possibility of a governor veto forced Republicans to work up a contingency plan.
Last month, Republican lawmakers made a last-minute introduction of a bill to overhaul of Montana’s medical marijuana industry. After Republican fears of a governor veto became a reality Wednesday, the overhaul measure carried by Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, has become what is likely the last chance the Legislature has to restrict medical marijuana. But the measure has not had an easy passage and it still has key hurdles left to clear with just a few days left in the session to do it.”
The only common sense on this issue, aside from Governor Brian Schweitzer, is from RLC-endorsed legislators like Jerry O’Neill and Mike Miller. According to Representative Miller, “If the federal laws (related to the Montana state medical marijuana law) were gone, it could be just another prescription filled by a pharmacist. The bottom line is that the legislature did not do its job and put the appropriate rules/laws in place once the initiative passed in 2004. I believe it is up to the legislature to fix the mess it created. And it is a huge mess and it is being grossly abused by some,” Miller said.
Miller took what apparently is an unpopular position, concluding at his website, “While many people disagree with my vote to not repeal, I hope this helps them to understand it a little better.”
RLC-endorsed Reps. Jerry O’Neill and Mike Miller voted to protect the Montana medical marijuana law.
Renewable Energy, Curbing Property Rights via “Corporate Socialism”
According to LibertarianRepublican.net, “Sounding like something straight out of an Ayn Rand novel, a renewable energy corporation out of Canada is pushing legislation to allow for seizure of private property rights in Eastern Montana. The Bill pits small landowners such as ranchers in Eastern Montana, against government-backed corporate interests and many environmental groups in support of renewable energy.”
From the Great Falls Tribune, “Montana Senate revives eminent domain bill”:
“HB 198 would grant private developers — including Canadian developer Tonbridge Power — the ability to use eminent domain authority to condemn private property so that transmission lines can be built.
The company wants to build a 214-mile international Tie Line through Montana and Alberta. The bill would [give] Tonbridge the authority it needs to condemn private property along the proposed MATL route in Montana.”
After nearly three hours of debate, 16 Democrats sided with 12 Republicans to pass the measure.
Republican proponents of the measure said if the legislature failed to enact HB 198, it could doom the state’s economy.
“We need an export economy in this state,” Senator Alan Olson said. “We make money to fund our education system, and we make money to fund our senior services on an export economy. If a minority interest is going to shut down an export economy, if we continue to circulate that same stale dollar around the state, we’re done.”
Opponents of the measure, including Sen. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, said the bill would give private corporations unprecedented power, while sacrificing the rights of private property owners.
“It’s corporate socialism at its best,” Wittich said.
“To me, good government is limited government that respects everyone’s rights and properties,” Wittich says. “I support accountability in government spending and promoting private sector prosperity by adding value to our resources.”
The bill goes for a final vote on Thursday. Then, it heads to Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer for his signature.
It is not known if Schweizter would sign the legislation, but it appears likely that he would.
RLC member Eric Dondero worked to get a property rights initiative on the ballot in Montana in 2006. Here, he is collecting a signature from a resident.
The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.