Tuesday, February 22, 2011

LGBT Protections Debated at the Capitol

Two bills were heard in the House Judiciary Committee last Friday related to protections of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Montanans. More than 50 people turned out - from locations across the state - to testify in favor of House Bill 514 and in opposition to House Bill 516.

HB 514 would add protection of LGBT Montanans to the Montana Human Rights Act and HB 516 would limit local ordinances to protect classes of people in Montana from discrimination - including those who are LBGT - specifically repealing the non-discrimination ordinance passed in Missoula last spring.

Committee chairman Rep. Ken Peterson (R-Billings) limited the testimony on the bills to 10 minutes each for proponents and opponents. After testimony was closed by Rep. Peterson, supporters of LGBT protection moved to the Jeanette Rankin statue and presented the testimony they wanted to give to the committee. Sen. Carol Williams (D-Missoula) and Sen. Shannon Augare (D-Browning) joined the group to voice their support of protection of LGBT Montanans.

It was quite disheartening to hear the hate coming from those opposing LGBT protections, including Hamilton pastor Harris Himes, who stated that he wanted to have the right to refuse to rent to an LGBT Montanan for "religious reasons." When questioned by Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) about these reasons, Rev. Himes stated that God's punishment for being gay is that a person shall, "surely be put to death."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rep. Wagner on Anderson Cooper

Rep. Bob Wagner (R-Harrison) appears on CNN's AC360 and is questioned by Anderson Cooper regarding Montana's "birther bill." Cooper's reaction to Rep. Wagner's reasoning and arguments point out how extreme the views that produce a bill like this really are.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Terrible Ten

The Democratic Leadership in the 2011 Legislature has released a list of bills they are calling "The Terrible Ten."

From their press release:

HB 392—James Knox (R-Billings) wants to redefine the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution by requiring certain individuals born in our nation to apply for citizenship. One legislator’s attempt to make himself a U.S. Supreme Court justice, HB 392 could rewrite nearly 150 years of judicial precedent and discriminate against Native Americans and children of immigrants.

HB 382—Derek Skees’ (R-Whitefish) 1861 flashback would let a handful of legislators nullify any federal law passed since the signing of the Constitution. Slavery, child labor, and universal voting rights could all be up for debate again.

HB 283—Liz Bangerter (R-Helena) would allow sex discrimination in insurance coverage–discrimination the Montana Constitution explicitly forbids.

SB 106—Jason Priest (R-Red Lodge) overreaches legislative responsibility when he attempts to force duly elected statewide officials to do his bidding by joining the national lawsuit against Healthcare Reform. SB 106 is not just a clear violation of the separation of powers, but a clear statement that every Montanan does not need or deserve health care.

SB 114—Greg Hinkle (R-Trout Creek) would like to give each county sheriff authority over national security investigations. SB 114 would leave anti-terrorism efforts up to dozens of uncoordinated sheriffs, a favorite of extremist groups across the country.

HB 284—Tom Burnett (R-Bozeman) wants to criminalize state employees for complying with federal law.

SB 161—Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) wants to invalidate laws prohibiting insurance company abuses. In addition, he too would like to criminalize state employees.

HB 321—Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) would end the Endangered Species Act in Montana, putting critical wildlife and habitats at risk. He would like to wipe out the law, along with rare species.

HB 397—James Knox (R-Billings) wants to give funds to unaccredited learning institutions, instead of fulfilling the state’s constitutional obligation to provide every child with a quality education.

SB 125—Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) would prohibit Montana from complying with federal health care reform, violating the Supremacy and Commerce Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Update: I agree with Intelligent Discontent that these ten bills are but a taste of the craziness going on at the legislature this year. Check out Pogie's Terrifically Stupid Twenty.

In Their Own Words

The Policy Institute has set up a page on our main website highlighting video coverage of legislators and others testifying before the 2011 Montana Legislature.

The page includes links to Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula) describing a hypothetical voter fraud scheme that could ostensibly take place on the UM campus, Rep. Janna Taylor's (R-Dayton) controversial statement regarding HIV-positive prisoners in Montana and Sen. Anders Blewett (D-Great Falls) challenging Sen. Jason Priest (R-Red Lodge) on his use of the term "Obamacare" to describe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There are a lot of Far Right - and just plain nutty - ideas and bills floating around at the legislature this session. This is but a taste.